[Smt-talk] Symmetry and Musical Aesthetics

Phillip Dineen pdineen at uottawa.ca
Tue Dec 14 06:54:45 PST 2010

Laurel. Your student might enjoy reading the first chapter of Clive Bell's classic book on aesthetics called simply Art. The first chapter is called The Aesthetic Hypothesis, and the best known concept therein is that of "Significant Form." Bell's book is perhaps the last great aesthetic statement in which notions such as symmetry can be expressed without qualification (although to my knowledge he doesn't address symmetry per se). I use it in my aesthetics class as a last bulwark before structuralism.

If your student reads German, there is a wonderful book by Wilhelm Werker called Die Symmetrische Aufbau... can't recall the rest, about symmetry in Bach Fugues. Schoenberg was very impressed with it, and there is a reprint around. The pictures are fun to stare at.



Murray Dineen

University of Ottawa

pdineen at uottawa.ca


From: smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org [mailto:smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] On Behalf Of Laurel Parsons
Sent: December 9, 2010 1:55 PM
To: smt-talk at societymusictheory.org
Subject: [Smt-talk] Symmetry and Musical Aesthetics

Dear colleagues,

An upper-level undergraduate student at our liberal arts and sciences university is embarking on a long-term interdisciplinary study of the relationship between symmetry and beauty.  She is an accomplished violinist, but is not a music major and has no post-tonal theory background as yet; however, she is both well-versed and interested in calculus, statistics, and other mathematical forms so could pick it up fairly easily. While there are hundreds of scholarly articles on various kinds of compositional symmetry in the music of Western composers to which I could refer her, I'm wondering if anyone can recommend:

1) a good historical overview of how symmetry has been used in Western music, and/or

2) scholarly writing that addresses the aesthetics of musical symmetry rather than (")simply(") the compositional mechanics of its usage in the works of specific composers.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Best wishes,

Laurel Parsons

Laurel Parsons, Ph.D.
Co-ordinator, Humanities Division
Quest University Canada
3200 University Blvd.
Squamish, BC
VB8 0N8
laurel.parsons at questu.ca<mailto:laurel.parsons at questu.ca>

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