Musicologica Austriaca - Journal for Austrian Music Studies
The Viennese-born musicologist Georg Knepler (1906-2003) was one of the most important music scholars of the twentieth-century. Being both Jewish and a Communist, he emigrated to London in 1934 and returned to continental Europe after World War II. He was active for many years as a pianist and conductor, and, for a short while, as cultural secretary of the post-war Austrian Communist Party. His most enduring contribution to music history, however, was as a musical thinker. He produced a series of significant musicological studies in the years following his move to the German Democratic Republic in 1949. Inspired by the work of East German philosophers and scientists, he developed a paradigm of historical-materialist musicology and music anthropology that combined the teachings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels with modern interdisciplinary research fields such as cybernetics, semiotics and bioacoustics. The essay resituates Knepler’s work and ideas in the context of twentieth-century debates about the aims and assumptions of Marxist and critical aesthetics and revisits previous interpretations of his relationship to New Musicology. At the center of the discussion is Knepler’s notion of music as an evolving system of communication linked on the one hand with social and material conditions, and on the other with biological and anthropological universals. In developing my argument, I explore Knepler’s critique of several intellectual threads of his time, including the Soviet doctrine of socialist realism, the critical theory of Theodor W. Adorno, and post-structuralism.
The article treats phenomena involved in the vocal interpretation of a composer’s own works, taking the example of the Vienna artist Otto M. Zykan (1935–2006) and making reference to the performance artist Marina Abramović, who is several generations younger. What I am interested in is (a) aesthetic implications, (b) challenges for performance practice (such as the relation between notation and variant readings), and (c) challenges for subsequent attempts at interpretation and reception.
A. W. Ambros and F. P. G. Laurencin: Two Antiformalistic Views on the Viennese Musical Life of the 1870s?
In the 1870s, both August Wilhelm Ambros and Ferdinand Peter Graf Laurencin worked as reviewers of music in Vienna: Ambros had regularly been writing for the Wiener Zeitung since 1872, and Laurencin was, among other things, a Viennese correspondent for the newly established music journal Dalibor in Prague. The reviews by these two authors illustrate their respective approach to music aesthetics in the wake of their famous public responses to Hanslick’s treatise On the Musically Beautiful in the 1850s. Moreover, a comparison of Ambros’s and Laurencin’s reviews points to significant differences between music criticism in Vienna as opposed to Prague. In fact, Ambros’s and Laurencin’s Viennese reviews challenge the classification of the two authors as anti-formalist opponents of Hanslick: This fact becomes particularly evident in Ambros’s criticism. Not only did Ambros show broad open-mindedness in view of Brahms’s music, but he also wrote an enthusiastic review on the fourth revision of Hanslick’s treatise. Even Laurencin, who undeniably tended towards idealistic aesthetics, does not accord with the classification as “Wagnerian.” Thus it can be concluded that the music aesthetics in the second half of the 19th century were considerably more complex than the common binary narrative of Wagnerians versus anti-Wagnerians suggests.
This article looks into the history of the disciplines folk music research and ethnomusicology (comparative musicology) using the Viennese case as a rather representative example for both disciplines. It includes a personal account as the author has been an eye witness of the developments during the last 40 years. It is the research on “music of minorities” that played an important role in this process. The example of Roma music very well demonstrates the changes in the attitudes from around 1900 up to 2014. The topics of terminology as well as of methodology are raised, and by comparing approaches of both disciplines differences and similarities become obvious. Attention is paid to institutional developments as well as political circumstances. The development of the disciplines that is shown in this case study seems to have led to a situation that would meet Svanibor Pettan’s demand for a definition of “modern ethnomusicology”, no matter whether it is called folk music research, comparative musicology, or ethnomusicology.
Folk Music Research in Austria and Germany. Notes on Terminology, Interdisciplinarity and the Early History of Volksmusikforschung and Vergleichende Musikwissenschaft
Discussing controversial issues of Volksmusikforschung in Austria and Germany, the article focuses on European folk music research, with its theory, method, and terminology, in a historical and interdisciplinary perspective. Drawing basically on scholarly traditions of the German-speaking countries and Russia, it shows that key issues of comparative musicology and ethnomusicology (anthropology of music), such as music in culture, participatory observation, function-based genre concepts, and comparative research, were developed in the study of European folk music starting in the late 18th century. The folk music discourse contains two basic trends: (1) folk music as a subject of scholarship (from the Enlightenment to 19th century realism), (2) the folk song as an object of idealization (pre-romantic and romantic period). Against the background of the intellectual history of folk music research, the article enters debates on (a) folk music and ideology (nationalism, social romanticism), (b) Volksmusikforschung in Austria before and after 1918, (c) folk music and popular music as different but interlinked fields of research, and (d) issues of homogeneity.
Courtly Representation Play, Singspiel, Opéra Comique. On the Reception of Antonio Sacchini’s L´isola d´amore
Up to now, scholars have treated ”opera as a form of courtly representation,” a topic of great significance for cultural history, primarily with regard to opera seria as well as festa teatrale. By contrast, opera buffa has been neglected, often being given the label ”bourgeois,” although the works of this genre were also addressed to a primarily aristocratic audience and could play an important role in the context of the court. The article discusses this topic using the example of Antonio Sacchini’s L’isola d’amore, an intermezzo composed for Rome that was staged in Vienna as a German singspiel, an opéra comique, and, in 1769, in its original form, albeit in two different versions, one of which served as a courtly festive opera.
We invite scholars from all music-related disciplines to contribute papers to Musicologica Austriaca.