Musikalische Analyse und kulturgeschichtliche Kontextualisierung. Fur Reinhold Brinkmann.
The seven essays published in this volume are based on contributions to a one-day colloquium organised at the Humboldt-Universitat Berlin in July 2004 in order to celebrate Reinhold Brinkmann's seventieth birthday. Brinkmann died on 10 October 2010 so that the book (published in the same year and with the editors unaware of his death at the time of writing the preface) inadvertently became a festschrift commemorating his passing. Its topic--maybe best translated as "musical analysis and the context of cultural history"--addresses one of the age-old conundrums of musicological thinking, namely the relationship of musical structure and extra-musical meaning.
All of the contributors knew Brinkmann well; most of them studied with him at one time or another. As the editors point out in the introduction, Brinkmann was always interested in the interaction of analysis and context, yet stressed repeatedly that to him analysis (while never to be undertaken merely for its own sake) remained a core competency of the musicologist and the starting point of gaining insights into the cultural contexts of a musical work.
A topic like this one can hardly be tackled without a nod to Adorno. In the opening essay, Bettina Schergaut describes Adorno's lifelong grappling with the "Doppelcharakter" of music as autonomous art and "fait social." (The quote Schergaut refers to is "Doppelcharakter der Kunst [...] als autonom und als fait social" (p. 15, after Th. W. Adorno, Asthetische Theorie, Gesammelte Schriften 7 (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp 1970-86), p. 16.)
Following his path over 40 years from his early writings to his late aesthetic thinking and looking into his texts on Berg, Beethoven, Mahler and others, Schergaut charts Adorno's attempts to establish a system of interlocking structural and extra-musical analytical approaches as left incomplete at the time of his death; Schergaut quotes Dahlhaus here, who criticised the parallels Adorno established between the structure of art works and societal developments, as they are deemed at most more or less plausible analogies (see "Das musikalische Kunstwerk als Gegenstand der Soziologie," in Carl Dahlhaus, Schonberg und andere, Gesammelte Aufsatze, Mainz 1978, 291-303: 299, quoted on p. 29 of this volume).
In the second essay Hermann Danuser explores "The Art of Contextualisation--On Specifics in Musicology." He is anxious that a musicology turned entirely into a sub-discipline of cultural studies might lose its identity and proposes seven types ("Modi") of context relevant (and also specific) to musicological thinking:
1. Intra-textual context (the relationship between parts of the same text)
2. Infra-textual context (the relationship of part of a text to the whole of the same text)
3. Inter-textual context (the relationship of a text to other texts of the same category)
4. Inter-medial context (the relationship of a textual layer ["Textschicht"] to representations in other media; for example in opera, ballet or film)
5. Extra-textual context (the relationship of a text to extra-aesthetic systems such as nationalism, gender, race)
6. Context of production aesthetics (the realisation of a text according to the author's intention, as investigated for example by research into sketches)
7. Context of reception aesthetics (the realisation of an aesthetic event by the recipient)
Danuser demonstrates in a number of examples how these types can serve musicological work. Not all types have to be applied in a single piece of research, but according to Danuser ultimately only all of them together guarantee a complete picture of what musicology can achieve.
The two rather theoretical opening essays are followed by five "case studies" focusing on different pieces of twentieth-century music. While they don't apply Danuser's sevenfold typology to their respective examples, it is interesting to try this as part of this review as it creates a thread linking the different texts more closely together (while also putting his ideas to an immediate test).
Camilla Bork looks at a scene in the first act of Paul Hindemith's Cardillac as an example of a "love discourse" under the auspices of the "Neue Sachlichkeit." In Hindemith's pantomimic love scene, the voices of the lovers are replaced by the imitative dialogue of two flutes over a dance-like texture, with the changes in the musical structure following the developments on stage. The music does not represent the innermost feelings of the protagonists but rather their gestures and movements. While Bork's reading of the scene is certainly compelling one cannot help noticing that in this (following Danuser's terminology) "inter-medial" piece of music theatre her interpretation of the music is entirely derived from the extra-musical context known to us not through the music but as part of the extra-musical narrative. This goes against the preference for structural analysis to come first and act as the basis of broader, extra-musical readings as expressed by Brinkmann, Adorno, and Danuser in the opening chapters. In any case, an ultimate proof of a logically compelling interlocking of structural analysis and extra-musical reading will probably have to come from an engagement with absolute music in order to be fully convincing.
Maurice Ravel's duet of a Wedgwood tea pot and a Chinese tea cup in L'Enfant et les sortileges is the topic of Tobias Bleek's contribution. Ravel called the style used here a sung ragtime, or occasionally also a sung foxtrot. The text is a mix of English, pseudo-Chinese, and some French insertions while the foxtrot idiom appears in a stylised and exaggerated way. On the basis of "inter-textual" analysis (i.e. the reference to generic traits of the foxtrot) Bleek describes the music as a pastiche that consciously "deforms" (p. 102) the chosen style while also parodying the tradition of the operatic duet.
According to Jan Philipp Sprick, Arnold Schoenberg's violin concerto from 1936 can be read as an emphatic example of music written in exile. In his essay he employs up to five of Danuser's categories; only the inter-medial context and the reception aesthetics do not play a part here. Infra- and intra-textual analysis show how the work's underlying series features a prominent lament motif befitting a composer who recently had to leave his homeland and feared marginalisation in his new country of residence; its "extra-textural" dedication to Webern can be read as an attempt to keep some ties to Europe and his roots alive, while the "inter-textual" choice of the concerto genre might aim at appealing to the composer's new US-American audience.
Anne C. Shreffler undertakes the telling of "parallel stories" about structures and contexts of Igor Stravinsky's Movements for Piano and Orchestra (1959). Structurally ("intra-textually") she describes the Movements as an important step in the development of serialism in the US (based as they are on Stravinsky's use of hexachordal, rotational patterns within the series), while they were commissioned with the help of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a body dedicated to the propagation of Western, liberal ideas in the early years of the Cold War. Thus the work is not intentional political propaganda, yet was instrumentalised as example of the conditions and consequences of artistic freedom. The Movements are apolitical (in the "context of production aesthetics") yet part of discourses which are political and societal (in the "context of reception aesthetics").
The subject of the last essay is John Cage's Harvard Lectures I-VI from 1989. As Andreas Meyer points out, chance-based constructs pose a specific challenge for any attempt to reconcile analytical and hermeneutical approaches. The lectures appeared in the form of mesostics representing 15 key concepts of Cage's work (such as "method," "indeterminacy" or "contingency", p. 159), created on the basis of 487 "source texts." Yet while the selection of texts within the sections at first appears not only random but even meaningless, a closer look reveals that individual intervention did indeed take place on occasion, thus not only overriding the chance principle but allowing for a renewed search for intentional meaning. A combination of "infra-textual" and "intra-textual" analysis of word distribution and source selection allows Meyer to identify traces of what Danuser calls the "context of production aesthetics," even though Meyer states that the text will always remain ambiguous and only hints at an intended meaning; it is this very tension that secures the Harvard Lectures' artistic merit.
Where do we stand at the end of the five case studies? All of Danuser's categories can indeed be applied usefully to musicological research, yet they do not solve Adorno's problem, namely how analytical findings in the score (up to the inter-textual context) can be tied conclusively to extra-musical observations (the final four categories, starting with the inter-medial context) beyond the levels of analogy and plausibility. This quest will quite possibly never find a convincing conclusion, yet in its valiant effort to get at least a little bit closer to a solution the volume serves as a fitting if unintended memorial to Reinhold Brinkmann.
University College Dublin, Ireland
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|Publication:||Fontes Artis Musicae|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2012|
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