From The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, a special issue on Song, Songs and Singing.
Edited by Jeanette Bicknell and John Andrew Fisher
From the introduction:
The topic of song, songs, and singing extends across a vast number of art forms and genres back into prehistory. It stands astride the high-low art continuum, ranging from classical music to popular and folk music. Unlike other art forms that include both high and low genres (such as movies and novels), song and songs have always had multiple functions other than being objects of aesthetic appreciation. The uses of vocal music range from the sacred (sung as hymns as well as heard as masses, anthems, and so on), to communal (campfire songs and soccer fans’ chants), to ceremonial (Jerusalem sung at public events, Barber’s Agnus Dei performed at memorials), to music for entertainment and for dancing; unlike other art forms, songs and singing play a role in everyday life.
From the point of view of philosophy of music, instrumental and vocal music have performed an intricate pas de deux over the last three centuries. In the eighteenth century, purely instrumental musical works began to interest music theoreticians. By the nineteenth century, such works by the great composers largely supplanted vocal music as higher art in the minds of philosophically inclined thinkers. Undoubtedly, understanding the nature and metaphysics of autonomous instrumental musical works involves challenging philosophical issues. Yet it would be a mistake to regard this historical progression as charting a journey from attention to something that is not art (songs) toward something that is (sonatas). In reality, these are two broad types of music, each calling for philosophical attention.
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