Schubert’s lied An die musik celebrates music’s capacity to transport the listener or performer into a better world. That capacity renders music utopian for it is this better world and the experience of its prefiguration that is the defining character of utopianism. This article explores the ways in which music may be distinctive in its utopian force, and thus suggests several approaches to researching the underdeveloped area of music and utopia. It draws particularly on Ernst Bloch’s analysis and on work by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said to argue that there are two distinct aspects to the ‘special case’ for music: abstraction or unutterability, and performance. Neither of these elements is straightforward, since neither is peculiar to music, although they are arguably present in music in distinct ways, rendering it qualitatively different from other forms of utopian expression.

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