Problems of Modern Music: The Princeton Seminar in Advanced Musical Studies

Problems of Modern Music: The Princeton Seminar in Advanced Musical Studies

Problems of Modern Music: The Princeton Seminar in Advanced Musical Studies

Problems of Modern Music: The Princeton Seminar in Advanced Musical Studies

Excerpt

The Parisian master architect, Jean Mignot, overseeing the building of the cathedral in Milan in 1398, declared Ars sine scientia nihil. This was in answer to an opinion then beginning to take shape, that scientia est unum, et ars aliud. For Mignot, the rhetoric of building involved a truth to be expressed in the work itself, while others had begun to think, as we now think, of houses, and even of God's house, only in terms of construction and effect. Mignot scientia cannot have meant simply engineering, for in those days engineering was considered an art, not a science; his scientia meant ratio, the theme, content, or burden (gravitas) of the work to be done, and was not concerned with its functioning or with the esthetic satisfaction it might provide. And so, too, for music. Guido d'Arezzo's words, Nam qui canit quod non sapit, diffinitur bestia, are strong words. Many centuries have elapsed since these views were widely shared, but something of this sort is once more in the air as the age-old and omnipresent strife between old and new is reaching a particularly acute stage, in fact, a stage that has few parallels in the history of music. "This is no longer music" -- the popular rallying slogan, is quite familiar to the historian, but while such an attitude has often obscured progress for a generation or two, it has never caused such an upheaval and such weakening of artistic integrity as during the last two generations. To make a comprehensive analysis of the situation is a Herculean task and will call for much more serious and judicious effort than the rather wild pamphleteering that goes on in European periodicals, though here and there one sees very respectable studies.

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