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Antithetical ArtsOn the Ancient Quarrel Between Literature and Music$
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Peter Kivy

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199562800

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199562800.001.0001

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Designs À La Grecque

Designs À La Grecque

(p.29) 2 Designs À La Grecque
Antithetical Arts

Peter Kivy (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

In the 18th century, when music was under discussion it was vocal music that was almost always was talked about by philosophers and other ‘theorists’ of the arts. There wasn't any real problem with vocal music's membership in the family of the fine arts since it had a poetic text, and there was never any doubt that poetry was a fine art: indeed it was the paradigm case. Also, what the fine arts were supposed to have in common, as their defining principle, was representation. And vocal music, since the end of the 16th century, had been understood as a representational art: it represented the passionate tones of the human speaking voice. The bone of contention was pure instrumental music: music without a text, what came to be called ‘absolute music’ in the 19th century. The problem was that it was difficult to see how, if representation was to be the defining property of the fine arts, that principle could apply to absolute music. For it seemed to have no plausible object of representation: the human voice seemed an unlikely candidate, although it was proposed from time to time; and there was no other in evidence to serve the purpose, if the human voice could not. In the context of the debate over whether or not absolute music is one of the fine arts, this chapter examines Kant's philosophy of music as a whole, and his musical formalism in particular.

Keywords:   Kant, music formalism, absolute music, fine art, content, taste, vocal music

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