Lawrence Kramer

in Interpreting Music

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780520267053
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520947368 | DOI:

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Analytic statements about music inevitably have a hermetic quality. If we want to make understanding music a critical, hermeneutic activity, an understanding of music in its worldly bearings, we need to confront the question of how analytic description can be reconciled or integrated with worldly knowledge. How can the hermetic become the hermeneutic? The impetus for the development of critical musicology came from the rise of critical theory in literary and cultural studies, and more broadly from the development of a postmodernist attitude toward knowledge. A problem arises from the priority of musical analysis over hermeneutics: that is, the standing assumption that any interpretive statements about music must be grounded in technical descriptions of musical style and structure which are, in themselves, independent of “extramusical” interpretation. The self-division of Ludwig van Beethoven's Largo (from Trio in D Major, op. 70, no. 1, the “Ghost” Trio) raises issues that also confront the “enlightened” subject described in Immanuel Kant's famous essay of 1784, “What Is Enlightenment?”

Keywords: musical analysis; music; hermeneutics; technical descriptions; musical style; Ludwig van Beethoven; Immanuel Kant

Chapter.  7723 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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