Early recordings raise fundamental questions about our response to music. Why do these performances seem so strange to us? How could they ever have made musical sense to listeners? How might we make sense of them now, in our very different music-cultural environment? This paper looks at some of the ways in which musical sounds model other processes involving change over time. A mechanism is proposed that may underlie the cross-domain mappings generating musical meaning. Music is seen to be exceptionally adaptable to the modelling of other experiences, able to offer many potential likenesses, among which 44those with most relevance to what an individual brain already knows and believes are favoured by conscious perception. Performance and perception styles change over time as certain kinds of potential meaning are selected for their relevance to other aspects of contemporary experience. The model helps to explain how subjectivity is constructed and how it changes.