Concerning the Ontological Status of the Notated Musical Work in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

Perkins, Leeman L.

In her detailed and imaginative study of the concept of the musical work, The Imag;inary Museum of Musical Works (1992), Lydia Goehr has made the claim that, prompted by "changes in aesthetic theory, society, and poli-tics," eighteenth century musicians began "to think about music in new terms and to produce music in new ways," to conceive of their art, there-fore, not just as music per se, but in terms of works. Although she allows that her view "might be judged controversial" (115), she asserts that only at the end of the 1700s did the concept of a work begin "to serve musical practice in its regulative capacity," and that musicians did "not think about music in terms of works" before 1800 (v). In making her argument, she pauses briefly to consider the Latin term for work, opus, as used by the theorist and pedagogue, Nicolaus Listenius, in his Musica of 1537.


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August 18, 2022