Music and Philosophy

Hello Everyone,

I was wondering if I could rely on the expertise on everyone out here. I am a teacher that teaches introductory philosophy and was wondering if anyone out there knew of any great websites or knew of any great books of that matter that talk about linking pop music to particular philosophical theories or philosophers.

I know Open Court Press is about to release Hip Hop and Philosophy in the fall but was wondering if anyone knew of any other great resources.

Any help would be greatly appreciated,



everything is linked to a theory.

Plenty of philosophers makes use of music - Nietzsche refers to it continuously, Derrida makes it a central metaphor. As to people who’ve actually theorised on music (in particular pop music), just look up cultural theorists and music, rather than philosophy and music, you’ll probably find a dozen high profile books.

maybe this will help:

tried to send you a link but it only went to the fint page.

go to

then go to humanities

then philosophy.

then in the search bar look for music (search by keyword) and it comes up with a few interesting looking books… like:

Of Mind and Music
Addis, Laird
Cornell University Press
ISBN: 0801489563

Introduction to a Philosophy of Music
Kivy, Peter
Oxford University Press Clarendon Press
ISBN: 0198250487

Contemporary Philosophy of Music
Sharpe, R A
Acumen Publishing Ltd Acumen Publishing
ISBN: 1844650014

Nietzsche and Music
Liebert, Georges
University of Chicago Press UNIV OF CHICAGO PR
ISBN: 0226480879

Music and Morals
Haweis, H R
University Press of the Pacific INTL LAW & TAXATION PUBL
ISBN: 1410203379

…and so on…

dunno x

Music reflects the philosophies of pop culture. Rap is a great example. I remember hearing Ice-T back in ‘91 and thinking damn that’s honest. I think the Beatles refelct a lot of philosophy…Russell and McCartney were friends and I know there was a lot of talk about love conquering the world’s problems. I think, rather than finding out what Hobbes or Nietzsche says about music, it would be better to find out what music (indirectly) says about Hobbes or Nietzsche. So in terms of books I would point you to Kurt Cobain’s Red Mead Notebook, the Complete Sessions of Beatle’s Music as well as an excellent Beatles’ companion “Tell Me Why” which analyzes each song for musical and philosophical meaning. John Cage’s “Music, Philosophy, and Intention” seems apropos, as does anything about Christoph Willibald von Gluck who studied both philosophy and music and his creeds and approaches to free simplicity represent perhaps the best go-between for the two subjects. I think Jim Morrison is WRONGLY compared to Nietzsche and gravely misunderstood by most writings I’ve seen. You may pose this question to your students: “Was Jim Morrison Nietzschian?” Of course that’d be asking a lot of them.

Keep in mind that I think music is not only a language of emotion but equally a language of patterns, textures, proportions and relationships. The patterns inherent in a great piece of music, to my mind, are metaphorically suggestive of patterns existing on many levels of reality and point to an inherent order that permeates the kosmos. This is why I got so mad in music school at all the conformist losers who didn’t get it. I’m the suckiest piano major who ever lived but at least I know the Reeperbahn beats Juliard when it comes to bridging music with the sublime…but really what I mean is that music IS philosophy. And I guess the early Beatles is my philosophy but that’s SO besides the point. Bach makes me cry for what the world isn’t.

What many composers did in the middle of the 20th century reminds me a lot of what philosophers do…that is the perpetrate an artificially narrow practice of modern classical composition. The disastrous result is that the “rules” of dodecaphony/language became more important than the compositions/ideas themselves. A certain aesthetic discrimination had been lost, while far too many embittered composers/philosopher blamed the audience for not “understanding” their music. (See Dunamis.) Thankfully, those days are behind us now and composers/philosophers feel much freer to draw upon whatever traditions they so choose (See Gamer) and innovate from that point forward into the future of music/philosophy.Â

I believe in drawing from many schools of thought in order to create a music which is vital, modern, eclectic and honest. Beethoven remarked that music is a bridge between the intellectual and the sensual. It takes generosity of spirit to communicate through music and this generosity results from the composer’s humanity and hunger to communicate ideas. Again, this is mirrored in philosophy, so any reading of why composers do what they do, and why philosophers do what they do, and the comparison of the two texts, will be useful to your students. Or you could just sift through Eminem lyrics to discover brilliant new ideas for a new world order. Just don’t forget that he’s being ironic. Misunderstanding Eminem usually comes from reading parts too deeply and other parts not deeply enough.

I’m just teasing about Dunamis. He’s really quite brilliant and you should get his advice if you can.

Good luck, teach/

I’ve heard Wittgenstein was interested in music and even refers to music notation somewhere in Tractatus. His brother was a (one-armed, I believe) pianist. I think, but am not quite sure, that Schopenhauer had a few things to say about music too.

Thomas Mann wrote an interesting “philosophical” chapter on music in “Magic Mountain” (“The Politically Suspect”, or something like that). Hesse’s “The Glass Bead Game” also has “philosophical” ideas of music.

Hello CP

Cultures like plants are in a sense “living things” as well. The effects of different styles of music on plants as living things suggests that it should have an effect on cultures as well because of the cumulative effects of its different styles on individuals.

For example, it could be theorized that continually listening to hard rock without balance can cause one to become either stunted or gangly and with small leaves (human attributes) … iments.asp