I am listening to the theme music of a movie soundtrack. While I enjoy the theme music there is nonetheless something about it that strikes me as inauthentic and hallow. The thing is that I can't point to what it is that I find inauthentic. Maybe I might say that the music tries for an unconvincingly and excessively cinematic vastness and grandeur of emotion. But much equally ambitious cinematic music does not strike me as inauthentic. Is it philosophically incoherent to speak of a piece of music as lacking certain virtues such as authenticity when you are not even certain how a piece of music might be called authentic in the first place? How could it make sense? It seems odd to me that I can make such judgments.

Interesting! The topic of authenticity in music has been a lively one, especially (for some reason) in the 1980s and 1990s. The topic was usually defined by disputes about whether a musical performance of, say, Bach, could be authentic if it was performed with instruments that were unknown to the composer. Might it be the case that to really hear Bach's B Minor Mass one has to hear it on instruments modeled on those employed by the great German Baroque era composer? I believe Peter Kivey has a good book on authenticity in the arts, especially music. I think that the majority of philosophers who have considered this question concluded that authentic Bach does not require using only Baroque era instruments.

But quite apart from concerns with instruments or questions about when music is faithful to a composer's intentions, etc (which you did not ask about!), I think there are other ways of talking about authentic music. In your case, I don't think it is odd at all to think in terms of authenticity or inauthenticity. If someone described a piece of music as inauthentic and filled it out, as you have, with the observation that the music was unconvincing and excessive, I would think the music was unsuccesful insofar as it detracts from the movie or it somehow renders the film incredible or I might think of the music as sentimental and manipulative. In each (or all) of these respects I think one may reasonably think of inauthentic music as somehow failing to convince one of the drama or narrative of the film (e.g. the music that is supposed to overwhelm us with joy seems merely sacharine and smug).

I can also imagine that a movie sound track might sound inauthentic or hallow if listened to without the visuals. In that case, perhaps one's sense of inauthenticity and hallowness comes from the fact that some music is explicitly composed and intended to be part of an audiovisual experience, just as some visual experiences are reproduced in film that are intended and edited to include a movie sound track. Possibly, when you are only listening to the theme music you are only experience a fragment of wrok of art. The theme music without the visuals really is hallow and inauthentic, but matters change when experiencing the work of art as a whole.

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