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  • Music, Modern Culture, and the Critical Ear ed. by Nicholas Attfield and Ben Winters
  • Daniel Elphick
Music, Modern Culture, and the Critical Ear. Ed. by Nicholas Attfield and Ben Winters. Pp. xvii + 270. (New York and London: Routledge, 2018). £110. ISBN 978-1-472-47686-9

Strauss, Pfitzner, and Schreker have had a hard time of things, musicologically speaking. While contemporary scholars seek to resurrect their reputations, it is hard to undo the damage wrought over the decades, for various debatable reasons. A whole host of composers have been similarly written off from the twentieth century; according to some, many were discarded because they were contrary to the trend of Modernism, a current that has been arguably overemphasized in music histories. In the 1980s and 1990s, the movement known as 'Critical Musicology' (or just 'New Musicology') sought to critique ideas of canon and of 'major' and 'minor' composers. Chief among UK scholars was Peter Franklin, whose 1985 book The Idea of Music: Schoenberg and Others exploded the idea of musical modernism and questioned the canon. Instead, he sought to blend the boundaries of 'high' and 'low' art by turning to the burgeoning discipline of film music studies. Skip forward to 2018, and a new volume seeks to pay tribute to Franklin and his life's work. The sheer scope of Franklin's scholarship is indicated by the range of subjects present in the book Music, Modern Culture, and the Critical Ear edited by Nicholas Attfield (University of Birmingham) and Ben Winters (The open University). For any reader keen to acquaint themselves with Franklin's work, it serves as an excellent introduction.

Attfield and Winters were themselves pupils of Franklin, and the list of authors divides into a rough 50/50 split between Franklin's former students and colleagues. The essays all question the idea of canon, though, partly owing to the nature of an edited volume, the conclusions offered do not necessarily all link together neatly. The nature of the split between authors is reflected in the first section, 'Personal Tributes'. Susan McClary begins, with 'Peter Franklin's Guilty Pleasures'. In this tribute, McClary recounts how Mahler's music was barely heard in the 1960s (to the disbelief of her twenty-first-century music students). She highlights the 'mutability' of the canon and pays touching tribute to Franklin's warm writing style that manages to communicate his eclectic musical loves (his 'guilty pleasures') while still maintaining an impressive scholarly rigour. To complete the portrait, Kate Daubney provides a sketch of Franklin as mentor in 'From Opera House to Cinema: Forging a New Discipline in 1988'. In her succinct account, Daubney illustrates the energy of Franklin's 1988 film music course at Leeds University, one of the first of its kind. What emerges is a memoir of the sheer joy of intellectual pursuit. She recalls film screenings in a campus attic, and how Franklin encouraged his students to forge connections between film and music. In Daubney's case, his enthusiasm proved infectious, and she has since forged her own career in film music studies. Together with McClary, the two essays make for a charming way to start the volume.

The remaining ten essays are grouped as 'Modernism and Modernity', 'Reconsidering Interwar Germany', and 'Musicology and its Values'. Here, I will survey them briefly under the spheres of 'German Music', 'Non-German Music', and 'Film Music'. While Franklin's 1985 book, already mentioned above, is better known, his work on Mahler is also highly regarded. In their chapter, Sherry Lee and Thomas Peattie compare the analytical [End Page 742] concept of 'listening subjects' to Mahler's own well-documented obsession with listening and sound. They highlight two aspects to Mahler's hearing: 'hypersensitive' and 'hyperattentive' (p. 35). It is the combination of these that made Mahler driven to distraction by noises in the countryside, but also to become infatuated with orchestral colour. Lee and Peattie then move to discuss hearing in the context of technology and audio reproduction at the beginning of the twentieth century, via studies of space, technology, and urban geography. Their conclusions are strong, drawing together an impressive range of sources and disciplines in a relatively short...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1477-4631
Print ISSN
0027-4224
Pages
pp. 742-744
Launched on MUSE
2020-05-14
Open Access
No
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