Elective Affinities: Musical Essays on the History of Aesthetic Theory

Overview

As illustrated in Goethe's famous novel of the same name, elective affinities are powerful relationships that crystallize under changing conditions. In this new book, Lydia Goehr focuses on the history of elective affinities between philosophy and music from German classicism, romanticism, and idealism to the modernist aesthetic theory of Theodor W. Adorno and Arthur C. Danto. Aesthetic theory, she argues, depends on a dynamic philosophy of history centered on tendencies, yearnings, needs, and potentialities. ...

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Overview

As illustrated in Goethe's famous novel of the same name, elective affinities are powerful relationships that crystallize under changing conditions. In this new book, Lydia Goehr focuses on the history of elective affinities between philosophy and music from German classicism, romanticism, and idealism to the modernist aesthetic theory of Theodor W. Adorno and Arthur C. Danto. Aesthetic theory, she argues, depends on a dynamic philosophy of history centered on tendencies, yearnings, needs, and potentialities. With this in mind, she recasts the theses of Adorno and Danto regarding the death or end of philosophy, art, music, and human experience as arguments for continuation and survival. Elective Affinities tracks the migration of aesthetic and critical theory from Germany to the United States following the catastrophic period of the twentieth century marked by the Second World War.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

History and Theory

[Goehr's] analysis is erudite, lucid, and always suggestive.... [ Elective Affinities is] genuinely magnificent and lastingly influential.

Willi Goetschel

Elective Affinities is a great book. Lydia Goehr demonstrates that critical theory is not as dead or philosophically doctrinaire and petrified as many would like to believe. Instead, her study is a brilliant and persuasive intervention arguing for the significance of critical theory today, supplying the evidence that critical theory still plays a crucial role in the project of philosophy—Continental or not.

Richard Leppert

Elective Affinities brings the often very different (and oppositional) philosophy of the aesthetics of Danto and Adorno into a richly informative exchange, making good the case that whatever their considerable differences, there are important points of convergence, such that what emerges is greater than the sum of the parts.

Andreas Huyssen

This book on the elective affinities of music to philosophy and drama, to birdsong and violence, to film and nationhood is imaginatively textured around two resonating themes: the persistent battle of philosophical aesthetics with history and the arts and the unusual confrontation of a European and an American aesthetic of the modern. Thinking with and through the work of Theodor Adorno and Arthur Danto, Lydia Goehr gives us a series of brilliant musical essays linked by the sustained focus on the movement of concepts such as musicality, art's relation to nature and the commonplace, the experimental, the monumental, film as visual music, and music in film. A common thread, drawn into a pattern in the final chapter, is the elective affinity between European (especially German) and American aesthetic theory and practice.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Lydia Goehr is professor of philosophy at Columbia University and the author of The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music and The Quest for Voice: Music, Politics, and the Limits of Philosophy. With Daniel Herwitz, she is the editor of The Don Giovanni Moment: Essays on the Legacy of an Opera.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xix

1 Doppelbewegung: The Musical Movement of Philosophy and the Philosophical Movement of Music 1

2 The "Ode to Joy": Music and Musicality in Tragic Culture 45

3 For the Birds/Against the Birds: Modernist Narratives on the End of Art 79

4 Explosive Experiments and the Fragility of the Experimental 108

5 The Pastness of the Work: Albert Speer and the Monumentalism of Intentional Ruins 136

6 The Musicality of Violence: On the Art and Politics of Displacement 171

7 Film as Visual Music: Duplication, Dissonance, and Displacement 204

8 Amerikamüde/Europamüde: The Actuality of American Opera 257

Notes 307

Bibliography 339.

Index 363

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