How have romantic narratives involving Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata affected how we hear this famous piece? How does John Coltrane's African American identity affect the way we hear him perform a relatively "white" pop standard like "My Favorite Things"? Why does music requiring great virtuosity have different cultural meanings than music that is not particularly virtuosic? From classical to jazz, pop and film music, Musical Meaning uncovers the historical importance of asking about meaning in the lived experience of musical works, styles, and performances. Kramer demonstrates that thinking about music can become a vital means of thinking about general questions of meaning, subjectivity, and value. Lawrence Kramer has been a pivotal figure in the development new resources for understanding music and this accessible and eloquently written book deepens the trajectory of his thinking, boldly arguing that humanistic, not just technical, meaning is a basic force in music history and an indispensable factor in how, where, and when music is heard. First published in 2001, Musical Meaning anticipates many of the musicological topics of today, including race, performance, embodiment, and media. In addition, Kramer explores music itself as a source of understanding via his composition Revenants, revised for this edition and available on the UC Press website.
Musical Meaning Toward a Critical History
Toward a Critical HistoryLawrence Kramer The problem of meaning stands at the forefront of recent thinking about music. Whether music has meaning, what kinds of meaning it may have, and for whom; the relationship of musical meaning to individual subjectivity, social life, and cultural context--these questions have inspired strong feelings and sharp debate. All of them undergo a fundamental transformation in Musical Meaning, which draws on a broad range of concepts and examples to rethink both how the questions are asked and how they are answered. The book starts from the premise that the problem of musical meaning is not just an intellectual puzzle, but a musical phenomenon in its own right. Focusing on the classical repertoire from Beethoven to Shostakovich, but also addressing jazz, popular music, and film and TV music, Musical Meaning uncovers the historical importance of asking about musical meaning, and above all of asking about it in and through music, in the lived experience of works, styles, and performances. The book celebrates meaning as a basic force in music history and an indispensable factor in how, where, and when music is heard. In the process, thinking about music begins to realize a potential rarely granted to it, that of becoming a vital means of thinking about general questions of meaning, subjectivity, and value.
©2001 Lawrence Kramer