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date: 25 February 2021


  • Nancy Kovaleff Baker,
  • Max Paddison
  •  and Roger Scruton


In its simplest sense, the term ‘expression’ is applied to those elements of a musical performance that depend on personal response and that vary between different interpretations. In this sense a piano teacher may enjoin a pupil to ‘put in the expression’, i.e. to play a piece with a certain articulation, tempo and phrasing. It is not clear how this use of the term relates to the concept that occurs in music criticism (as when a piece of music is said to express some emotion, outlook or idea). What does it mean to say of a piece of music that it has expression, or that it expresses, or is expressive of a certain state of mind? The question is a philosophical one, and reflects the profound uncertainty in contemporary aesthetics over the most important concept bequeathed to it by the Romantic movement.

For expression marks, see Tempo and expression marks...

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Jahrbuch der Musikbibliothek Peters
Journal of the American Musicological Society