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Music in Other Words

Music in Other Words: Victorian Conversations

Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 223
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  • Book Info
    Music in Other Words
    Book Description:

    Just as the preoccupations of any given cultural moment make their way into the language of music, the experience of music makes its way into other arenas of life. To unearth these overlapping meanings and vocabularies from the Victorian era, Ruth A. Solie examines sources as disparate as journalism, novels, etiquette manuals, religious tracts, and teenagers' diaries for the muffled, even subterranean, conversations that reveal so much about what music meant to the Victorians. Her essays, giving voice to "what goes without saying" on the subject-that cultural information so present and pervasive as to go unsaid-fill in some of the most intriguing blanks in our understanding of music's history. This much-anticipated collection, bringing together new and hard-to-find pieces by an acclaimed musicologist, mines the abundant casual texts of the period to show how Victorian-era people-English and others-experienced music and what they understood to be its power and its purposes. Solie's essays start from topics as varied as Beethoven criticism,Macmillan's Magazine,George Eliot'sDaniel Deronda,opera tropes in literature, and the Victorian myth of the girl at the piano. They evoke common themes-including the moral force that was attached to music in the public mind and the strongly gendered nature of musical practice and sensibility-and in turn suggest the complex links between the history of music and the history of ideas.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93006-3
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[viii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [ix]-[x])
  3. Prelude
    (pp. 1-4)
  4. 1 Beethoven as Secular Humanist: Ideology and the Ninth Symphony in Nineteenth-Century Criticism
    (pp. 5-43)

    In recent years musicologists have been energetic in their efforts to demonstrate that the history of music in Europe has participated in the history of ideas more widely understood.¹ Although instinct suggests that this must be so, exploration of the relationship has been difficult because the attribution of intellectual or political meaning-content to musical compositions is a notoriously slippery business. Here I want to address the question through a side door, as it were: I argue that the link between music and other aspects of European intellectual life can be made visible by studying music’s place in the general cultural...

  5. 2 Music in a Victorian Mirror: Macmillan’s Magazine in the Grove Years
    (pp. 44-84)

    In this essay I attempt to find a window onto the meanings that music held in English Victorian culture, to understand how musical ideas and information, as well as feelings and attitudes toward music, may permeate a culture—or at least a larger segment of the culture than we customarily encounter when we simply take on faith what the music professionals tell us. And permeate they did: as one historian of the era remarks, “The Victorians, it seemed, could do anything with music—except compose it. Nineteenth-century Britain was awash with music.”¹

    I take as a source of inspiration the...

  6. 3 “Girling” at the Parlor Piano
    (pp. 85-117)

    In an excruciating climactic scene in the American girls’ novelElsie Dinsmore, the pious eight-year-old heroine finds herself seated on a piano bench facing an irresolvable moral dilemma. Her father has asked her to play and sing for a gathering of his friends, and Elsie would be more than happy to comply, generous and tractable as always, but for the fact that it is Sunday. She protests that “this is the holy Sabbath day,” but he is determined to test her obedience, insisting that she has no right to oppose his moral judgment with her own.

    Elsie sat with her...

  7. 4 Biedermeier Domesticity and the Schubert Circle: A Rereading
    (pp. 118-152)

    Writing in a French periodical in the summer of 1840, Richard Wagner set out to encourage enthusiasm for German music, in part by enlightening his readers as to the essential musical and spiritual differences that distinguish the Germans, the French, and the Italians. He elaborates his argument around a core rhetorical image:

    Go and listen one winter-night in that little cabin: there sit a father and his three sons, at a small round table; two play the violin, a third the viola, the father the ‘cello; what you hear so lovingly and deeply played, is a quartet composed by that...

  8. 5 “Tadpole Pleasures”: Daniel Deronda as Music Historiography
    (pp. 153-186)

    Music was a deep love and a strong force in the personal life of George Eliot—that is, of Marian Evans, whose birthday fell on St. Cecilia’s day; it makes its presence felt in virtually all of her writing.¹ “If Eliot’s religion was ‘the religion of humanity,’” writes William Sullivan, “then music was that religion’s most efficacious sacrament.”² But its deployment in her last novel,Daniel Deronda, is by far the most thorough-going, and is consistently thematized within the structure of the plot in such a way as to dramatize the relationships among the characters, their communities, and their histories....

  9. 6 Fictions of the Opera Box
    (pp. 187-218)

    This passage is taken fromThe Monster, a rather fey and histrionic novel by the eccentric (and comma-prone) Edgar Saltus. Within mere paragraphs it contains all the earmarks of a scene utterly familiar in American fiction around the turn of the twentieth century, a scene set in a box at the opera. The opera box is a marker of wealth and social distinction, and it is a place for visiting. It is also a place for seeing and being seen, its primary focus the physical appearance of a female character who is carefully set off against a background that is...

  10. Index
    (pp. 219-223)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 224-224)