Spring 2022 - CA 344 D100

Thinking and Writing About Sound (3)

Class Number: 7851

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    GCA 2205, GOLDCORP

  • Prerequisites:

    CA 140 or permission of instructor.



An in-depth investigation of selected social, political, philosophical, and theoretical issues associated with contemporary music and the sonic arts. Topics such as sound and technology, popular music and the mass media, or critical issues in non-western and Indigenous music might also be considered. This course can be repeated for credit.


Typically, courses on the philosophy of music begin with the imposing question: “What is music?” Responses to this question are manifold, but usually they assume a common point of reference, which is “the musical work.” But what is a musical work? Is it an idea? If so, is it an idea in the composer’s, the performer’s, or the listener’s mind? Is it a score? A performance? An algorithm stored in the Music Genome Project? In this course we begin by considering the concept of “the musical work” and how it has shaped musical practices and ways of thinking. We will consider traditional and contemporary attempts to answer these questions by drawing on a number of specific interpretive frameworks and theories, such as Expressionism, Formalism, Acoustics, Cultural Theory and Phenomenology. However, we will also consider how music has informed or haunted philosophy, which is to say that we will look at the ways in which “music” (whatever that means) has been explicitly or implicitly taken up by such thinkers as Schopenhauer, Susanne Langer, and Felix Guattari as an image of will, feeling, or thought. Throughout the course students will be encouraged to criticize these approaches and advance their own critical thinking about music. The purpose of the course is to expand our understanding of music as one of many sonic arts with its own signature species of expression, but also to cultivate a philosophical sensibility towards a ubiquitous human practice.


  • Participation 10%
  • Class animator (twice during the term) 15%
  • Reading summaries 40%
  • Paper 35%
  • Subject to change



Texts will be posted on Canvas


Most of the course readings will be drawn from The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Music (Edited by Theodore Gracyk and Andrew Kania). You can purchase this book from any number of online bookstores.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with safety plans in place.  Some courses will still be offered through remote methods, and if so, this will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the spring 2022 term.