By the turn of the nineteenth century there was a growing conviction that purely instrumental music, independent of any text, had the capacity to disclose truths about the nature of the universe in ways that words could not. From this perspective, the greatest composers were in effect oracles, intermediaries between the divine and the human. Music’s greatest value, in this scheme of thought, is formative, in that it helps us perceive the world in ways we otherwise would not. Changing attitudes toward the nature of language itself helped foster this outlook.
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