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The Content of Music: Its Nature and Significance

Christopher Peacocke (Columbia University)

We can distinguish two broad questions about how emotions and other mental states are heard in music. One concerns the distinctive relation in the perception of music to the mental state heard in the music - should we adopt a contour theory, a mirroring theory, and so forth? There is a second question, independent of the first: under what mode of presentation is a mental state given when you hear it in a piece of music? I have come to think that a good answer to this second question is crucial. I offer a theory about what is special about the nature of these modes of presentation, and suggest that the theory can explain features of music long noted but not properly explained in the literature. A good theory of these modes of presentation can explain the apparent ineffability of musical content, the role in making and appreciating connections with others, and its capacity, in musical representations, to leap over the first person/third person barrier.

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