The beauty of sound: Timbre as grounds for aesthetic and artistic value in music

Dissertation, Uppsala University (2022)
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This thesis explores the concept of timbre through the lens of analytic philosophical aesthetics and philosophy of music. I argue that timbre should be thought of as providing the grounds for artistic and aesthetic values in music. To this end and firstly, I critique the physical sense of timbre in favour of two anti-realist senses of timbre. These two are the qualitative and the semantic senses which are developed from two of Siedenburg and McAdams’ four senses of timbre. I argue that the qualitative sense of timbre is the experience of the unique qualities of sounds. The semantic sense is that which associates timbres to objects and concepts. Within the semantic sense, I argue for what I call a genealogical sense of timbre which relates timbres to sources and concepts through a history of built up associations. Secondly, these two senses are situated within the artform of music by demonstrating the functions they may fulfil there and how these ground artistic and aesthetic values. Regarding these values, I employ Robert Stecker’s definitions of artistic and aesthetic value. Finally, I summarise the two arguments for why we should think that timbre can provide grounds for aesthetic and artistic value in music.

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Ben Mc Hugh
Uppsala University

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References found in this work

Dispositional Theories of Value.Michael Smith, David Lewis & Mark Johnston - 1989 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 63 (1):89-174.
Sounds: a philosophical theory.Casey O'Callaghan - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Aesthetic and nonaesthetic.Frank Sibley - 1965 - Philosophical Review 74 (2):135-159.
The nature of noise.John Kulvicki - 2008 - Philosophers' Imprint 8:1-16.

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