- Purchase/rental options available:
Many discussions of musical meaning are structured by a pivotal disagreement over whether music is a representational art. Some argue that music should be understood in formal terms because it cannot represent anything external to it, while others resist the austerity of formalism with explanations of how music represents the extramusical world via its relationship to another source of established meaning. Across the divide, these approaches share conceptions of representation drawn from outside music, thereby overlooking a way of representing exemplified in music: representing the non-representational, or what, to borrow a naming convention from Chinese philosophy, could be called “great.” Shown here is how music can represent the “great,” and it is suggested we reconsider representation on music’s terms. This is also a starting point for reversing questions that ask how music is like other meaningful phenomena to asking how these are like music. What can music show us about representation?