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Hearing and Knowing Music

Hearing and Knowing Music: The Unpublished Essays of Edward T. Cone

Edited and with an Introduction by Robert P. Morgan
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Hearing and Knowing Music
    Book Description:

    Edward T. Cone was one of the most important and influential music critics of the twentieth century. He was also a master lecturer skilled at conveying his ideas to broad audiences.Hearing and Knowing Musiccollects fourteen essays that Cone gave as talks in his later years and that were left unpublished at his death. Edited and introduced by Robert Morgan, these essays cover a broad range of topics, including music's position in culture, musical aesthetics, the significance of opera as an art, setting text to music, the nature of twentieth-century harmony and form, and the practice of musical analysis. Fully matching the quality and style of Cone's published writings, these essays mark a critical addition to his work, developing new ideas, such as the composer as critic; clarifying and modifying older positions, especially regarding opera and the nature of sung utterance; and adding new and often unexpected insights on composers and ideas previously discussed by Cone. In addition, there are essays, such as one on Debussy, that lead Cone into areas he had not previously examined.Hearing and Knowing Musicrepresents the final testament of one of our most important writers on music.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3046-6
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Musical Examples
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Edward T. Cone was one of the most important writers on music of the past century. But he was also unusual in several other respects. In addition to being a writer, he was active as a composer, and always considered himself fi rst and foremost in that light;1 and he performed frequently as a concert pianist, though usually remaining close to home. He held a prominent position as a member of the Music Department at Princeton University, where following military service during World War II he taught without interruption from 1946 until his retirement in 1985 and remained in close...

  7. Part I: Aesthetics

    • [Part I: Introduction]
      (pp. 7-10)

      The first group of essays addresses aesthetic issues: the musical composition in general culture, the listener’s role in comprehending music, the historical nature of tonality, and the role of intellect in musical understanding. The first, “The Missing Composer,” part of which was evidently read as an introduction to a conference at Princeton University, takes as foil E. D. Hirsch’s widely discussed 1987 book,Cultural Literacy, whose shortcomings offer Cone an occasion to plea for music’s rightful position in intellectual life. For Cone, musical literacy cannot be measured simply by what one knows, but only by what one ought to know;...

    • Essay One The Missing Composer
      (pp. 11-15)

      A few years ago a little book by E. D. Hirsch, Jr.,Cultural Literacy,promised to reveal, according to its subtitle,What Every American Needs to Know.¹Its eloquent plea for a more rational system of education based on a modicum of shared knowledge was supplemented by a list of “What Literate Americans Know.” So far as music is concerned, at least, that list made melancholy reading; and it still does in the updated and expanded edition that appeared a year later, whether we take it as detailing what literate Americans actually do know, or what they ought to know.²...

    • Essay Two The Silent Partner
      (pp. 16-37)

      In order to explain my title, I start with a well-known example, the opening Adagio of Beethoven’sSonata quasi una fantasia, Op. 27 No. 2. We are so familiar with this famous movement that we do not realize how strangely it begins. After an introduction, the first theme enters—but its opening phrase immediately modulates from the tonic C-sharp minor to the relative major, E. And the next phrase, separated by an extra measure and a shift to E minor, is already a transition to the second subject. What has happened to the original key, and to the first theme?...

    • Essay Three The Irrelevance of Tonality?
      (pp. 38-48)

      Everyone will agree that for a large body of music—the music we call functionally tonal in the classical sense—the key of a piece is one of its most important characteristics. That means that for an understanding of a tonal piece it is crucial to know, not only that a piece is in a key, but also just what key it is in. Let me make this absolutely clear by giving a familiar example—one in which the key is, or ought to be, self-evident, but one that is nevertheless often misinterpreted by audiences— whether because they are inattentive,...

    • Essay Four Hearing and Knowing Music
      (pp. 49-60)

      Let me approach my subject in a roundabout way—through a discussion of symbolism in music. When we say that music is a language we mean that music is a symbolic utterance. But the utterance that constitutes a musical composition is, as we might expect, more like a poem than like a piece of expository prose. The purpose of the expository prose, like the purpose of most everyday speech, is to convey meaning; once that meaning has been conveyed its job is done. But the job of a poem is not done once it has conveyed a meaning; indeed, at...

  8. Part II: Opera and Song

    • [Part II: Introduction]
      (pp. 61-64)

      Cone’s ideas about opera and music, and in general music’s relationship to text, infl uenced many other scholars, perhaps most notably his younger colleague the music historian Carolyn Abbate (formerly at Princeton). In developing the notion of music’s “persona,” or its “voice,” and applying it to a wide range of musical situations, Cone raised a number of far-reaching questions that opened up a range of new issues related to vocal music. For example, just whose music does one hear in opera: the composer’s, the character’s, or that of music itself? And with what effect is it heard? These three essays,...

    • Essay Five Mozart’s Deceptions
      (pp. 65-79)

      Many years ago I read a discussion ofSamson et Dalila. According to the critic, Saint-Saëns faced a dilemma in composing “Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix” [“My heart opens to your voice”]: if he tried to set the words as a supposedly sincere love lyric, the result would be untrue to Dalila’s character; if he emphasized her hypocrisy, the song would not be convincing to Samson.¹

      Similar comments are often applied to the roles of the duplicitous men inCosì fan tutte. Referring to the quintet of farewell, Alfred Einstein typically wondered: “What was Mozart to do at this...

    • Essay Six Siegfried at the Dragon’s Cave: The Motivic Language of The Ring
      (pp. 80-105)

      When Siegfried blows his horn at the entrance of Neidhöhle [Siegfried, Act 2, Scene 2, p. 184¹], he pretends to be seeking “ein lieber Gesell.” Those words are obviously ironic; his true purpose, as disclosed in his previous colloquy with Mime, is to arouse the dragon and to challenge him to combat. That message is conveyed, not by words but by the fanfare of the horn itself. From a narrowly realistic point of view, the job is done by the penetrating voice of the instrument. Musically, however, the power of the utterance depends on the aggressive, increasingly persistent character of...

    • Essay Seven Schubert’s Heine Songs
      (pp. 106-116)

      Schubert’s last song cycle,Schwanengesang, has occasioned more than one controversy. In the first place, is it really a cycle? It consists of two disparate sequences: seven settings of poems by L. Rellstab, followed by six settings of Heinrich Heine. The entire group is concluded by a setting of a poem by J. G. Seidl. Do the Rellstab and Heine songs belong together as a unit? They are certainly copied together in Schubert’s manuscript. But what of “Die Taubenpost,” the final song? Its status is equivocal: it is bound in at the very end of the manuscript, but it is...

  9. Part III: The Composer as Critic

    • Essay Eight The Composer as Critic
      (pp. 121-134)

      “Criticism, i take it, is the formal discourse of an amateur.”¹ When R. P. Blackmur, one of our most distinguished men of letters, wrote that he obviously did not mean to oppose “amateur” to “professional.” As he expanded his definition he made it clear that he was invoking the root meaning of “amateur” and rejecting its unfortunate adventitious connotations of inexperience and lack of training: “When there is enough love and enough knowledge represented in the discourse it is a self-sufficient but by no means an isolated art.”² Love and knowledge: neither is sufficient without the other. Love without knowledge...

    • Essay Nine Schubert Criticizes Schubert
      (pp. 135-148)

      Schubert criticizes Schubert? That cannot be meant seriously! Surely of all the great composers Schubert must have been the most spontaneous, the least given to rethinking and rewriting? Even his good friend Josef von Spaun, who always tried to present him in the best light possible, admitted: “There is one fault with which Schubert can be reproached and it is that he never took his compositions in hand again and polished them.”¹ Spaun was wrong, of course: his generalization was much too sweeping. The successive versions of some of the songs, the shortened finale of the Piano Trio in E-flat,...

  10. Part IV: Analysis

    • Essay Ten Schubert’s Symphonic Poem
      (pp. 153-158)

      Schubert’s Piano Fantasy in C major was written in 1822 and published by Cappi & Diabelli as Op. 15, early in the following year. Two contemporary comments are of particular interest:

      The fantasy has always been recognized as that kind of musical piece in which the composer’s art, freed from the shackles of form, may most clearly unfold itself and wholly prove its worth. Herr Schubert has certified his master-hand in this latest work, in which he has shown that he not only possesses the gift of invention, but understands how to develop his felicitous themes according to all the...

    • Essay Eleven Debussy’s Art of Suggestion
      (pp. 159-169)

      Originally, i intended to call this essay “Debussy’s Art of Implication.” Then I realized that implication has two distinct meanings: one referring to something without specifically mentioning it; the other, leading to a logically justified conclusion. And since I did not wish to get involved in the question of musical logic, which I consider at best a rather crude metaphor, I chose to use the term “suggestion” although I shall occasionally refer to implication in its suggestive sense. But although I shall be dealing with an art of suggestion, I want to try to deal with it as clearly and...

    • Essay Twelve Stravinsky at the Tomb of Rimsky-Korsakov
      (pp. 170-180)

      As introduction, i should like to take a text from my own book,The Composer’s Voice. In the chapter called “A Lesson from Berlioz” I wrote:

      So far as I know, Berlioz never tried to expound a general dramatistic theory of instrumentation, but his treatise on the subject attests on almost every page to his faith in the power and the duty of each instrument to individualize and bring to life the musical ideas assigned to it.

      Here are just a few examples culled from his pages devoted to the woodwinds: “The feelings of being abandoned, forgotten, and mournfully isolated...

    • Essay Thirteen Stravinsky’s Version of Pastoral
      (pp. 181-189)

      We have several sources of fi rst-hand (or almost first-hand) information from Stravinsky on theDuo Concertant. Among them are the sketch manuscript, in the collection left by the composer, the account of its composition in a note appended to the published score, later confi rmed in the autobiography, and the violinist Joseph Szigeti’s reminiscences of his rehearsals with the composer.¹ Let us begin with the version in hisAutobiography. Stravinsky had written his Violin Concerto for (and with) Samuel Dushkin in 1931, and it was fi rst performed in October 1931. He then says of the Duo:

      Far from...

    • Essay Fourteen Stravinsky’s Sense of Form
      (pp. 190-206)

      George Boas once wrote: “Whether a book have a beginning and a middle is not so important as that it have an end.”¹ The same, I take it, is true of a musical composition. Probably the single most valuable instinct a composer can have (or acquirement, if indeed it can be acquired) is what we might call a feeling for punctuality: of getting to the right place at just the right time, neither early nor late, and above all of getting to the end at the right time. Mozart had this instinct to a preeminent degree: almost every one of...

  11. Published Works of Edward T. Cone
    (pp. 207-210)
  12. Index
    (pp. 211-215)