[Smt-talk] examples of great prose in music scholarship

Paul Cadrin paulcadrin at hotmail.com
Mon May 7 16:35:32 PDT 2012

Dear Professor Rohr,
First, I congratulate you for your project of getting your students to discover writings about music of the highest quality. Your students are very lucky indeed! Here is my modest contribution to your invitation.
To me, the two main books by Charles Rosen, The Classical Style (2nd Edition, Norton 1995) and The Romantic Generation (Harvard 1995) reach a rare level of perfection as examples of writing of substance about music. The Romantic Generation is especially significant, with its constant influx of ideas from literature and art history, including a broad spectrum of texts in different languages. It is also notable for the abundance of musical examples, carefully scrutinized and connected to their literary and philosophical underpinings. And the prose style is consistently elegant.
I would also suggest a slightly more recent publication: Bach and the Meanings of Counterpoint, by David Yearsley (Cambridge UP 2002). The topic is narrower than in the Rosen books, but the recreation of the intellectual, spiritual and artistic context in which Bach was working is lively and impressive. Here again the musical examples are abundant and their analysis is entirely to the point. The quality of the style makes for satisfying reading, if not always easy, because of the very nature of the topics broached and of the sources quoted.
I hope that this is useful. Congratulations, again, and best of luck in your quest.
Paul Cadrin
Musicologue sans frontières
Montréal (Québec) Canada

From: drohr at skidmore.edu
To: smt-talk at societymusictheory.org
Date: Mon, 7 May 2012 20:20:51 +0000
Subject: [Smt-talk] examples of great prose in music scholarship

I would like to tap the assembled wisdom on this list as I plan a course for music majors on writing about music.  The course will emphasize prose style, and will note some of the parallel properties of music and prose.  Among the aspects we will consider are clarity and economy, rhythm and pacing, beauty of sound, logical development of ideas, and persuasive argumentation.  I am interested in collecting examples--books, articles, or even short passages--from any branch of music scholarship or criticism that have appealed to you specifically for the beauty and/or power of the prose.  Thank you for sending along your suggestions, and if anyone would like a copy of the completed list, I would be happy to share it.
Deborah Rohr
Associate Professor
Department of Music
Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, NY
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