Musical Meaning: Toward a Critical History

Musical Meaning: Toward a Critical History

Musical Meaning: Toward a Critical History

Musical Meaning: Toward a Critical History

Synopsis

"A major work of consistently striking originality and insight, produced by a mature scholar at the peak of his career. To his subject Kramer brings a distinctly impressive command of recent cultural and critical theory, and an equally impressive knowledge of a broad range of music literature, from Beethoven to Coltrane. Kramer reads music and musical practices with captivating, compelling insight. His work provides readers with an immeasurably better grasp of how and what music means, and also how music shapes people."--Richard Leppert, author of "The Sight of Sound

Excerpt

The problem of meaning stands at the forefront of recent thinking about music. Whether music has meaning, what kinds of meaning it may have, and for whom; the relationship of musical meaning to individual subjectivity, social life, and cultural context—these questions have inspired strong feelings and sharp debate. All of them are raised anew and given a thorough shaking in Musical Meaning, which aims to rethink as fully as possible both how the questions are asked and how they are answered. The book celebrates meaning as a basic force in music history and an indispensable factor in how, where, and when music is heard.

In its modern form, the problem of meaning arose with the development of European music as something to be listened to “for itself” as art or entertainment rather than as something mixed in with social occasion, drama, or ritual. The music composed to be heard in this way eventually constituted a discovery that permanently altered the character and concept of music both inside and outside the European tradition. Yet although both this repertoire and the modes of listening it fostered encouraged a sense of aesthetic self-sufficiency and an idealized, unitary concept of music, a variety of exceptions and variants proliferated right alongside them to challenge the emergent model. This process has been more or less continuous, and in one respect it has been very fruitful. It has encouraged the development of both analytical devices for understanding music as autonomous art and interpretive strategies for understanding music as meaningfully engaged with language, imagery, and the wider world. In another sense, however, the debate has been fruitless, because it is not so much about the nature of music “itself” (as if there were such a thing) as about the ways in which we authorize ourselves to listen to music and to talk about it. It is obvious that in practice both sides of the debate are “right, ” even if in theory one is inclined . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.