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Absolute Music: The History of an Idea by Mark Evan Bonds

By Mark Evan Bonds

What's track, and why does it circulate us? From Pythagoras to the current, writers have struggled to isolate the essence of "pure" or "absolute" tune in ways in which additionally account for its profound impact. In Absolute track: The background of an concept, Mark Evan Bonds strains the historical past of those efforts throughout greater than millennia, paying targeted consciousness to the connection among music's essence and its traits of shape, expression, good looks, autonomy, in addition to its perceived skill to reveal philosophical truths.

The center of this publication makes a speciality of the interval among 1850 and 1945. even if the assumption of natural tune is as previous as antiquity, the time period "absolute music" is itself particularly fresh. It was once Richard Wagner who coined the time period, in 1846, and he used it as a pejorative in his efforts to show the restrictions of in basic terms instrumental track. For Wagner, track that was once "absolute" was once remoted, indifferent from the area, sterile. His modern, the Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick, embraced this caliber of isolation as a guarantor of purity. in basic terms natural, absolute tune, he argued, may possibly observe the top power of the art.

Bonds unearths how and why perceptions of absolute track replaced so significantly among the 1850s and Nineteen Twenties. while it first seemed, "absolute music" was once a brand new time period utilized to previous tune, yet by way of the early a long time of the 20 th century, it had become-paradoxically--an previous time period linked to the hot tune of modernists like Schoenberg and Stravinsky. Bonds argues that the most important advancements during this shift lay now not in discourse approximately track yet really the visible arts. The starting to be status of abstraction and shape in portray on the flip of the 20 th century-line and colour, instead of object-helped stream the assumption of basically summary, absolute song to the leading edge of musical modernism.

By conscientiously tracing the evolution of absolute track from old Greece in the course of the center a long time to the twentieth-century, Bonds not just presents the 1st entire heritage of this pivotal inspiration but additionally provokes new concepts at the essence of tune and the way essence has been used to provide an explanation for music's impact. a protracted awaited publication from the most revered senior students within the box, Absolute tune should be crucial studying for somebody drawn to the background, concept, and aesthetics of track.

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Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, 79a 1–2. 38 n Essence as Effect: To 1550 Advances in empirical science brought further pressure on the Pythagorean-Platonic conception of music and the cosmos. Tis new way of thinking about the structure of the universe was aided by the emerging concept of the scientie medie, those realms of knowledge seen to occupy a middle ground between the immutable and the contingent. Tis line of thought provided a framework for reconciling the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, and it was promoted in the late Middle Ages by such leading philosophers as Albertus Magnus (ca.

Moreover, he distinguished between the analysis of individual pitches and the way in which these pitches might function within a melody. Whereas Pythagoreans emphasized the identifcation and description of music’s constituent parts, Teophrastus atended to the ways in which these parts—individual pitches—might function together as a whole. ”4 For Aristoxenus and Teophrastus, the essence of music could not be defned without reference to its efect. In the confict between the mind and the senses—mirroring in a very broad way the diferences between Plato and Aristotle—a consensus eventually coalesced around the writings of Ptolemy (afer 83–161), who reconciled the two positions by granting the ear at least some role in the discussion of intervals and ratios.

Tis distinction is not addressed in the theory of isomorphic resonance, which ofers an explanation for the efect of any kind of music, with or without a sung text. Ancient writers nevertheless agreed that certain kinds of texts could be appropriately sung to certain kinds of music but not others, depending on the occasion and the audience. 1 Tis same kind of concern for matching music with text is evident throughout the Middle Ages. ”2 n THE SEPAR ATION OF POWERS It was precisely this concern for matching words and music that refects a conceptual separation between the power of music and the power of the text.

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