Music: Listening and Philosophy

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Music: Listening and Philosophy

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Music, Philosophy

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview


    Music: Listening & Philosophy is accessible to any student that takes part in the Honours Programme; no special musical or artistic talents are required, apart from being a dedicated music listener and having an open mind, prepared to push one’s musical limits. 

    Music: Listening & Philosophy trains students in listening and thinking about listening to music, and gets them in touch with:

    • composers, musicians and philosophers, their ideas, their music;
    • with the problems musicians and listeners face while musicking (to borrow Christopher Small’s useful term here) and the role scores, recordings, instruments, acoustics play in musicking activities;
    • with the way Youtube and Spotify interfere in listening experiences;
    • with ideas about authenticity, quality and meaning; with city sounds as representing just another musical realm – to name just a few topics. The basic idea is that thinking about music and listening problematizes and enhances the way one approaches and handles any complex encounter, since music, volatile as it is, is the most complex of all arts by far.

    In 1985, composer Luciano Berio stated that music is ‘everything one listens to with the intention of listening to music.’ What, then, is listening to music about, how does it work and why? Many composers, musicians and philosophers have considered these and related questions throughout the 20th century; among them great names like John Cage, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Jacques Derrida.

    Listening & Philosophy takes the form of seven pairs of two three-hour sessions (afternoon and evening). The second session of each pair will be dedicated to concert visits, workshops and student presentations.

    The students will have to produce a few papers each. The final assessment will be an oral exam.


Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Some courses may require additional fees.


This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some are essential to make our site work; others help us improve the user experience. By using the site, you consent to the placement of these cookies.

Read our Privacy Policy to learn more.