Skip to main content

CAD $54.95

Song, Songs, and Singing

Jeanette Bicknell, John Andrew Fisher

ISBN: 978-1-118-52467-1 February 2013 Wiley-Blackwell 300 Pages


The last twenty years or so have seen a surge of interest in the philosophy of music. However there is comparatively little philosophical literature devoted specifically to songs, singing and vocal music in general. This new collection of essays on the philosophical aspects of song and singing includes articles on the relationship between words and music in songs, the ontology of songs and recordings, meaning in songs, the metaphysics of vocal music in opera and the movies, and the ethical challenges raised in song performance. The essays discuss a large range of examples, including rock, lieder, jazz songs, blues, doo wop, and rap.

New essays by leading philosophers of art, including Peter Kivy (on "realistic song" in film), Jerrold Levinson (on jazz singing), Lee B. Brown (on the "minstrel hypothesis" in popular music), and Ted Gracyk (on linguistic pragmatics and song meaning).

Papers that offer ground-breaking theories of the appreciation of rock recordings, the ethical implications of popular songs, the ontology of ephemeral artworks, the ontological status of cover versions, and of how a genre of popular music can both express and be a function of its social context papers that challenge existing accounts of much-debated topics, including operatic metaphysics and of the ontology of recorded music.

Interdisciplinary essays that cut across aesthetics, philosophy of music, cultural music studies and musicology.

Essays that are clearly written and engaging.

1. Editors’ Introduction: Making a Space for Song

2. David Davies, "The Dialogue Between Words and Music in the Composition and Comprehension of Song"

3. Theodore Gracyk, "Meanings of Songs and Meanings of Song Performances"

4. Jerrold Levinson, "Jazz Vocal Interpretation: A Philosophical Analysis"

5. Justin London, "Ephemeral Media, Ephemeral Works, and Sonny Boy Williamson's 'Little Village'"

6. Michael Rings, "Doing It Their Way: Rock Covers, Genre, and Appreciation"

7. Franklin Bruno, "A Case for Song: Against an (Exclusively) Recording-Centered Ontology of Rock"

8. Peter Kivy, "Realistic Song in the Movies"

9. Nina Penner, "Opera Singing and Fictional Truth"

10. Lee B. Brown, "Armstrong, Crosby, Dylan, Flavor Flav: Can American Popular Vocal Music Escape the Legacy of Blackface Minstrelsy?"

11. David Goldblatt, "Nonsense in Public Places: Songs of Black Vocal Rhythm and Blues or Doo Wop"

12. John Carvalho, "'Strange Fruit': Music Between Violence and Death"

13. Aaron Smuts, "'Dreaming of the People I've Dismantled': The Ethics of Singing Along"