The Cult of Genius and the Musical Museum

Reading: Frisch, Music in the Nineteenth Century Concert Culture and the ‘Great” Symphony, 174-178 Goehr, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works “After 1800: The Beethoven Paradigm,” excerpts, 205-208 Burkholder, “Museum Pieces: The Historicist Mainstream in Music of the Last Hundred Years,” 115-134 Cage, Silence “Communication,” 44-47 Format: Typed, double-spaced, 12-pt. Times New Roman, standard 1° margins, 3-4 pages You must use proper citation formatting as agreed upon with your TA (Chicago.)
Prompt: J. Peter Burkholder argues that “Once the concert hall became a museum, the only works appropriate to be performed there were museum pieces—either pieces which were already old and revered or pieces which served exactly the same function, as musical works of lasting value which proclaimed a distinctive musical personality, which rewarded study, and which became loved as they became familiar.” The idea of the concert hall as a sort of “musical museum” that preserves the work of long-dead composers, as well as the repercussions of this notion for living composers, forms the basis of your first paper. In the first part of your paper you will consider the emergence of the musical canon in its original nineteenth century context. What factors helped lead to the rise of the musical canon? In what ways was this emergence a revolutionary change in the conception and purpose of art music? Discuss the music and reception of Ludwig van Beethoven within this context. In the second part of your paper you will consider the canon as an established tradition, and the ways in which living composers had to contend with its existence. How did the idea of writing music, especially symphonies, change as a result of the “musical museum?* Using the works of Johannes Brahms (a late-nineteenth century composer), as well as the works of Aaron Copland and the writings and works of John Cage (both twentieth century composers), explain how their ideas are in part reactions to the existence of a traditional canon of musical masterworks. You must back up your argument by citing sources from the reading above.

Sample Solution

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