Music into Words: A Lecture Delivered in the Whittall Pavilion of the Library of Congress, October 23, 1951

Music into Words: A Lecture Delivered in the Whittall Pavilion of the Library of Congress, October 23, 1951

Music into Words: A Lecture Delivered in the Whittall Pavilion of the Library of Congress, October 23, 1951

Music into Words: A Lecture Delivered in the Whittall Pavilion of the Library of Congress, October 23, 1951

Excerpt

The world, the mind, is an endless miscellany. --William Hazlitt (1829)

THE INVITATION to deliver one of the Elson lectures under the auspices of the Library of Congress must come to anyone as a great honor, and so it was to me. But I must candidly add that I found myself regarding it as providential besides, an opportunity ideally contrived to suit my own purposes. For the occasion would put at my mercy, for an hour or so, just the kind of audience I had long wished for, an audience interested in music and yet equally interested--or else it would not be here--in discourse about music. I wanted such an audience in order to try out upon it some ideas about the relation of music and words that I had so far been able to test only piecemeal, in private conversation, where the irrelevant, skeptical, and--shall I say--uncalled for interruptions of my guest or host interfered with full exposition.

Now in the usual kind of audience one is likely to find a mixture of amateurs, who derive their artistic pleasure almost exclusively from listening to music, and of "literary people" to whom music is worse than a closed book; for they can open a book but they cannot penetrate music. This fact defines my problem, which is also indicated by the title "music into words." The problem is, Are there genuine connections between music and words, or only accidental associations, some of them tolerable but most of them forced or farfetched? Is it possible to describe music in ordinary prose, or is technical jargon indis-

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