The Music-World Relationship in Late Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century European Thought: Musical Modernity as Musical Subjectification

  • Author / Creator
    Abedinifard, Morteza
  • In this dissertation, I explore manifestations of musical subjectification in European musical thought in the decades leading up to and following 1800 by examining the shifts in the music-world relationship. Highlighting particular historical moments in the development of music and its Otherness, I study the process through which a modern autonomous identity of music, that is, a perceived separation between the musical and the extra-musical in the modern European concept of music, was constructed. I study this fissure between the musical ‘self’ and the surrounding non-musical world in the context of three important musico-conceptual developments: (1) the historical ‘movement’ of the music-painting dichotomy, (2) the clash of two musical outlooks embodied in the shift from the madrigal principle towards the sonata principle, and (3) the change in the meaning of the musical sublime. I argue that what is significant about and unifies these three manifestations of musical autonomy is the way in which they all reflect areas where music’s relationship to nature has been revolutionized; they all display some kind of otherization of nature, or the subjectification of music. More specifically, in Chapter 1, I survey how a new musical discourse was shaped partially through the otherization of music’s sister art, painting, leading to a conceptual independence of music from other arts; in Chapter 2, I explore a movement from a “realistic” approach to the music-world relationship historically exemplified in the madrigal towards a sonata-based principle that announced an increasing prominence of form in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century music; and, in Chapter 3, I discuss a decisive shift in the history of the musical sublime around 1800 in order to shed light on an aesthetic change that reflects a new meaning for greatness in music, no longer sought in external nature but in the subjective notions of freedom and infinity. My conclusion is that what cements the three outlined manifestations of musical modernity is a modern—and also a romantic—treatment of music as a subject. That is to say, with modernity, the nature of music underwent a transformation that enabled it to be perceived as attaining some degree of autonomy and self-determination that was similar to the one attributed to the modern human subject. Through seemingly fragmented moments in some parallel histories in musical thought (the music-painting comparison, madrigal-sonata contrast, and subjective turn in the musical sublime), this research traces part of the history of that conceptual transformation, without any attempt to argue for or against its legitimacy.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.