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John Butt

This chapter looks at the cultural history of the ‘musical work’ as a concept in western history of music. In copyright the ‘musical work’ is presupposed as the starting point of protection for music. But the idea of the ‘musical work’ is not only more closely related to western art music, it is also associated with specific eras in the history of music. The more recent weakening of the classical work concept allows consideration of other factors implicit in the music, particularly performance. New media and methods of communication have also helped to draw attention to different ways of listening to music, something that could be going well beyond the passivity so often assumed for the consumption of musical works. Keywords: musical work; work concept; performance; philosophy of music; ideas of musical history