Academic Commons

Reviews

Review of Alexander Rehding, Hugo Riemann and the Birth of Modern Musical Thought. New York and Cambridge: CambrIdge University Press, 2003.

Kim, Youn

For a long time, historical studies of the sciences adopted a perspective variously
known by the names presentist, teleological, essentialist, or Whiggish.
Although these expressions carry slightly different meanings, we may roughly
characterize this approach as an attempt to read the past in terms of present
concerns; past scientific theories that had proven to be "wrong" and displaced
by "right" theories are regarded as inferior fringe elements in the
history of modern sciences. This approach is, of course, now passe. Most
historical studies of the sciences, especially since the publication of Thomas
Kuhn's influential work, are not afraid to explore neglected scientific concepts
and theories, and tend to rely heavily on the conceptual and cultural
frameworks derived from areas other than science itself. I find it appropriate, therefore, to begin the review of Alexander Rehding's Hugo Riemann and the Birth of Modern Musical Thought with a discussion of the historiography of science. First, the union of history and
science-as well as that of history and music theory-presents some problems.
Although it may be naIve, it is undeniable that most people still feel
odd about the joining of science and history: the former is forward-looking
and concerned with nature, whereas the latter is retrospective and deals with
humanity. Likewise, the conjunction of music theory and history raises some
conceptual difficulties. In Thomas Christensen's words, music theory is a
"subject that notoriously resists its own history" (2002: 1). Second, the parallelism
between science and music theory is significant in studies of late
nineteenth-century music theory, particularly in the study of Hugo
Riemann's ideas. Given that many of these theories aspired to scientific
grounding, we may parallel historical approaches to the music theory of
this period with historiographies of science. In attempting to discuss the
shift in perspective in the realm of music theory's history, we find Riemann's
notion of "harmonic dualism" the best case in point. Riemann believed that
"minor triads are symmetrically opposed to major triads and work upsidedown"
(Rehding 2003:7), an idea that was quickly discredited by many later generation
theorists.

Subjects

Files

  • thumnail for current.musicology.76.kim.81-95.pdf current.musicology.76.kim.81-95.pdf binary/octet-stream 665 KB Download File

Also Published In

Title
Current Musicology

More About This Work

Academic Units
Music
Publisher
Columbia University
Published Here
November 5, 2014
Academic Commons provides global access to research and scholarship produced at Columbia University, Barnard College, Teachers College, Union Theological Seminary and Jewish Theological Seminary. Academic Commons is managed by the Columbia University Libraries.