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What is Music? The Ontological Status of Musical Works


Michael Pipko

Marist College, US
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The ontological status of musical works is a controversial topic among those in the field. This paper aims to argue for a nominalist and non-reductive approach to musical works that differentiates musical works from the sound structures commonly equated with them. The difference between sound structures and musical works is heavily emphasized and I conclude that musical works have emergent attributes sound structures do not. These attributes being creatability, fine individuation, and the inclusion of performance means. After establishing this I begin to build an argument for a nonreductive approach to musical works by rejecting the extreme view held by compositional nihilists. Once I establish that musical works are entities in our ontology I argue against them being abstract. I end by defending the nominalist approach.

How to Cite: Pipko, M., 2017. What is Music? The Ontological Status of Musical Works. International Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, 9(2), pp.12 (90–98). DOI:
Published on 18 Oct 2017.
Peer Reviewed


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