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Between Hermeneutics and Formalism: The Lento from Tippett’s Concerto for Orchestra. (Or: Music Analysis after Lawrence Kramer)

Lookup NU author(s): Professor David ClarkeORCiD


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An account of the slow movement of Tippett’s Concerto for Orchestra can be informatively interwoven with a discussion about musical meaning. It provides a focus for the question of whether musical meaning should be regarded as primarily intrinsic or as located within what is linguistically predicable of it within cultural (or ‘worldly’) discourses. Methodologically, this is homologous with a distinction between formalist and hermeneutic approaches, corresponding loosely to disciplinary distinctions between music analysis and the New Musicology. The work of Lawrence Kramer is paradigmatic of the latter, while writings by Derek Puffett, notably his analysis of Tippett’s Second Quartet, illustrate the former. Complementary analyses of the Lento from Tippett’s Concerto reveal the potential and limitations of hermeneutics and formalism. We should not be misguided into an a priori privileging of one approach over the other, but instead attempt correctly to construe the relationship between them. Kramer considers analysis to be no more than the means to hermeneutics, and assumes the possibility of seemingly unmediated translation from one to the other. But the knowledge they produce is not coterminous, leaving open the pursuit of the musically intrinsic, as well as the question of what approaches are suggested by the space between.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Clarke D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Music Analysis

Year: 2011

Volume: 30

Issue: 2-3

Pages: 309-359

Print publication date: 19/06/2012

ISSN (print): 0262-5245

ISSN (electronic): 1468-2249

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2249.2011.00307.x


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