Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

The Oxford Handbook of Topic Theory

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

The Oxford Handbook of Topic Theory

Article excerpt

The Oxford Handbook of Topic Theory, edited by Danuta Mirka. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. xv, 683 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-984157-8 (hardcover): $ 150; also available online through institutional subscriptions, global.oup.com/academic

In his book Classic Music: Expression, Form, and Style, Leonard Ratner coined the term "topics" to signify subjects (types and styles) of musical discourse that help communicate the meaning of the work. Examples of topic types are dances or marches; styles might signify associations with military, Turkish, or hunting music. This handbook contains contributions by twenty-five leading scholars and aims to clarify the concept of topic theory and develop it as "an efficient tool of analysis and interpretation." It begins with the question of validity: did writers of the eighteenth century writers recognize topics as an aesthetic concept? Mirka's introductory essay also explores the connection between topics and concepts of affect, character, signification, pictorialism, and rhetoric, and discusses the reception of topic theory in current criticism. The essays in Part I explore the origins of the concept and its associations with eighteenth-century musical life, focusing on theatrical genres (opera buffa) and "topical mixtures" in instrumental genres. …

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