Wagner's Melodies: Aesthetics and Materialism in German Musical Identity

Wagner's Melodies: Aesthetics and Materialism in German Musical Identity

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Dr David Trippett
Cambridge University Press, 2013-05-02
EAN 9781107014305, ISBN10: 1107014301

Hardcover, 464 pages, 25.2 x 24.7 x 18 cm

Since the 1840s, critics have lambasted Wagner for lacking the ability to compose melody. But for him, melody was fundamental - 'music's only form'. This incongruity testifies to the surprising difficulties during the nineteenth century of conceptualizing melody. Despite its indispensable place in opera, contemporary theorists were unable even to agree on a definition for it. In Wagner's Melodies, David Trippett re-examines Wagner's central aesthetic claims, placing the composer's ideas about melody in the context of the scientific discourse of his age: from the emergence of the natural sciences and historical linguistics to sources about music's stimulation of the body and inventions for 'automatic' composition. Interweaving a rich variety of material from the history of science, music theory, music criticism, private correspondence and court reports, Trippett uncovers a new and controversial discourse that placed melody at the apex of artistic self-consciousness and generated problems of urgent dimensions for German music aesthetics.

Advance praise: 'Trippett's work dispels the myth that there is nothing new to be written about Richard Wagner. He delves into uncanny underworlds of nineteenth-century thought, and shows how they underpin Wagner's compositional ideas. Nascent technologies, speculation on melody and meaning, the acoustic reality of theatrical sound - all this is woven into an account of Wagner's evolution that is both startling and illuminating. A tremendous achievement.' Carolyn Abbate, Professor of Music, Harvard University