The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music

The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music

Lydia Goehr

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 0195324781

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


What is involved in the composition, performance, and reception of classical music? What are we doing when we listen to this music seriously? Why when playing a Beethoven sonata do performers begin with the first note indicated in the score; why don't they feel free to improvise around the sonata's central theme? Why, finally, does it go against tradition for an audience at a concert of classical music to tap its feet? Bound up in these questions is the overriding question of what it means philosophically, musically, and historically for musicians to speak about music in terms of "works".

In this book, Lydia Goehr describes how the concept of a musical work fully crystallized around 1800, and subsequently defined the norms, expectations, and behavioral patterns that have come to characterize classical musical practice. The description is set in the context of a more general philosophical account of the rise and fall of concepts and ideals, and of their normative functions; at the same time, debates amongst conductors, early-music performers, and avant-gardists are addressed.

The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works is a seminal work of scholarship, and has appeared in an astonishing variety of contexts and disciplines from musicological and philosophical since its initial publication. This second edition features a new Introductory Essay by the author, discussing the genesis of her groundbreaking thesis, how her subsequent work has followed and developed similar themes, and how criticisms along the way have informed not only her own work but the "Imaginary Museum" concept more generally as it spread across disciplinary lines. A provocative foreword by Richard Taruskin contextualizes Goehr's argument and points to its continuing centrality to the field.

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account for, in the way one wants to account for them. From this vantage-point one can now ask whether a successful analytic theory has been produced. To answer this question I shall look in the rest of this chapter and in the next at two accounts—Nelson Goodman's and Jerrold Levinson's—that differ from one another significantly. Both are idiosyncratic, though still representative of analysis. I begin with Goodman's nominalist account because it makes fewer ontological commitments than Levinson's.

sounds to the ear ‘substantially similar’ to the former, there will be ‘a presumption of infringement’.66 If there are decisions procedures in practice, all philosophers have to do is produce a theory that is compatible with the outcome of those procedures. Or perhaps such 66 F. E. Skone James, ‘Copyright’, in Grove, Dictionary, 5th edn., ii. 433. A PLATONIST THEORY OF MUSICAL WORKS 57 compatibility is not what philosophers strive after. The chasm reappears precisely when that conclusion is

identify four basic views. The next part of this chapter will briefly introduce each of these views and their primary representatives to give readers a preliminary taste of analytic theorizing. 9 Esthetics of Music, tr. W. Austin (Cambridge, 1982), 10. 14 THE ANALYTIC APPROACH First there is the Platonist view.10 In one of its articulations, musical works are argued, contrary to common sense, to be universals—perhaps even natural kinds—constituted by structures of sounds. They lack

uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason’.190 Towards the late eighteenth century, it was expected less and less that art convey some explicit moral, religious, or rational meaning, at least on the surface. Interest in the imaginative faculty was leading instead to new concepts of the Beautiful and Sublime, concepts that would cut off the artistic from the scientific and the moral. While the Beautiful (and, for some, the Sublime) were to be intuited by

simultaneously, but they did so only by adopting a position later theorists were reluctant to take. Early romantic theorists argued that it was on the transcendent, universal level of the ‘free’ genius that artists gave ‘fine’ content to their works. One way to counteract the belief in the human creation of a work was to attribute a God-like existence to the creator. Artists effectively superseded their status as mere mortals to reach an ‘aesthetic state’, in Schiller's terms, so that the content

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