The Sociology of Knowledge: An Essay in Aid of a Deeper Understanding of the History of Ideas

By W. Stark | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
PRELIMINARY ORIENTATION

(a) INTRODUCTION

THERE can be few to whom it has not happened at one time or another to attend a concert, the programme of which included, first a symphony of the eighteenth century, perhaps Haydn ' Military' or Mozart ' Haffner', and then a symphony of the nineteenth century, say, Beethoven ' Eroica' or Bruckner ' Romantic'. Conductors love contrasts of this kind, and rightly so, for nothing serves better to bring out the specific excellences of a work of art than its juxtaposition with another work of art comparable in stature but different in content and in style. Now, anyone who has become aware of the great dissimilarity between the music of a Haydn or a Mozart on the one hand, and the music of a Beethoven or a Bruckner on the other, and who begins to speculate about the nature and the implications of this dissimilarity, will soon discover that it is nowhere more immediately manifest than in the third movements of the respective symphonies. Both the older and the younger composers follow the traditional andante, the slow and serious music, with light relief, to bring back a more smiling and contented mood: but whereas an eighteenth-century audience expected, and was served with, a sprightly minuet, the minuet has given place, a few decades later, to the scherzo, a movement similar in aim and inspiration, but different in form. This disappearance of the minuet which took place around the year 1800 --one might almost be tempted to say, around the year 1789--points beyond the confines of musical creation and musical thought to the wider sphere of social life and social strife. The minuet was, as everyone knows, an expression of ancien régime society and sociability; it could not survive the social order of which it was part, parcel and product; it had to vanish as soon as its historical basis dissolved and disappeared. And thus it is that a social and political revolution draws after it certain kindred developments in the realm of culture, and even in so apparently remote and independent a province of this realm as music, the most abstract of all arts, the art furthest removed from the hurly-burly of everyday events.

-3-

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