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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of the most firmly entrenched of our beliefs concerning art’ (8). When we appreciate a work our appreciation is affected by knowledge of who composed it. We do not appreciate a work as existing atemporally, but as created. Levinson stresses the importance of the compositional factor by inverting for rhetorical purposes the infamous ‘argument from design’. ‘Art is creative in the strict sense,’ he argues. [It is] a God-like activity in which the artist brings into being what did not exist

conclusion harder to draw, I will give the claim about implicit existence a further nuance. What is in question is whether musicians before 1800 (or at any time), though conditions forbade overt expression, none the less were thinking about musical production in terms of works. There are historical reasons for rejecting this conclusion. There is also a philosophical way to avoid it. Thus, there is an epistemological sense in which implicit function depends upon a concept's having functioned

explicitly first. Only with its explicit function realized can we in hindsight see the concept as functioning implicitly. Prior to its explicit emergence, there is no evidence to suggest that persons were really (whatever that means) thinking about something in conceptual terms distinct from those indicated by their expressed thought and behaviour. Certainly there are persons who led the way forward, but even their prophetic role was recognized as such only after the event. This epistemological

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

making a concrete product. For other arts—notably music—emphasis was placed on the skilled doing, the performance as such, though of course the making of instruments or theoretical speculation about music put the emphasis elsewhere. Because the productive or mechanical arts emphasized the physical end-product of the activity—the concrete object made—one finds numerous references in the literature to works of art. The works were the products. Still, these references are apt to mislead. Before the

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