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Absolute Music – The History of an Idea - Oxford Scholarship Online
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Absolute Music: The History of an Idea

Mark Evan Bonds


What we think music is shapes how we hear it. This book traces the history of the idea of pure—“absolute”—music from Pythagoras to the present, with special emphasis on efforts to reconcile the irreducible essence of the art with its profound effects on the human spirit. The core of this study focuses on the period 1850–1935, beginning with the collision between Richard Wagner and the Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick. Wagner, who coined the term “absolute music” in 1846, used it as a pejorative in his efforts to expose the limitations of purely instrumental music. For him, music that was “absol ... More

Keywords: Absolute music, Pythagoras, Orpheus, Richard Wagner, Eduard Hanslick, Musical aesthetics

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2014 Print ISBN-13: 9780199343638
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2014 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199343638.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Mark Evan Bonds, author