Philosophy of Song and Singing: An Introduction

In Philosophy of Song and Singing: An Introduction, Jeanette Bicknell explores key aesthetic, ethical, and other philosophical questions that have not yet been thoroughly researched by philosophers, musicologists, or scientists. Issues addressed include:

  • The relationship between the meaning of a song’s words and its music
  • The performer’s role and the ensuing gender complications, social ontology, and personal identity
  • The performer’s ethical obligations to audiences, composers, lyricists, and those for whom the material holds particular significance
  • The metaphysical status of isolated solo performances compared to the continuous singing of opera or the interrupted singing of stage and screen musicals

Each chapter focuses on one major musical example and includes several shorter discussions of other selections. All have been chosen for their illustrative power and their accessibility for any interested reader and are readily available.


Why Music Moves Us

Surely you’ve experienced it before: you’re listening to a piece of music and all of a sudden you find a lump in your throat, a tear in your eye, or a chill down your spine.

Whether it’s Beethoven’s Choral Symphony or The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, a bit of blues or a bit of baroque, music has the power to move us. It’s a language which we all speak. But why does it have this effect on us? What is going on, emotionally, physically and cognitively when listeners have strong emotional responses to music? What, if anything, do such responses mean? Can they tell us anything about ourselves?

Jeanette Bicknell uses research in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and anthropology to address these questions, ultimately showing us that the reason why some music tends to arouse powerful experiences in listeners is inseparable from the reason why any music matters at all. Musical experience is a social one, and that is fundamental to its attractions and power over us.

I’m very excited that Ruins, Monuments and Memorials: Philosophical Perspectives on Artifact and Memory, edited with Jennifer Judkins and Carolyn Korsmeyer, is now available from Routledge. It contains my article, “The Physical Legacy of a Troubled Past.”

I am the co-editor, with John Andrew Fisher, of Song, Songs, and Singing.

Led Zeppelin and Philosophy includes my article on the band’s creativity.

I contributed the chapters on “Early Modern Philosophy of Music” and on “Song” to The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Music.

The Continuum Companion to Aesthetics is now the Bloomsbury Companion to Aesthetics. I contributed the chapter on music.

The fourth edition of Aesthetics: A Reader in Philosophy of the Arts includes my article, “Architectural Ghosts.”

The second edition of Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art: The Analytic Tradition includes my article, “Just a Song: The Aesthetics of Popular Song Performance.”

“Less is More” Response to a Poem by Helen Mort in Opposite: Poems, Philosophy & Coffee by Helen Mort and Aaron Meskin. I published a paper on oversinging. Helen Mort, a UK poet, wrote a poem responding to the article, and I wrote a short response to the poem.