Is music sad because it causes the listener to feel sad? Is it to be valued because of the pleasure it gives us? R. A. Sharpe argues that the views these questions enshrine underestimate the cognitive element in our response to music. Our beliefs about music and our knowledge of the culture inwhich it originated underlie the judgements we make. At their most general, these cognitive elements are ideological in nature and they play both a positive and a negative role in our response to music--they both help and hinder. Music has long been thought of as a language. This metaphorunderpins the way we hear music and the way we think about it. We conceive of music both as expressive and as something to be understood. Almost certainly the roots of this conception lie in the fertilization of music by rhetoric during the Renaissance. Sharpe suggests that music may have entered anew period in which the language analogy and the humanist conception of music which it expresses are becoming less and less appropriate.