What Does Music Mean?

Norm Geras:

The question 'What does music mean?' might be a question about how we explain music: explain what it does for us, what its appeal is; or explain its function or value in human communities. It might be, then, like 'What do clouds mean?' or 'What does all this ash mean?' or 'What does the failure of the banks mean?' On that basis, however, I would think that music must have many meanings, since there won't be one unilateral way of integrating it within an intelligible system of causal or functional explanation. Think of music as used in religious ceremonies, as celebrating official occasions, as privately enjoyed by an individual, as making so much noise that it stops you thinking, as background to a movie, as facilitating or prompting dance, as inexpressibly wonderful and as utterly rebarbative and mystifying.