Musical works, recordings and their digitizations: new philosophical types


Over the past hundred years, philosophers of music have debated the nature of, and relations that hold between, musical works and their performances. The gradual proliferation of recording and reproduction technologies over the same period further complicated such debates, encouraging some contemporary philosophers to consider similar relations between musical works and their recordings. In recent years, profound changes in the nature of such technologies have resulted in a new phenomenon, in which recordings of the past have been transferred from their original medium into the digital domain. Responding to this phenomenon, this article assesses the relations that hold between musical works, recordings and their digitisations. It starts by surveying existing theories that relate works and performances, paying particular attention to the realist notion of types and tokens. It goes on to consider three possibilities in which this notion might be employed and adapted in order to account for existence of recordings and their digitisations. The final of these three possibilities, which is viewed as the most plausible, does not merely offer a revisionist account of ongoing philosophical debates. Rather, it argues for a radical expansion of our understanding of musical works, and addresses the complex network of relations that they enter into with regard to recordings and digitisations.


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