From music signification to musical narrativity

Concepts and analyses

Authored by: Márta Grabócz

The Routledge Handbook of Music Signification

Print publication date:  March  2020
Online publication date:  March  2020

Print ISBN: 9780815376453
eBook ISBN: 9781351237536
Adobe ISBN:


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The history of aesthetics and of philosophical thought related to music demonstrates a dichotomy, a dual approach, one aspect of which emphasizes the purely theoretical, scientific, or physical features of music, while the other considers it as a type of human communication endowed with expression. This ambiguous, equivocal character of musical analysis and criticism was already present in Antiquity: the Pythagoreans focused on the laws of intervals and harmonic proportions—i.e., the numerical relations between sounds considered as models of universal harmony—whereas Plato and Aristotle were mainly interested in the ethical and pedagogical qualities, cathartic effects, and the social role of music. These dichotomous approaches, which lacked mediation and a dialectical exchange, reappeared several times through the history of the aesthetics of music from the eighteenth to the twentieth century (for example, the theories of Rousseau versus Rameau, Liszt versus Hanslick, and Kretzschmar versus Schenker).

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