Is this music? Is it still music? Such questions presuppose that there is one feature or set of features that has to be in place if something were to count as music. That feature is then meant to be music’s essence. Some electronic music has met essentialist misgivings: ‘This is not music any more: it does not express anything’. Methodically, there can be at least two approaches to such an objection, one philosophical and the other historical. On the one hand, one could try to settle by way of conceptual analysis whether being expressive is in any sense of the word essential to music or not. We do not wish to establish here whether such an approach would or could be fruitful. Rather, we take a historical route: whatever a philosophy of music says, we should be able to fi nd out whether human expression has been essential to music (in our tradition) or not.1 To this question we wish to suggest an answer in the negative. As evidence, we shall present three instances of what, lacking a better term, we shall call ‘objective music’—in other words, musical processes not unfolding from human subjectivity. We shall exemplify objective music by (1) musica mundana, (2) the Aeolian harp, (3) white noise (Rauschen). With a few qualifi cations, we shall conclude our argument (4). Pace the alternative set out before between a philosophical and a historical approach, the latter may entail a philosophical stance as well: recognizing the validity of diff erent traditions in music.