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How Music Works: An Aesthetic Framework - by Henrik Kilhamn

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A substantial text that brings together important ideas and concepts in music philosophy and theory into a coherent framework, with the ambition to spread them to a wider public.

"How Music Works: An Aesthetic Framework Reconciling Form and Content"
Written by Henrik Kilhamn, 2022

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How does music work, and why do we find value and meaning in it? These are questions I have thought about for a long time. As a classically trained musician I have some form of musical intuiton, but I wanted to get to the bottom of the philosophical grounds for my musical experiences. So I have read and evaluated the central theses by leading music philosophers in our time, and have attempted to tie it all together in this framework. Some aspects are valid for music unversally, but for the most part the ideas are grounded in Western music with its system of tonality.

The core of the framework is a model of four levels of emergence that I present in chapter 5 and go through properly in chapters 6-12. Taken together they cover all sides of music, from the vibrations it can be reduced to, to the emotions we feel while listening, to the social situation of where we listen to it. It all comes together with the two key mechanisms of Emergence and Valence. When elements come together on one level and form units, those units attain a new set of properties on a secondary, emergent level. One such emergent property is the valence of meaning something to us as humans other than it is. A melody has a direction and wants to go somewhere. A harmonic progression has an emotional charge by the way it’s positioned within the system of tonality. The return of structural material means something, both in reference to itself only, and by way of convention. The intuitive understanding of all this valence is the very thing that is developed when we train to be musicians, or when we just play music.

With this framework, hopefully it can also be understood consciously and rationally, which in turn, I believe, will make any path towards further music involvement clearer.

Henrik Kilhamn

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762 KB
79 pages


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How Music Works: An Aesthetic Framework - by Henrik Kilhamn

3 ratings
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