chapter  17
12 Pages

Material music: Speculations on non-human agency in music


In this chapter, I consider some questions concerning the ontology of music and offer some speculations on the conditions under which ‘music’ might be said to emerge. Many have no uncertainty about what music is, yet debates about its essence still rage in certain circles. For example, Andy Hamilton claims that ‘music is the art of tones’, an assertion that leads him to suggest that works with ‘unpitched or not discretely pitched’ sounds should be called sound-art and not music.1 For Hamilton, ‘To allow that any sounds can be incorporated into music is not … to say that any sounds can constitute music. … [M]usic makes predominant use of tonal sounds and … [should not be confused with] a non-musical sound-art.’2