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Leonard Meyer. Style and Music: Theory, History and Ideology. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989. xi, 376 pages. Studies in the Criticism and Theory of Music.

Kivy, Peter

Leonard Meyer's splendid new book, Style and Music: Theory, History and Ideology, provides a rich feast of food for musical thought and (inevitably) for musical controversy. Theorists will, of course, be drawn to the author's nuts-and-bolts functional analyses of the various musical passages he discusses in making his argument; and music historians, doubtless, will find much to stimulate them, as well as to argue about, in his historical characterization of the Classical and Romantic periods in music and of their relevant social, political, and philosophical backgrounds. But philosophers of art like myself will surely fasten upon Meyer's bold attempt to connect the pure musical parameters of syntax and structure to the reigning ideologies with which they co-exist. Nor, I think, will it be out of place to concentrate on this attempt in the present review essay; for it is the major theme and argument of Meyer's book. I call the attempt to connect music and ideology "bold" because-and I think Meyer would agree-this is one of the most difficult and contentious things to make out in the "philosophy of music." In my view, it is one of the two master problems of the discipline, the other, to which it is obviously related, being the problem of making out exactly what the nature is, in the first place, of the aesthetic satisfaction we take in absolute music, given that such music seems, at least on the surface, bereft of semantic or representational content, and, yet, has come to occupy a place in the pantheon no less prominent than that accorded the semantic and representational
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Current Musicology

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Music
Publisher
Columbia University
Published Here
February 6, 2015