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Musical Meaning and Human Values

Lawrence Kramer

Publication Year: 2009

Musical understanding has evolved dramatically in recent years, principally through a heightened appreciation of musical meaning in its social, cultural, and philosophical dimensions. This collection of essays by leading scholars addresses an aspect of meaning that has not yet received its due: the relation of meaning in this broad humanistic sense to the shaping of fundamental values. The volume examines the open and active circle between the values and valuations placed on music by both individuals and societies, and the discovery, through music, of what and how to value.With a combination of cultural criticism and close readings of musical works, the contributors demonstrate repeatedly that to make music is also to make value, in every sense. They give particular attention to values that have historically enabled music to assume a formative role in human societies: to foster practices of contemplation, fantasy, and irony; to explore sexuality, subjectivity, and the uncanny; and to articulate longings for unity with nature and for moral certainty. Each essay in the collection shows, in its own way, how music may provoke transformative reflection in its listeners and thus help guide humanity to its own essential embodiment in the world.The range of topics is broad and developed with an eye both to the historical specificity of values and to the variety of their possible incarnations. The music is both canonical and noncanonical, old and new. Although all of it is classical,the contributors' treatment of it yields conclusions that apply well beyond the classical sphere. The composers discussed include Gabrieli, Marenzio, Haydn, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner, Puccini, Hindemith, Schreker, and Henze.Anyone interested in music as it is studied today will find this volume essential reading.

Published by: Fordham University Press


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pp. c-c

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

Examples and Figures

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pp. vii-xii

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pp. 1-9

As Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde discovered, there is a great deal to be said about the little word and. To speak of musical meaning and human values might be to ask how these things, in any of their numerous varieties, reinforce or oppose one another—or, rather, reinforce and oppose one another: ...

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Chapter 1

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pp. 10-31

Modernism comes in many guises. In the early twenty-first century, we are most likely to associate the word with the recent postmodernist turn, with cultural upheavals a hundred years ago, or with the radical questioning of Enlightenment values entailed in the emergence of Romanticism....

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Chapter 2

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pp. 32-58

Try as he would, E. T. A. Hoffmann never lived exactly the life he wished. In a well-known ‘‘Highly Random Thought’’ from Kreisleriana, one finds a motif that Hoffmann often varied in his literature and letters: ‘‘What artist has ever troubled himself with the political events of the day? He...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 59-78

Central Europe, the late eighteenth century: the slow movements of cyclical instrumental works embarked on a metamorphosis. Instead of expressing sustained states of feeling drawn mainly from the varieties of serenity and pathos, some slow movements began to explore the possibilities of...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 79-101

Lawrence Kramer’s brave new book, Why Classical Music Still Matters, climaxes with an account of the saving grace of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. The music, he says, imagines ‘‘an unbroken continuity of tradition.’’ Is this really imagining? Well, not exactly. ‘‘Imagining it, that...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 102-115

The relationship of Brahms to musical meaning and human values has perhaps never been imagined more vividly than in Hermann Hesse’s 1927 novel Steppenwolf. In a fantasy theater the narrator Harry Haller encounters Mozart, who waves his arms to disclose a misty desert landscape in...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 116-149

In 1907 Puccini made the first of two visits to New York; he had come to supervise the first performances of Manon Lescaut and Madama Butterfly at the Metropolitan Opera. He was also in search of a subject for his next project. Accordingly, while in the city, and despite his very limited English,...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 150-169

Having chosen to write about three of my favorite musical works—all of them lacking canonic authority, but all, I believe, rich in meaning and human value—I find myself up against the problematic mismatch between personal taste and History. Taking another look, recently, at the prologue...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 170-184

It has been claimed that the dreadful wolf’s-glen scene from Weber’s Der Freischütz of 1821 marked a decisive departure in the presentation of villainy on the opera stage, introducing a new musical vocabulary for representing evil: tremolos, trills, bassless diminished chords, chromaticism,...


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pp. 185-222


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pp. 223-224

Index of Works

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pp. 225-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780823246816
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823230099
Print-ISBN-10: 0823230090

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 647876388
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Musical Meaning and Human Values

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Subject Headings

  • Music -- History and criticism.
  • Music -- Philosophy and aesthetics.
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