Conventional Wisdom: The Content of Musical Form / Edition 1

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Overview

With her usual combination of erudition, innovation, and spirited prose, Susan McClary reexamines the concept of musical convention in this fast-moving and refreshingly accessible book. Exploring the ways that shared musical practices transmit social knowledge, Conventional Wisdom offers an account of our own cultural moment in terms of two dominant traditions: tonality and blues.McClary looks at musical history from new and unexpected angles and moves easily across a broad range of repertoires—the blues, eighteenth-century tonal music, late Beethoven, and rap. As one of the most influential trailblazers in contemporary musical understanding, McClary once again moves beyond the borders of the "purely musical" into the larger world of history and society, and beyond the idea of a socially stratified core canon toward a musical pluralism.

Those who know McClary only as a feminist writer will discover her many other sides, but not at the expense of gender issues, which are smoothly integrated into the general argument.
In considering the need for a different way of telling the story of Western music, Conventional Wisdom bravely tackles big issues concerning classical, popular, and postmodern repertoires and their relations to the broader musical worlds that create and enjoy them.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
McClary's detailed analyses are enlightening and follow her practice of looking at music in a critical light.
Booklist
Presents a view of musical history that is perhaps unconventional but also coherent and satisfying to even casual music listeners.
BBC Music Magazine
McClary's high-spirited optimism, and her sense of being a wide-eyed child determined to ask and go on asking the question 'why?', makes this book as compelling and as disarmingly irresistible as her heartfelt introductory acknowledgement to the campus coffee-house in which much of it was written.
Library Journal
Based on the Bloch Lectures given at the University of California at Berkeley, McClary's latest book continues her study of the ideas and issues surrounding the relationship between societal forces and music. Using examples of vocal and instrumental music from the 17th to the 20th centuries, McClary (musicology, Univ. of California, Los Angeles; Feminine Endings) analyzes each within a cultural context and examines how that context has helped to define and challenge the concept of musical convention. She argues persuasively that what began as deviations from convention have, in turn, become conventional. In addition, her assertion that analysis focusing on the purely musical does not address the inherent complexities of music history will no doubt spark much debate. While her conclusions may spark disagreement, McClary's detailed analyses--particularly of the aria "Figlio! Tiranno!" from Alessandro Scarlatti's opera Griselda and of the first movement of Beethoven's String Quartet in A minor, op. 132--are enlightening and follow her practice of looking at music in a critical light. Recommended for public and academic libraries.--Teresa M. Neff, Boston Univ. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520232082
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 9/27/2001
  • Series: Ernest Bloch Lectures Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 219
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan McClary is Professor of Musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality (1991) and Georges Bizet: Carmen (1992).

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Table of Contents

Preface IX
1. Turtles All the Way Down (On the "Purely Musical") 1
2. Thinking Blues 32
3. What Was Tonality? 63
4. The Refuge of Counterconvention 109
5. Reveling in the Rubble: The Postmodern Condition 139
Notes 171
Index 197
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