Music and Ethical Responsibility

Music and Ethical Responsibility

Jeff R. Warren

Language: English

Pages: 213

ISBN: 1107043948

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Discussions surrounding music and ethical responsibility bring to mind arguments about legal ownership and purchase. Yet the many ways in which we experience music with others are usually overlooked. Musical experience and practice always involve relationships with other people, which can place limitations on how we listen to and act upon music. In Music and Ethical Responsibility, Jeff Warren challenges current approaches to music and ethics, drawing upon philosopher Emmanuel Levinas's theory that ethics is the responsibilities that arise from our encounters with other people. Warren examines ethical responsibilities in musical experiences including performing other people's music, noise, negotiating musical meaning, and improvisation. Revealing the diverse roles that music plays in the experience of encountering others, Warren argues that musicians, researchers, and listeners should place ethical responsibility at the heart of musical practices.

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ethical responsibility can or should be separated from advocacy for particular causes or points of view. This book, for example, advocates for the essential linkage of music to ethical Applications of ethics to music responsibility. The problem with this model of music and ethics is that it treats music as a neutral commodity used to get people to pay attention to other causes. In contrast, I argue that musical experience discloses something about ethical responsibility. Look at how well the

experiences and preconceptions which are always in flux. I explicate this concept further first by using the example of a statue, and then expand to include the additional issues in the performing art of music. Consider the Elgin Marbles (see Figure  1). Once atop the Parthenon, these statues once held meaning for the citizens of Athens. Now in the British Museum, thousands of people a day experience these statues in present day. One could walk in to the wing where they are displayed with no

that it is a prejudice that has been developed in our historicity through living in the world. Wittgenstein summarises Frege’s argument that ‘every assertion contains an assumption, which is the thing that is asserted’ (Wittgenstein 2001, §22). Likewise, every creative musical act contains assumptions about music that inform the music produced. Attali’s call for a new, free music to overthrow the current system of social organisation is problematic, because the free musical practice he is calling

must negotiate the sometimes conflicting responsibilities to composer, other performers, listeners and to others outside of a musical performance. At other times, music or other sounds are considered other people’s because they are unwanted. Noise abatement campaigns targeting street music and industrial sounds show just how intertwined with human rela­ tionships all sounds are. Complaints of the sounds of street musicians in Victorian England, for example, were as much about the social class of

others, I have argued that every experience of music, performance or otherwise, is entangled with issues of human relationships and ethical responsibilities that need to be negotiated. I have teased apart some of the multiplicity of responsibilities that arise from performing other people’s music, but what about experiencing other people’s music? What about when we hear other people’s sounds as noise? Other people’s noise Just as ‘music’ is a term that brings together a ‘multiplicity of

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