The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation, and the History of the Body

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Richard Leppert boldly examines the social meanings of music as these have been shaped not only by hearing but also by seeing music in performance. His purview is the northern European bourgeoisie, principally in England and the Low Countries, from 1600 to 1900. And his particular interest is the relation of music to the human body. He argues that musical practices, invariably linked to the body, are inseparable from the prevailing discourses of power, knowledge, identity, desire, and sexuality.

With the support of 100 illustrations, Leppert addresses music and the production of racism, the hoarding of musical sound in a culture of scarcity, musical consumption and the policing of gender, the domestic piano and misogyny, music and male anxiety, and the social silencing of music. His unexpected yoking of musicology and art history, in particular his original insights into the relationships between music, visual representation, and the history of the body, make exciting reading for scholars, students, and all those interested in society and the arts.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520081741
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/1993
  • Pages: 345
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 10.33 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Leppert is Professor of Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society at the University of Minnesota. His most recent book is Music and Image: Domesticity, Ideology and Socio-Cultural Formation in Eighteenth-Century England (1989).

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Translator’s Note

Introduction (by Richard Leppert)

1. Locating Music: Society, Modernity, and the New
Commentary (by Richard Leppert)
Music, Language, and Composition (1956)
Why Is the New Art So Hard to Understand?* (1931)
On the Contemporary Relationship of Philosophy and Music* (1953)
On the Problem of Musical Analysis (1969)
The Aging of the New Music (1955)
The Dialectical Composer* (1934)

2. Culture, Technology, and Listening
Commentary (by Richard Leppert)
The Radio Symphony (1941)
The Curves of the Needle (1927/1965)
The Form of the Phonograph Record (1934)
Opera and the Long-Playing Record (1969)
On the Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening (1938)
Little Heresy* (1965)

3. Music and Mass Culture
Commentary (by Richard Leppert)
What National Socialism Has Done to the Arts (1945)
On the Social Situation in Music (1932)
On Popular Music [With the assistance of George Simpson] (1941)
On Jazz (1936)
Farewell to Jazz* (1933)
Kitsch* (c. 1932)
Music in the Background* (c. 1934)

4. Composition, Composers, and Works
Commentary (by Richard Leppert)
Late Style in Beethoven (1937)
Alienated Masterpiece: The Missa Solemnis (1959)
Wagner’s Relevance for Today (1963)
Mahler Today* (1930)
Marginala on Mahler* (1936)
The Opera Wozzeck* (1929)
Toward an Understanding of Schoenberg* (1955/1967)
Difficulties* (1964, 1966)


An asterisk (*) following a title indicates that the essay is here translated into English for the first time.

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