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Sound Figures of Modernity

German Music and Philosophy

Edited by Jost Hermand and Gerhard Richter

Publication Year: 2006

The rich conceptual and experiential relays between music and philosophy—echoes of what Theodor W. Adorno once called Klangfiguren, or "sound figures"—resonate with heightened intensity during the period of modernity that extends from early German Idealism to the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School. This volume traces the political, historical, and philosophical trajectories of a specifically German tradition in which thinkers take recourse to music, both as an aesthetic practice and as the object of their speculative work. 

The contributors examine the texts of such highly influential writers and thinkers as Schelling, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bloch, Mann, Adorno, and Lukács in relation to individual composers including Beethoven, Wagner, Schönberg, and Eisler. Their explorations of the complexities that arise in conceptualizing music as a mode of representation and philosophy as a mode of aesthetic practice thematize the ways in which the fields of music and philosophy are altered when either attempts to express itself in terms defined by the other.

Contributors: Albrecht Betz, Lydia Goehr, Beatrice Hanssen, Jost Hermand, David Farrell Krell, Ludger Lütkehaus, Margaret Moore, Rebekah Pryor Paré, Gerhard Richter, Hans Rudolf Vaget, Samuel Weber

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

The essays gathered in this book, with the exception of Samuel Weber’s contribution, first were presented as papers at the international conference “Elective Affinities: German Music and Philosophy,” the 36th Wisconsin Workshop, jointly organized by Jost Hermand and Gerhard Richter at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in October 2003. ...

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1. German Music and Philosophy: An Introduction

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pp. 3-18

Any thinking about music will always have come too late. The future perfect tense of this construction specifies the temporal situation in which the project of theorizing music necessarily occurs, namely, in a time that is out of joint. Like the grammatical future perfect, music’s being is neither fully present nor fully past nor merely in the future, ...

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2. Doppelbewegung: The Musical Movement of Philosophy and the Philosophical Movement of Music

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pp. 19-63

When Charlotte asks Eduard on one of those evenings at home to explain to her what is meant by the word “affinity”—die Verwandtschaft— she clearly irritates him by interrupting his performance. Eduard has long enjoyed reading aloud in company, even if it is, as it has been of late, one of those more technical books of science. ...

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3. Brazen Wheels: F. W. J. Schelling on the Origins of Music and Tragedy

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pp. 64-91

One of the most striking passages in the 1811 printing of F. W. J. Schelling’s Ages of the World concerns the origin of music, an origin not without tragic overtones. The passage is reminiscent of Hegel’s famous remarks on “Bacchic tumult” in his analysis of “the religion of art” in the Phenomenology of Spirit.1 ,,,

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4. The Will as World and Music: Arthur Schopenhauer’s Philosophy of Music

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pp. 92-105

The imposition of this prelude is not insignificant. According to one commentator, the composition in question confronts us with what is “probably the most radical musical piece” in history.1 “Musical piece” is a tricky designation, however, because, in order to appreciate it, one must liberate oneself from the prejudice that music is audible. ...

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5. The Ring as Deconstruction of Modernity: Reading Wagner with Benjamin

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pp. 106-123

The title of this essay was initially borrowed from the provisional title of the conference for which it was written.1 Although I do not often use the word “deconstruction,” this borrowed phrase made itself at home in my text like an uninvited guest. Wagner, who was certainly thinking of anything but deconstruction when he composed the tetralogy, ...

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6. “Not Mere Music”: Nietzsche and the Problem of Moral Content in Music

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pp. 124-140

Friedrich Nietzsche’s personal enmity toward Richard Wagner, apparent in the works The Case of Wagner (Der Fall Wagner, 1888), Twilight of the Idols (Götzendämmerung, 1889), and Nietzsche contra Wagner (1895), has caused scholars to question whether Nietzsche’s criticism of Wagner’s music has any legitimate philosophical justification. ...

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7. Bloch’s Dream, Music’s Traces

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pp. 141-180

If, as readers of an overtly “political” writer such as Ernst Bloch, our primary interest lies in the progressive use-value and utopian impulses that animate his far-reaching oeuvre, then at times it may be tempting to forget the basic fact that all his works exist in and as language. ...

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8. Dissonance and Aesthetic Totality: Adorno Reads Sch

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pp. 181-200

For all his renown as a post-Hegelian thinker who pushed Hegel’s philosophy to its negative limits and for all his prominence as a dialectical materialist, devoted to the operations of the negative dialectic, Theodor W. Adorno, in much of his mature philosophy, held fast to the theological figure of the Absolute; ...

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9. Thomas Mann: Pro and Contra Adorno

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pp. 201-231

The elective affinities of music and philosophy that provide the focus of this volume preoccupied Thomas Mann all his life. Mann never tired of contemplating their voluptuous spiritual union in the thought of Romanticism, or of commenting on their strained marriage throughout the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries. ...

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10. The Composer as Dialectical Thinker: Hanns Eisler’s Philosophical Reflections on Music

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pp. 232-243

“He was an intellectual who happened to be a musician,” said Hanns Eisler’s first American admirer.1 But because Eisler, active as an innovative composer in many musical genres, was a musician through and through, we cannot—in contrast to his one-time friend Theodor W. Adorno—expect a coherent philosophy of music from him. ...

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11. Double Mimesis: Georg Lukács’s Philosophy of Music

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pp. 244-260

When addressing a topic such as music and philosophy in the thought of Georg Luk


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pp. 261-262


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pp. 263-267

E-ISBN-13: 9780299219338
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299219307

Publication Year: 2006