Formalism (music)

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In music theory and especially in the branch of study called the aesthetics of music, formalism is the concept that a composition's meaning is entirely determined by its form.[dubious ]

Aesthetic theory

pictorial depiction (drawn from Berlioz's music) that he found in the music of Liszt and Wagner. Meyer also applied the term to Igor Stravinsky, though Stravinsky avoided applying the term to himself in the same sense. His Poétique musicale of 1942 (translated in 1947 as Poetics of Music)[3] explores "The phenomenon of music" (title of chapter 2) from a formalist perspective. The book is the transcript of a series of lectures Stravinsky gave at Harvard University as part of the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures
in 1939–40.

Soviet Union

Two famous allegations of formalism[

Myaskovsky "and others", as being formalists.[5]

The proscription of formalism was not restricted to the Soviet Union. For instance, in Poland immediately after World War II the Stalinist regime insisted that composers adopt socialist realism, and those who would not do so, including Witold Lutosławski and Andrzej Panufnik, had performances of their compositions banned in Poland for being "formalist".[6] Other Eastern Bloc countries experienced similar restrictions (Zoltán Kodály complained to Panufnik of similar problems facing composers in Hungary).[7]

Music historiography

The term has also been used to designate an approach to writing about music history, sometimes called the "Great Works" approach (in analogy to "Great Books") where the music history is conceived in terms of relationships between works of art, to the exclusion of considering cultural contexts. Joseph Kerman's influential book Contemplating Music[8] called for the re-contextualization of musical works and greater investigation into their cultural milieux rather than their subsequent status in the musical canon. This was parallel to the New Historicism in other historical fields, wherein everyday life was deemed as worthy of investigation as great men and great wars.[citation needed]

While not necessarily advocating a return to formalism, Lawrence Kramer has criticized the movement for reducing works of art to cultural artifacts and tending to denigrate both "meaning" in music and the "value" of exceptional works.[9]

See also


  1. .
  2. ^ Hanslick, Eduard (1854). Vom Musikalisch-Schönen. Leipzig.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
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  5. ^ Ob opere ”Velikaya družba” V. Muradely, postanovlaniem TsK VKP(b) ot 10 fevralya 1948 i. In: Izvestiya 11 February 1948.
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  9. (pbk).

Further reading