Re-voicing the Canon: "Voice" in
Eighteenth-Century Musical Thought
budding music aestheticians, and music theorists of the eighteenth
century placed a premium on vocal
expressivity. To what extent can their ideas of "voice" enrich
our understanding of the diverse modes of expression in vocal and instrumental
music of the eighteenth century? Might such ideas of voice offer us
new perspectives on and beyond the modern-day musical canon for this
era? "Re-voicing the Canon" is a new interdisciplinary course,
which seeks to address such questions. The aim of the course, is threefold:
to investigate various concepts of voice in the period; to explore
notions of musical expressivity, and, more broadly, to critique traditional
narratives of eighteenth-century music history. The course is designed
for advanced undergraduates with an interest in aesthetics, literature,
and music, although previous study in these fields is not necessary.
Basic score-reading and language skills (German and French) are desirable,
but not required.
The course comprises five units spread
over fifteen weeks. Each unit focuses on select musical works, which
are drawn from both within and without the traditional musical canon.
The units further comprise a constellation of historical texts, including
letters, musical manuscripts and novels, and philosophical, aesthetic-
and music-theoretical treatises. Using these, the students investigate
intersections of music and aesthetics for the musical works under consideration,
and apply these to questions of musical expression. Select secondary
texts, including film, Internet resources, and recent scholarly writings
are also incorporated, which deal both in the making and the de-bunking
of traditional ideas and myths about the music and musicians considered
in the course.
The assignment sequences are then designed to encourage both an historiographical-critical and an historical-explorative approach to eighteenth-century music and texts on music. To this end, the seminar is itself designed around four meanings of the word voice in current usage, and of relevance to eighteenth-century studies: voice as personal utterance, the origin of subjectivity; voice as instrument, situated within the body; voice as viewpoint, the source of personal opinions, and voice as ideology, a contestable collective thought-system.
II. THE UNITS (Please refer to the syllabus in section IV)
A short introductory
unit serves to prompt students to their own definitions of voice
and vocality, and
to think about these concepts in relation to personal utterance in
particular. Throughout the course, students are encouraged to maintain
this particular idea of voice, especially as they listen to canonical
works, and as they read, talk, and write about the musical case studies.
In Unit 1, we then add the notion of "voice as viewpoint."
The musical case study is Bach's B Minor Mass, and a focal point for
class discussion is the issue of "authenticity" in music,
raised in the sprawling debate of the past three decades over the nature
of the choral forces available to Bach. This subject matter prompts
students to consider the possibility of multiple viewpoints (or voices)
on a single issue, and to ask: what's at stake here? What are the possible
"vested interests" behind writers' perspectives?
The concepts of voice explored in
this course also offer students new ways of thinking about non-canonical
works. They are encouraged, for example, find ways of discussing such
music as C. P. E. Bach's free fantasias, in the works' own aesthetic
terms, by examining eighteenth-century music theorists' links between
personal utterance and rhetorical melodic lines. These fantasias provide
the musical case studies in Unit 2. In Unit 3 students continue to probe
the representation and expression of subjectivity in the music of this
era. In particular, they consider eighteenth-century ideas of sensibility
as means to talk about characteristic features of Haydn's early string
quartets, works that have traditionally been neglected or considered
problematic by modern scholars of eighteenth-century music. Boccherini's
highly expressive string quartets, also discussed in this unit, might
further prompt the questions: what has been excluded from the modern
canon of musical works for this era? On what grounds? This unit also
includes a short editing task, designed to show students how the information
derived from a study of eighteenth-century musical aesthetics might
inform modern-day editorial decisions and practices of performance.
In Units 4 and 5, as in Unit 1, students are again encouraged to find new ways of hearing and discussing canonical works through ideas of voice. In Unit 4, for example, they are asked to think about the idea of virtuosity as a privileging of performers' voices. They then consider the writings of certain late eighteenth-century critics, who found such voices problematic. Using these writings as models students can then adopt eighteenth-century terms in critiquing certain arias by Mozart, music that certainly counts among today's canon of "Classical masterworks." As in Unit 1, the idea here is not to deny the worth of such music, but rather to open up some new and potentially fascinating routes into these works. In the final unit, students explore conceptions of Beethoven and his music that run contrary to the modern equation of his "late" style with greatness. The musical focus is on Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. With this work as a case study, students investigate a continued quest for voice in the musical thought of the early nineteenth century; they are invited to discuss continuities as well as changing aesthetic views of vocal and instrumental music across what has been construed as a "Classic-Romantic divide." In this sense "Re-voicing the Canon" de-emphasizes 1800 as the sharp turning point that it has been taken for in traditional accounts of music history.
III. PEDAGOGICAL APPROACHES
"Re-voicing the Canon"
includes a variety of different pedagogical approaches to the music
considered. Students carry out close readings of the various written
texts, comparative critical listening assignments, and viewing tasks.
In addition, the course places considerable emphasis on the development
of the students' own voices in writing. To this end, they are encouraged
to experiment with a variety of relevant rhetorical frameworks, including
the modern music review, and the adoption of the voice or writerly persona
of a particular historical music critic or theorist. I also ask the
students to try out informal, intimate voices usually considered outside
the domain of "true" academic discourse. In Unit 2, for example,
students are encouraged to be creative and experimental in their written
responses to C. P. E. Bach's fantasias, as the works inspire them.
course places a further premium on personal reflective writing: in
journal entries in particular, the students develop and observe the
of their own unique voices in writing.
writing, and listening tasks for each unit encourage reflection and
critique of all texts encountered,
in keeping with the course's themes of "voice as view point"
and "voice as ideology." In Unit 1, as in the four units that
follow, the students are asked to think about connections between notions
of authenticity (both musical and writerly), and authority. In particular,
they examine how writers (both eighteenth-century and modern-day) construct
an aura of authority in their prose, paying particular attention to
writers' persuasive strategies such as selective use of evidence and
rhetorical tropes. Students read for the recurrent "buzz words"
in polemical prose, as for example in the battle imagery and legal jargon
characteristic of modern-day scholarly debates over "authenticity" in
sequences are designed so that that the students consciously use
writing to explore crux points
in the texts for the course. For example, they "skeletonize"
select published articles, outlining the argument structure (see "For
Class 2" in the assignment sequence for Unit V in section V). Students
also actively engage with the voices in the written texts they encounter
by altering narratives and removing characteristic features of the prose,
and through emulation (see for example "For Class 3" in section
V). In this way, I hope to encourage them to uncover underlying narratives
in these texts, and to think about how they might critique all the texts
we encounter in the course, their own writings included. The assignment
sequences should lead students to ask: who or what do these writers'
narratives tell us most about? Which view-points or voices might be
overlooked, or "silenced" in the process?
In each unit the assignments are designed to form a logical sequence. They generally proceed from the students' personal responses to relevant texts and concepts (as in the free-writing in journals), through less formal ("low stakes") writing tasks, to more formal responses. In the final unit for the course, for example, the students first carry out short writing tasks on the Hoffman piece and journal listening exercises using a listening guide, which I devised in order to facilitate discussion of the Ninth Symphony. The final paper for the course is then a more formal response to the ideas discussed in the unit, incorporating references to primary and secondary literature and ideas generated in the less formal writings (see "For Class 4" in section V).
Introduction (Week 1)
Concepts and Topics
Unit 1: Voice as Viewpoint (Weeks 2-3)
Concepts and topics
Unit 2: Voice and Originary Utterance (Weeks 4-6)
Concepts and topics
Unit 3: Sensibility and Silenced
Voiced (Weeks 7-9)
Concepts and Topics
Unit 4: Voice and Body (Weeks 10-12)
Concepts and Topics
Unit 5: Voice and Ideology (Weeks 13-15)
Topics and Concepts
V. ASSIGNMENT SEQUENCE EXCERPT: UNIT 5
For Class 1
For Class 2
For Class 3
For Class 4
Your task for the next class
is not to write the actual review, but rather to outline your first
draft. To this end, I'd like you to come up with an outline (typed
or handwritten) that clearly shows the following:
Class 5: Presentation and group discussion of drafts; in-class peer review of drafts.
Class 6: Final writing assignment due.
Source Readings and Translations
Bach, C. P. E. Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen. Berlin, 1753 and 1762. Trans. and ed. by William J. Mitchell as Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments. New York: W. W. Norton, 1949.
Baker, Nancy and Thomas Christensen. Aesthetics and the Art of Musical Composition in the German Enlightenment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Burney, Charles. A General History of Music, From the Earliest Ages to the Present Period. 2 vols. London, 1776-1789. Repr. with critical notes by Frank Mercer. New York: Dover, 1957.
Fubini, Enrico. Music and Culture in Eighteenth-Century Europe: A Source Book. Trans. and ed. by Bonnie J. Blackburn. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Hoffmann, E. T. A. "Review of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony." Leipzig, 1810. Trans. in Elliot Forbes, ed. Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor. New York: Norton, 1971.
Le Huray, Peter, and James Day (eds). Music and Aesthetics in the Eighteenth and Early-Nineteenth Centuries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.
Mozart, Wolfgang A. Mozart's Letters: Selected from the Letters of Mozart and His Family. Trans. Emily Anderson. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1968.
Richter, Jean Paul Friedrich. Vorschule der Aesthetik. 1804. Trans. Margaret R. Hale as Horn of Oberon: Jean Paul Richter's School for Aesthetics. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1973.
Rochlitz, Friedrich. A selection from the "Authentic Anecdotes from Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart's Life." Leipzig, 1789-1801. Trans. Maynard Solomon as "The Rochlitz Anecdotes: Issues of Authenticity in Early Mozart Biography." In Mozart Studies. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, pp. 19, 24-28, 30-34, 36-40.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Collected Writings of Rousseau. Vol. 7: Essay on the Origins of Languages and Writings Related to Music. Hanover, NH and London: University Press of New England, 1998.
--- Dictionnaire de Musique. Geneva, 1767; Paris, 1768. Trans. by William Waring as A complete dictionary of music : consisting of a copious explanation of all words necessary to a true knowledge and understanding of music. 2ed. New York: AMS Press, 1975.
Solie, Ruth (ed.) Strunk's Source Readings in Music History. Vol. 6: The Nineteenth Century. New York and London: Norton, 1998.
Sterne, Laurence. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. London: Penguin Books, 1967.
--- A Sentimental Journey. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Stendhal (Henrie-Marie Beyle), Vies de Haydn, de Mozart et de Métastase. Paris, 1814. Trans. L .A. C. Bombet as The life of Haydn, in a series of letters written at Vienna. Followed by the life of Mozart, with observations on Metastasio, and on the present state of music in France and Italy, with notes by William Gardiner. 2ed. London: J. Murray, 1818.
Triest, Johann Karl Friedrich. "Remarks on the Development of the Art of Music in Germany in the Eighteenth Century." Leipzig, 1801. Trans. Susan Gillespie in Haydn Studies, ed. Elaine Sisman, pp. 321-94 (esp. pp. 344-47 and 372-74).
Wolff, Christoph (ed.) The New Bach Reader: A Life of Johann Sebastian Bach in Letters and Documents. New York: Norton, 1998.
Select Secondary Literature
Adorno, Theodor W. "Bach defended against his devotees." Prisms. Trans. Samuel Weber and Shierry Weber. Repr. ed. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1981, pp. 133-46.
Dunn, Leslie C. and Nancy A. Jones eds. Embodied Voices: Representing Female Vocality in Western Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Frith, Simon. Performing Rites. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996.
Hosler, Bellamy. Changing Aesthetic Views of Instrumental Music in 18th-Century Germany. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, c1981.
Irving, Howard. Ancients and Moderns: William Crotch and the Development of Classic Music. Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1999.
Kivy, Peter. "Authority of Sound." In Authenticities: Philosophical Reflections on Musical Performance. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.
Knittel, K. M. "Imitation, Individuality, and Illness: Behind Beethoven's 'Three Styles'." Beethoven Forum 4 (1995), pp. 17-36.
Lampson, L. D. "The Search for Authenticity: Period Instruments and Performance Practice." At http://www.classical.net/music/rep/hip.html
Landon, H. C. Robbins. Haydn: Chronicle and Works. Vol. 2: Haydn at Eszterháza 1766-1790. Bloomington, IN and London: Indiana University Press, 1978.
Neubauer, John. The Emancipation of Music From Language: Departure from Mimesis in Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics. New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1986.
Rifkin, Joshua. Bach's 'choruses'-less than they seem?" High Fidelity/Musical America 32/9 (1982), pp. 42-44.
Rosen, Charles. The Classical Style. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven. New York, 1971.
Tovey, Donald Francis. s.v. "Haydn." In Cobbett's Cylopedic Survey of Chamber Music. Ed. W. Willson. Cobbett. Vol. 1. London: Oxford University Press, 1929.
Webster, James. "The Concept of Beethoven's 'Early' Period in the Context of Periodizations in General." Beethoven Forum, 3 (1994): pp. 1-27.