The concept of autonomy is widely discussed today due to various socio-political and historical reasons. Autonomy here means what its root meaning suggests: self-rule or self-law, that is, the freedom to make one’s own rules and regulations.
There are two varieties of autonomy associated with music: the first may be called the internal and the second can be classed as the external.
Internal autonomy is the elaborational freedom allowed to the individual artist within the relevant musical framework. External autonomy is the freedom to incorporate and manipulate new musical material which, if viewed in itself, belongs to an alien cultural group and musical ethos.
Music as a whole enjoys a greater degree of autonomy, but on the other hand a close acquaintance with the systems of art-music reveal that they are less autonomous than they appear to be. Further, if the inter-cultural aspect is examined, the autonomy enjoyed by the art of music shrinks considerably. It is also clear that the problem of musical autonomy is multi-faceted. For example, the implication of the concept of autonomy change in their nature and extent when music is allied with other arts. The tenor of the treatment also undergoes radical changes when socio-economic concepts like commitment, progress and modernity are brought into the fray. As discussed here, the problem is stated in a slightly abstracted manner in order to make an unambiguous consideration.