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Durham University

The Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Professor Andy Hamilton

Hamilton, Andy (2007). 'Music and the Aural Arts'. British Journal of Aesthetics 47(1): 46-63.

Author(s) from Durham



The visual arts include painting, sculpture, photography, video and film. But many people would argue that music is the universal or only art of sound. In the modernist era, Western art music has incorporated unpitched sounds or "noise", and I pursue the question of whether this process allows space for a non-musical soundart. Are there non-musical arts of sound – is there an art phonography, for instance, to parallel art photography? At the same time, I attempt a characterisation of music, contrasting acoustic, aesthetic and acousmatic accounts. My view is that there is some truth in all of these. I defend the claim that music is an art with a small "a" – a practice involving skill or craft whose ends are essentially aesthetic, that especially rewards aesthetic attention – whose material is sounds exhibiting tonal organisation. But acoustic and acousmatic accounts help to distinguish between music and non-musical soundart, since music must have a preponderance of tones for its material.