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Do musical works contain an implied listener? Towards a theory of musical listening

By J. Butt

Abstract

This study presents the sketch of a theory of musical listening based on historical considerations of the role of music in Western culture. A universal element of musical listening might lie in the notion that all music is the product of a fundamental human capacity to hear, harnessed in countless ways by diverse cultures. Secondly, there is the type of music, covering very broad historical and cultural boundaries, that presupposes attentive listening or even a participating audience; this is perhaps the simplest and most familiar category, at least in the West. Finally, there is the range of music that might contain an 'implied listener', something which I suggest is much more elusive, with specific historical and cultural boundaries within Western modernity. While this sense of the implied listener - someone developing the sense of a consistent and unitary self over time - is understandable today and might well still be employed in a broad range of new music, I would suggest that it now reflects only one way of being human among an alarmingly broad array of choices

Topics: M1
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.gla.ac.uk:40226
Provided by: Enlighten

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