By Daniel Chua

ISBN-10: 0511035829

ISBN-13: 9780511035821

ISBN-10: 0521417384

ISBN-13: 9780521417389

ISBN-10: 0521473071

ISBN-13: 9780521473071

ISBN-10: 0521631815

ISBN-13: 9780521631815

This booklet examines the highbrow heritage of instrumental song, particularly the belief of absolute song. It attempts to teach how convinced principles in philosophy, theology and the sciences impact the which means and, certainly, the life of instrumental tune, and the way, in flip, instrumental tune is used to unravel or exemplify sure difficulties in sleek tradition. rather than current in a natural and self sufficient shape, song is woven again into the epistemological textile and entangled with a variety of discourses, therefore demonstrating the centrality of tune within the building of that means.

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Ibid. 28 25 Weber, The Protestant Work Ethic, 181. 5 On opera To dis-enchant the world is to leave it un-sung. Modernity registers its songlessness by trying to re-enchant the world with its own voice. The revelation of this unsung condition occurred in the final decades of the sixteenth century, which witnessed an obsession with song as an Edenic mode of expression. The vocal turn in music, from which opera is born, is a symptom of disenchantment. Opera sings in an unsung world as nostalgia for an ancient age enchanted by music.

21 The Garden of Eden hoping to find some meaning among the rubble of facts. The Romantic concept of absolute music is therefore Neo-Platonicism in subjective form, the cosmology of a transcendental ego in search of an unattainable wholeness. They turned the ancient world on its head. This is why absolute music for the Romantics is posited as a work and not a system of tuning; it starts from the particular because the modern subject, in its delusion of genius, tries to create a universe out of itself, hoping to find a global system that might restore its fragmented existence.

After all, it cannot speak. Musica is capable of self-exegesis, but the ritornello, says Philip Pickett, is ‘capable . . of projecting almost any emotion’,39 which is to say that it projects nothing at all. It has no rhetorical power; it is just an empty structure that outlines its form for Musica to move in. That the ritornello means nothing, however, does not mean that Monteverdi is incapable of making its nothingness meaningful. Indeed, its presence, or rather its absent pres38 39 Susan McClary, Feminine Endings: Music, Gender and Sexuality (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), 42.

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Absolute Music and the Construction of Meaning by Daniel Chua


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