What, exactly, is knowledge of music? And what does it tell us about humanistic knowledge in general? The Thought of Music grapples directly with these fundamental questions—questions especially compelling at a time when humanistic knowledge is enmeshed in debates about its character and future. In this third volume in a trilogy on musical understanding that includes Interpreting Music and Expression and Truth, Lawrence Kramer seeks answers in both thought about music and thought in music—thinking in tones. He skillfully assesses musical scholarship in the aftermath of critical musicology and musical hermeneutics and in view of more recent concerns with embodiment, affect, and performance. This authoritative and timely work challenges the prevailing conceptions of every topic it addresses: language, context, and culture; pleasure and performance; and, through music, the foundations of understanding in the humanities.
The publisher gratefully acknowledges the Joseph Kerman Endowment of the American Musicological Society, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Preface: The Thought of Music
1 • Music and the Forms of Thought
2 • Speaking of Music: In Search of an Idiom
3 • The Ineffable and How (Not) to Say It
4 • Pleasure and Valuation
5 • The Cultural Field: Beyond Context
6 • Virtuosity, Reading, Authorship: A Genealogy
7 • The Newer Musicology? Context, Performance, and the Musical Work
Postscript: Imagining the Score
Index of Names
Index of Concepts
Lawrence Kramer is Distinguished Professor of English and Music at Fordham University and the author of numerous books. His trilogy on musical understanding includes Interpreting Music, Expression and Truth, and The Thought of Music. He is also a prizewinning composer.
“As ever, Lawrence Kramer is unequaled in his ability to write with wit and lucidity on complex matters of interpretation that can so often leave students of musicology with a feeling of numbness in the brain. The Thought of Music
completes a trilogy of outstanding monographs on musical meaning, musical expression, and music’s relationship to language.”—Derek B. Scott, author of Musical Style and Social Meaning
“The Thought of Music shows us Lawrence Kramer at his best: provocative, intense, philosophical, and hermeneutic. Kramer takes on musicology’s current trends and bugaboos—from performance studies to cultural contexts to music as ineffable—and reimagines them from his magisterially critical perspective. We see what it is like to think in, through, and with music, not as some transcendent object that prohibits thought but as the vehicle that sparks it. Kramer develops a virtual newer musicology.”—Michael L. Klein, author of Music and the Crises of the Modern Subject
“Thinking about music, and—more to the point—thinking through music over the past thirty years is well and appropriately anchored in the writing of Lawrence Kramer. Indeed, it’s safe to say that musicology has very considerably rethought its project, and is much the better for it, on account of Kramer’s consistently stunning work. The Thought of Music thinks hard about how and why musical thought needed to change, and still does. The book, intellectually magisterial, is beautifully written, supremely well argued, and anchored in what actually happens in musical works. By no means least, Kramer articulates the stakes—for musical understanding and music’s myriad social and cultural agencies—that append to the thinking about music. I’d be hard put to recommend any book that accomplishes this increasingly urgent task more convincingly.”—Richard Leppert, author of Aesthetic Technologies of Modernity, Subjectivity, and Nature