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Out of TimeMusic and the Making of Modernity$
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Julian Johnson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190233273

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190233273.001.0001

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Like a Language

Like a Language

Chapter:
(p.236) Chapter 7 Like a Language
Source:
Out of Time
Author(s):

Julian Johnson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190233273.003.0008

Classical instrumental music works as if it made non-linguistic disclosures, but the notion of ‘songs without words’ goes back to the early Baroque. Musical modernity is bound up with the idea of hermeneutics and a sense that music is meaningful without our being able to say how. This argues for the importance of music’s non-identical relationship to language, underlined in its dual nature as text and performance. The idea of music as a kind of discourse runs from the Baroque (Burmeister, 1606) through to eighteenth-century theorists and on to Wittgenstein. It is exemplified musically by the use of humour in Haydn’s string quartets, in the capacity for irony and self-reflection in Mozart’s operas, and in the radical self-critique exhibited by the late works of Beethoven. All the deformations of musical grammar associated with Modernism can thus be found within Classical practice at least two centuries earlier.

Keywords:   disclosure, hermeneutics, text, discourse, string quartet, grammar, self-critique, irony

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