ON KERMAN...

 

And so, on to Kerman.

1. A long chapter, to be sure, that would be difficult to deal with here in any sort of comprehensive way, so I'll be brief. I felt that Kerman adequately summarized some of the tensions between theory, analysis, and criticism, touching upon the different ideological impulses that try to keep these domains (for lack of a better word) separate. However, does anyone else find it worrisome that Kerman doesn't seem to have a problem with this rigid separation in the opening pages of the third chapter? As we suggested in last week's class, it would seem that analysis is, in a profound way, criticism, that analysis is not "free" from criticism, and this is something which Kerman notes in the work of Lewin and Cone: that criticism must pervade all aspects of the study and performance of music. How, then, can one continue to make distinctions without prolematizing them?

2. When Kerman is writing about the difference between theorists/analysts and musicologists, I think there is a major problem apparent. For the theorist/analyst, says Kerman, the focus is "the piece itself," while for the musicologist, the work is ideally viewed in its "full historical context." Kerman goes on to invoke "intertextuality" as an important consideration for musicology (presumably "critical" musicology), while analysis, Kerman claims, "subverts" a "complete" view of music. Oh ho! So, it's the "complete" view that we're after here, is it? Kerman admits the the existence of "the moving,' and the "expressive" in music, and claims that analysis ignores these qualities...qualities, I would say, that must necessarily be taken into any "complete" view of a work. Explain to me how one would go about doing that, please. Intertextuality can not be in any kind of agreement with phrases like "full historical context," or with terms like "complete." As we learned from our readings of Derrida, intertextuality effectively cancels out the possibility of a fully present context, or a complete reading. What is subversive here, I think, is Kerman's real position, which is revealed through the use of terms like "facts" and "conditions" on pages 72-73. It is facts which are valued, despite the insistence upon "sensitive" criticism.

3. To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what Kerman is trying to say in the third chapter of "Contemplating Music". I found it a little convoluted, and a little boring. I think, thought, that he is calling for "history" to be restored to "theory," and in a critical way. I must say that I liked the discussion of Schoenberg's Grundgestalt: the idea that it is flexible and powerful because it is a "suggestion" that never developed into a theory is an interesting one, and it is, in my opinion, largely true. The value placed upon flexibility is evident here (pg. 87): is it, like intertextuality, a false valuation? I think that the discussion of Schenker is right on, too, insofar as it relates to my point about Schenker and process: on pgs.84-85, it is the importance of analytical processes that is outlined here, and not the musical processes that are revealed by analysis. Intuition and judgment are stressed, revealing the critical process of Schenkerian analysis. Therein, I think, the value lies. Kerman also asks about the importance of Schenker vis a vis the work it has inspired, something that did not occur to me.

4. Does anyone else have a problem with Kerman's nasty habit of taking little shots at people right at the end of his sentences, often parenthetically? Just curious.

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Cheers.

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