Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bernstein on Musical Analysis

“ Meaning” in music has preoccupied aestheticians, musicians, and philosophers for centuries. The treatises pile up, and usually succeed only in adding more words to an already obscure business. In all this mass of material we can discern four levels of meaning in music:

  1. Narrative-literary meanings ( Till Euenspeigal, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, etc. )
  2. Atmospheric-pictorial meanings ( La Mer, Pictures of an Exhibitions, etc. )
  3. Affective-reactive meanings such as triumph, pain, wistfulness, regret, cheerfulness, melancholy, apprehensions—most typical of nineteenth-century romanticism.
  4. Purely musical meanings.

     Of these, the last is the only one worthy of musical analysis. The first three may involve associations which are good to know (if the composer intended them); otherwise they are concerned only with arbitrary justification, or prettifying for the commercial reasons mentioned before. If we are to try to “explain” music, we must explain the music, not the whole array of appreciators' extra musical notions which have grown like parasites around it.
     Which makes musical analysis for the layman extremely difficult. Obviously we can't use musical terminology exclusively, or we will simply drive the victim away. We must have intermittent recourse to certain extra-musical ideas, like religion, or social factors, or historical forces, which may have influenced music. We don't ever talk down; but how up can we talk without losing contact? There is a happy medium somewhere between the music-appreciation racket and purely technical discussion; it is hard to find, but it can be found.

All excerpts were taken from The Joy of Music by: Leonard Bernstein

No comments:


Copyright © 2010 Eleganza Strings . All rights reserved. | Designed by