The experience of music is, at its best, a transcendental one. Music takes you beyond your everyday experience into a world that you may not have even known existed. It is no coincidence that music plays a big role in many philosophers’ theories, as it is a way of uncovering knowledge, albeit one quite different from that found in the normal philosophy classroom. I was reminded of this recently when talking with some friends who enjoy hip-hop music. Though not a huge fan myself, I have read enough to develop a respect for the genre and what it tries to do. Nevertheless, the sublime experience that many have when listening to it is not one that I ever experienced. By contrast, some of the musical genres that I enjoy—rock and punk—sound awful to several of my friends and family.
While the tonality, rhythm, and tempo of music may not have meaning in the sense of being linguistic, it still a formational experience that can tell us something about ourselves and the context from which we originate. Yet there is still much to be understood about why this is the case. To what extent is our experience of music personal, cultural, geographic, technological, or possibly even biological in origin? How much do our relationships with others cement or disrupt our musical preferences? And how can we use music to build a better world? While the following papers won’t answer these questions, they may help us to understand them in new ways.
- Tiger Roholt, “On the Divide: Analytic and Continental Philosophy of Music,” Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism, Winter 2017.
- Tapiwa Praise Mapuranga, “‘Tozeza Baba’: gender-based Violence in Oliver Mtukudzi’s music,” Muziki: Journal of Music Research in Africa, 2012.
- Béla Szabados, Wittgenstein as Philosophical Tone-Poet: Philosophy and Music in Dialogue, Rodopi, 2014.
- Michael Tosin Gbogi, “Contesting Meanings in the Postmodern Age,” Matatu: Journal for African Culture & Society, 2016.
- The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Music, edited by Theodore Gracyk and Andrew Kania, Routledge, 2011.
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