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

By Mark Evan Bonds

What's song, and why does it circulation 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 song: The historical past of an concept, Mark Evan Bonds strains the heritage of those efforts throughout greater than millennia, paying targeted recognition to the connection among music's essence and its characteristics of shape, expression, attractiveness, autonomy, in addition to its perceived skill to reveal philosophical truths.

The center of this booklet specializes in the interval among 1850 and 1945. even though the belief of natural song is as outdated as antiquity, the time period "absolute music" is itself particularly fresh.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 constraints of simply instrumental tune. 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. basically natural, absolute song, he argued, may well discover the top capability of the art.

Bonds unearths how and why perceptions of absolute song replaced so greatly among the 1850s and Twenties. whilst it first seemed, "absolute music" used to be a brand new time period utilized to outdated tune, yet through the early a long time of the 20 th century, it had become-paradoxically--an previous time period linked to the hot song of modernists like Schoenberg and Stravinsky. Bonds argues that the major advancements during this shift lay now not in discourse approximately track yet really the visible arts. The turning out to be status of abstraction and shape in portray on the flip of the 20 th century-line and colour, rather than object-helped stream the assumption of merely summary, absolute tune to the leading edge of musical modernism.

By conscientiously tracing the evolution of absolute song from old Greece throughout the heart a while to the twentieth-century, Bonds not just presents the 1st complete historical past of this pivotal thought but in addition provokes new techniques at the essence of track and the way essence has been used to provide an explanation for music's impression. a protracted awaited publication from the most revered senior students within the box, Absolute song could be crucial studying for an individual drawn to the heritage, idea, and aesthetics of track.

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Music in Early Christian Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 158. 8. Augustine, In Psalmum XXXII, in Patrologiae cursus completus, ed. Migne, 36:283: “Quid est in jubilatione canere? Intelligere, verbis explicare non posse quod canitur corde. Etenim illi qui cantant, sive in messe, sive in vinea, sive in aliquo opere ferventi, cum coeperint in verbis canticorum exsultare laetitia, veluti impleti tanta laetitia, ut eam verbis explicare non possint, avertunt se a syllabis verborum, et eunt in sonum jubilationis.

23 19. Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, book 3, trans. William Strunk Jr. and Oliver Strunk, rev. James McKinnon, in Strunk and Treitler, Source Readings in Music History, rev. , 150. 20. 10, ed.  Brown and trans. Philotheus Boehner as Te Journey to the Mind of God (Indianapolis: Hacket, 1993), 16. 21. Heninger, Touches of Sweet Harmony, 201–2. 22. Heninger, Touches of Sweet Harmony, 201; the frontispiece is reproduced on page 249 of Heninger’s book. 23. For an accessible summary of these parallels, see Edward Rothstein, Emblems of the Mind: Te Inner Life of Music and Mathematics (New York: Random House, 1995).

Augustine is struggling here with essentials: what torments and delights him goes beyond certain melodies or kinds of melody to the very phenomenon of music itself. He wants to hear the singing of the psalms but at the same time feels obliged to restrain his response. ” By subordinating his senses to the faculties of reason, then, Augustine makes a sharp distinction between words and music and places the two in opposition. Tis approach marks the beginning of a fssure in Western conceptions of music that undermined the perceived unity of the micro- and macrocosm.

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