Author: Chua, Daniel K. L.
Title: Absolute Music and the Construction of Meaning
Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1999.
“This book is born out of two contradictions: first, it explores the making of meaning in a musical form that was made to empty its meaning at the turn of the nineteenth century; secondly, it is a history of a music that claims to have no history – absolute music. The book therefore writes against the notion of absolute music which tends to be the paradigm for most musicological and analytical studies. It is concerned not so much with what music is, but why and how meaning is constructed in instrumental music and what structures of knowledge need to be in place for such meaning to exist. Instead of existing in a pure and autonomous form, music is woven back into the epistemological fabric, and tangled with the discourses of theology, visual perspective, biology, philosophy, gender, chemistry, politics, physics. Such contextualisation, far from diminishing the significance of music, actually demonstrates the centrality of music in the construction of modernity. From the thought of Vincenzo Galilei to that of Theodor Adorno, Daniel Chua suggests that instrumental music has always been a critical and negative force in modernity, even with its nineteenth-century apotheosis as ‘absolute music’.”