Musical work

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A musical work (often also a musical work , piece of music , occasionally a piece ) is educationally a (self-contained) composition or a collection of such compositions. In musicology , the term is also used to describe the musical work of a composer as a whole, i.e. all the musical works he has created.

Under musical work not only the compositions are understood themselves, but also their performance or sound or image carrier on which these works are included (eg. As a music album ). Because these works are also the result of human creative activity.


The musical work is the subject of investigation in musicological harmony , counterpoint and form theory (composition theory) and increasingly also in reception aesthetics and jurisprudence (where musical works are treated as legal entities within the meaning of the copyright law ).

Musical works in concerts or by playing recordings of a public made available, but they can also be played on personal experience alone or of sound or image transfer media to be heard.


A musical work not only serves the aesthetics or entertainment , but can also greatly change moods or have a healing effect. Furthermore, it also has religious, cultural and sometimes also political relevance (practically every Christian worship service is sung, practically every country has a national anthem ). Since the diffusion of sound carriers, musical works have become an important branch of the economy , which is called the music industry because of its great importance . Musical works are mostly marketed to make a profit. This is achieved by laying products such as sheet music, sound carriers (e.g. CDs, records or music files on the Internet) and through license fees. Pieces of music that are marketed and sold successfully are called a hit . Since the late 1980s, music videos have been produced for advertising purposes and to underline a musical work of pop music and published together with the musical work. Furthermore, there are performances of musical works, for example at music competitions or festivals, and their awarding of music prizes , sometimes without the idea of winning .

Very often the popularity of a musical work depends not only on its compositional quality, but also on the current zeitgeist , whereby new styles can emerge.


The various musical works can be divided according to interpretation into instrumental music and vocal music , depending on whether they are sung or not. While pure instrumental music can do without vocal accompaniment, vocal music can either consist of singing and instrumental accompaniment or, as a cappella, it can also be pure vocal music. Another classification, which is only made by the German and Austrian collecting societies , deals with the supposed artistic claim of a work and classifies it according to serious or popular music .

The execution of compositions is the production of music ; their product can also be understood as the musical work (today this is often understood as the recording of several works on phonograms ). Furthermore, a distinction is made between music performed “live” and music produced, i.e. music produced in the recording studio. Since musical works have existed, initially only their live performance has been known, especially in theaters , opera houses or on the radio . The composers of classical music attached great importance to the fact that their musical works were always performed true to the composition; the concept of faithfulness to the work characterizes this endeavor to come to a close approximation of the interpretation with the composed work. The technical possibility of preserving musical works on records revolutionized the performance of music and led to the emergence of the music industry . For the purpose of preserving the musical works, recording studios were created in which the musical works produced can be improved by technical means, garnished with sound effects and preserved with sound carriers.


The musicological disciplines of genre and form as well as stylistics deal with the systematization of musical works according to intersubjective criteria .

  • According to origin


See also


  • Roman Ingarden : Investigations into the ontology of art: musical work - image - architecture - film . Niemeyer, Tübingen 1962 (reprint: de Gruyter 2010).
  • Wilhelm Seidel: Work and Work Concept in Music History . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1987.
  • Wolfgang Gratzer , Otto Neumaier (Hrsg.): Work on the musical work: on the dynamics of artistic action . Rombach, Freiburg i. Br./Berlin/Wien 2013.


  1. Compositions with text (e.g. songs , oratorios ) are also understood as a musical work. In addition to the interpretation of compositions (with the frequent requirement of being faithful to the work ), improvisation over previously defined material or without a requirement is increasingly taking place in music creation; these improvisations are also referred to as pieces of music or musical work .