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The Musical Work: Reality or Invention?

edited by Michael Talbot
Volume: 1
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Pages: 268
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  • Book Info
    The Musical Work
    Book Description:

    Like literature and art, music has ‘works’. But not every piece of music is called a work, and not every musical performance is made up of works. The complexities of this situation are explored in these essays, which examine a broad swathe of western music. From plainsong to the symphony, from Duke Ellington to the Beatles, this is at root an investigation into how our minds parcel up the music that we create and hear.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-361-5
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)
    Michael Talbot

    Symposium. Skipping over the first definition of the word in theShorter Oxford English Dictionary, which is ‘a drinking-party’, one soon arrives at this meaning: ‘a meeting or conference for discussion of some subject’. In fact, a typical symposium occupies an intermediate position between what one commonly understands by a ‘meeting’ and a ‘conference’. More ambitious (but also more focused) than the first, less grand (but also less diffuse) than the second, it is an ideal kind of event for the cash-strapped university of today.

    The idea of holding a series of Liverpool Music Symposia arose from the coexistence, at...

  5. 1 Some Thoughts on the Work in Popular Music
    (pp. 14-34)
    David Horn

    If, as a starting point, we may take a musical work to be a discrete musical object, it is almost a cliché to say that the academic study of popular music is very much in two minds about it. Academic theoretical writing on popular music has frequently borrowed the term ‘text’ to denote this object: a usage not without its problems, as you will be told by anyone with the experience of teaching ‘textual analysis’ to students who assume, until instructed to the contrary, that it means the study of lyrics. The tradition of ‘textual analysis’ is a persistent one,...

  6. 2 Intertextuality and Hypertextuality in Recorded Popular Music
    (pp. 35-58)
    Serge Lacasse

    In 1994 the late Lucien Poirier (to whom this essay is dedicated) held a postgraduate musicology seminar at Université Laval (Québec) entitledLa Musique au second degré. The seminar’s title referred to Gérard Genette’s bookPalimpsestes: la littérature au second degré.¹ In this study Genette develops a theory of ‘hypertextuality’, which studies and characterises particular relationships that occur between different works of literature. The goal of Poirier’s seminar was, therefore, to explore the possibility of applying this theory to music.² The present essay is an attempt to apply the process, in part, to recorded popular music, which means that I...

  7. 3 Work-in(g)-Practice: Configurations of the Popular Music Intertext
    (pp. 59-87)
    Richard Middleton

    There is scope for debate over the exact historical period when the concept of the musical work was established, still more over the moment when musicians started to produce works, but we shall surely agree on the central defining characteristics of this category: a work, as Lydia Goehr puts it, is ‘a complex structure of sounds related in some important way to a composer, a score, and a given class of performances’.¹ There is a suspicion that this type of musical production is peculiar, at least in its origins, to that system, with all its associated social, aesthetic and discursive...

  8. 4 Work and Recordings: The Impact of Commercialisation and Digitalisation
    (pp. 88-109)
    Catherine Moore

    A dormant literature, music requires the awakening of interpretative performance. Until recently, recordings were fixed, and also permanent, documentation of a performance. For instance, the radio broadcast of Bruckner’sFifth Symphonyconducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler on 25 October 1942 is preserved on record as a finite and specific interpretation of a recognisable musical work.¹ In fact, it can be argued that every performance is a unique ‘work’ whose character should be permanent.

    When a musical work becomes a recording, however, the technology used in making the recording can blur the definition of ‘permanent’. In March 1967 Otto Klemperer went into...

  9. 5 The Practice of Early-Nineteenth-Century Pianism
    (pp. 110-127)
    Jim Samson

    ‘Formerly one could expect from a performing virtuoso that he elucidated, interpreted and clarified a masterwork; nowadays one wants to admire the skill of an individual …. Formerly it was the piece that mattered; now it is the person that counts’.¹ August Kahlert’s observations epitomise a shift from works to practices within the pianism of the early nineteenth century. He was documenting the final stages of a post-Classical virtuosity whose heyday was the 1820s and 1830s, and within a relatively short time-span the trend he describes had been reversed. Already by the mid-century, a genre-and performance-orientated culture had been been...

  10. 6 Looking Back at Ourselves: The Problem with the Musical Work-Concept
    (pp. 128-152)
    Reinhard Strohm

    In the title of this symposium, in some of its papers and in other recent writings on the musical work-concept, I sense an impatience with the work-concept that may do more harm than good to musical scholarship.

    The work-concept has, of course, deeply influenced our musical culture; it is as ‘real’ as any aesthetic idea can be, and many generations of musicians have believed in it. When, however, the title of our symposium presents ‘reality’ and ‘invention’ as equal options for its definition, the verbal opposition implies that ‘invention’ means here ‘a fake’, ‘a fabrication’. As a historical statement, this...

  11. 7 ‘The Work’: An Evaluative Charge
    (pp. 153-167)
    Philip Tagg

    Writing entries for theEncyclopedia of Popular Music of the World(EPMOW, forthcoming) is not an easy task. One recurrent problem is that concepts applied to the description of musical structure in the classical repertoire cannot always be used in the same way when denoting ostensible equivalents in the field of popular music.¹ Terminological convention also varies in the classification of harmonic practices as well as in the meaning of basic terms like ‘beat’ and ‘chorus’. However, it is perhaps conventional musicology’s notion of ‘the work’ that is the most awkward to use in the description of popular music. The...

  12. 8 The Work-Concept and Composer-Centredness
    (pp. 168-186)
    Michael Talbot

    In her important and provocative bookThe Imaginary Museum of Musical WorksLydia Goehr presents what she calls her ‘central claim’ in the following terms:

    The claim is that given certain changes in the late eighteenth century, persons who thought, spoke about, or produced music were able for the first time to comprehend and treat the activity of producing music as one primarily involving the composition and performance of works. The work-concept at this point found its regulative rôle. This claim is not committed to the supposition that the work-concept has, since this time, retained its original foundation in the...

  13. 9 The Musical Artwork and its Materials in the Music and Aesthetics of Busoni
    (pp. 187-204)
    John Williamson

    Any consideration of the history of the musical artwork that attempts to take full account of its weakening in the twentieth century eventually has to confront the apparently marginal case of Ferruccio Busoni. In his writings, which closely follow his compositional practice, the nineteenth-century cult of the genius and the figure of the composer-performer generate a picture of the musical artwork that follows in a Platonic tradition but with bewildering contradictions that point to the progressive weakening of the concept in the twentieth century. On one level, Busoni illustrates in his music and aesthetics the first implications of a general...

  14. 10 Re-composing Schubert
    (pp. 205-230)
    James Wishart

    It should almost be self-evident that the integrity of a musical work is something of supreme concern to composers. This can sometimes result in extreme over-reaction if a composer suspects that his or her artistic vision is in jeopardy. Perhaps, in this regard, the behaviour of Kaikhosru Sorabji in withdrawing his works from performance for decades, because he could not trust any interpreter to perform them as he wished, can be partially understood. Other composers have prefaced scores, or instructed publishers, with specific prohibitions against unauthorised ‘tampering’ with their works. The more purist generation of composers in the twentieth century...

  15. 11 ‘On the Problems of Dating’ or ‘Looking Backward and Forward with Strohm’
    (pp. 231-246)
    Lydia Goehr

    What happens when philosophers and historians quarrel over a date? The most favourable outcome is that each learns something from and about the other. This essay is a response to Reinhard Strohm’s ‘Looking Back at Ourselves: The Problem with the Musical Work-Concept’ (pp. 128–52). I agree with Strohm that we reveal something about our modern selves when we interpret our desire to date this troublesome concept. But that agreement belies a tension between us that he already begins to make explicit in his title. His title refers to a looking back, when the argument of his text tells us...

  16. Index of Musical Compositions and Collections
    (pp. 247-252)
  17. Index of Personal Names
    (pp. 253-260)