Conventional Wisdom: The Content of Musical Form / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 34%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $3.95
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 86%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (19) from $3.95   
  • New (11) from $9.81   
  • Used (8) from $3.95   


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.

About 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).

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
McClary's detailed analyses are enlightening and follow her practice of looking at music in a critical light.
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.\
Read More Show Less

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).

Read More Show Less

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
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)