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Review of Peter Kivy. New Essays on Musical Understanding. Oxford University Press, 2001. and Lawrence Kramer. Musical Meaning: Toward a Critical History. University of California Press, 2002.

Goehr, Lydia

It is not obvious that one would choose to read these two new essay collections
together, although their titles are similar. But it is useful to do so.
Both are notable for their author's display of wit, musicianship, and deep
commitment to writing seriously about music. Both show the current interests
of the field. Yet, radically opposed in method and style, each serves
to illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of the other. Both are offered
as unapologetic demonstrations of their methods. Peter Kivy is one of the
most significant figures in the field of the analytic philosophy of music;
Lawrence Kramer is a major contributor to the postmodern discourse of
New Musicology. Kivy is a self-proclaimed purist about music; Kramer wants
to account also for music's being socially conditioned. Kivy's brevity, clarity,
and use of explicit argument contrast with Kramer's length, indirection,
and sometimes obscure style; Kramer's richness and hermeneutical
complexity contrast with Kivy's sometimes historically-spare account. Both,
however, share a certain modesty, because, whereas Kivy seems not to want
to assert that there is anything too new in his New Essays, so Kramer seems
content to move only "toward" a Critical History.



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Columbia University
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November 15, 2014