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Vol. 9 No. i (2021): Spring 2021

Up from Absolute Music

November 21, 2023


The idea of “absolute” music is central to many debates about what music is and which music should be considered beautiful. This essay engages with Mark Evan Bonds’s book, Absolute Music: The History of an Idea, to understand the historical roots of the term and its philosophical implications and contradictions. By exposing issues in the “absolute music” framework, new pathways emerge which synthesize knowledge from diverse fields—including sociology, ecology, musicology, and psychology—to create a more informed, scientifically grounded, and culturally situated perspective on what music is, how it should be treated, and how it might be used.