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Absolute MusicThe History of an Idea$
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Mark Evan Bonds

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199343638

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199343638.001.0001

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(p.41) 3 Expression
Absolute Music

Mark Evan Bonds

Oxford University Press

By the middle of the sixteenth century humanist writers had begun to raise serious questions about music as a sounding manifestation of number. Faced with a growing body of empirical evidence, particularly from the realm of astronomy, they could no longer accept the Pythagorean-Platonic model of the cosmos. This in turn created a demand for explanations of music’s power that went beyond the principle of isomorphic resonance. In the period between roughly 1550 and 1850, the most important of the qualities used to explain the connection between the nature and power of music were expression, form, beauty, autonomy, and disclosiveness. Theories of expression centered at first on the setting of texts to music. In the eighteenth century, music came to be thought of as a wordless language in its own right, a “language of the heart.”

Keywords:   Musical expression, Seconda pratica, Mimesis, Gioseffo Zarlino, Claudio Monteverdi, Johann Mattheson, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, René Descartes, Program music, Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle

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