Defining Music

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This work is an investigation of the areas that need to be considered in any attempts at defining music that aspire to take into account the wealth of ethnomusicological and philosophical materials of relevance. It introduces, in the opening chapter, a defining approach and certain characteristics of definition that place it somewhere between a description of perceptions of music and accounts of the music itself. It then applies this approach and framework in subsequent chapters, defining music in the broadest sense, while also defining each genre of popular, classical and folk music.


"Dr. Nercessian is an ethnomusicologist with enormous insight into the various theoretical perspectives of music. This book is an attempt to differentiate between defining music and discovering the true meanings found in the cultural manifestations of music. Dr. Nercessian does this not by explaining the endless circumstances and understandings of the concept of music, but rather, by pulling out something of the general nature of music cross-culturally.” - Professor Jonathan McCollum, Department of Music, University of Alberta

“This is an important book which should find a wide readership in the musical and academic communities. Its object is to define what music is, a task which, like many seemingly straightforward tasks, becomes extremely complex as soon as we begin to think about it in depth ... As an ethnomusicologist as well as a conservatoire-trained concert pianist, Dr. Nercessian brings to his discussion an unusually wide range of issues and references, and his arguments take account of the full range of musical and ethnomusicological literature.” – Dr. David Greer, Emeritus Professor of Music, University of Durham

“This excellent book challenges preconceived notions of what music is and how it might be defined, and shows that there is as much to be gained from a study of the very process of defining music as there is from a study of the object of definition itself. That this book is written clearly and succinctly, with a minimum of jargon and an argument which is easy to follow and cumulatively convincing will ensure that it will find a wide and receptive audience well beyond the field of musicology.” – Dr. Timothy E. Duff, Lecturer in Classics, Director for the Centre of Hellenic Studies, The University of Reading

Table of Contents

Preface by Professor Jonathan McCollum
Introduction - Defining: What and Why?
1 The Defining Method and the Ethnomusicologist’s Suitability as Definer
2 Common Patterns in Defining Music and Their Problems
3 Folk Music
4 Classical Music
5 Popular Music
6 The Persistence of Genres
7 The Concept of Music
Appendix A – Selected English Language Definitions (Mainly Primary Entries)
Appendix B – Selected Non-English Language Definitions
Appendix C – English Language Encyclopedia Definitions
Appendix D – European Language Encyclopedia Definitions
Appendix E – Musicological Definitions or Relevant Assertions
Selected Bibliography
Name Index

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