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13 - Music, Expression, and the Aesthetics of Authenticity

from Part III - Aesthetics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 August 2021

Benedict Taylor
University of Edinburgh
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This chapter explores the rise of the twin ideals of authenticity and self-expression in Romantic musical aesthetics. Abandoning earlier aesthetic paradigms of mimesis and rhetoric, Romantic musicians were exhorted to bring forth music from the depths of their inner experience. Authentic expression, in this context, depended on the composer maintaining complete autonomy and renouncing the objective of affecting or pleasing an audience. After examining philosophical, social, and economic developments behind this shift in priorities, the chapter argues that expressive authenticity functioned less as a stable quality than as a regulative concept in nineteenth-century musical life. As such, it was often evoked as a way of conferring aesthetic legitimacy and prestige, but was employed in ways that were inconsistent and complex. As examples from nineteenth-century discourses on orchestral timbre, virtuosity, and identity in music show, the ideal of expressive authenticity could function as an effective tool in the creation and reinforcement of hierarchies of power and authority.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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Further Reading

Abrams, M. H. The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953).Google Scholar
Bernstein, Susan. Virtuosity of the Nineteenth Century: Performing Music and Language in Heine, Liszt, and Baudelaire (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
Bonds, Mark Evan. Absolute Music: The History of an Idea (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bonds, Mark Evan. ‘Idealism and the Aesthetics of Instrumental Music at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 50/2–3 (1997), 387420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Burnham, Scott. ‘Criticism, Faith, and the “Idee”: A. B. Marx’s Early Reception of Beethoven’, 19th-Century Music, 13/3 (1990), 183–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gay, Peter. The Naked Heart (New York: Norton, 1995).Google Scholar
Gooley, Dana. ‘The Battle Against Instrumental Virtuosity in the Early Nineteenth Century’, in Gibbs, Christopher H and Gooley, Dana (eds.), Franz Liszt and his World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 75112.Google Scholar
Leistra-Jones, Karen. ‘Staging Authenticity: Joachim, Brahms, and the Politics of Werktreue Performance’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 66/2 (2013), 397436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lippman, Edward A. A History of Western Musical Aesthetics (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1992).Google Scholar
Ronyak, Jennifer Intimacy, Performance, and the Lied in the Early Nineteenth Century (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stefaniak, Alexander. ‘Clara Schumann’s Interiorities and the Cutting Edge of Popular Pianism’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 70/3 (2017), 697765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Taylor, Charles. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
Trilling, Lionel. Sincerity and Authenticity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972).Google Scholar
Watkins, Holly. Metaphors of Depth in German Musical Thought: From E. T. A. Hoffmann to Arnold Schoenberg (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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