CONFERENCE

Music, Meaning & Myth 

The problem with growing up

SESSION #1A  |  WITH HUW WILLIAMS 

The problem with growing up. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R.Tolkien and others saw modernism (‘The age of machines’) as the great rupture in human history and culture, showing itself in literature as the death of meaning and the metanarrative of Myth. In ‘The Abolition of Man’, CSL predicted with astounding accuracy the cultural and human consequences of the modernist literary theory of his day, producing ‘men without chests’ as we see around us today. Igor Stravinksy, the dominant musical figure of C20 music makes for a striking illustration of the transition with occurs between musical lateRomanticism and modernism. Examining some of his later, modernist claims as to music’s inability to mean anything in relation to his earlier work’s success highlights the tension to be unfolded and explored during the week. Modernism into postmodernism and the current trends in the academy, including the new musicology. Case studies: Stravinsky – The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky – Symphony in Three Movements.

The problem with growing up

SESSION #1B  |  WITH HUW WILLIAMS 

C.S. Lewis, J.R.R.Tolkien and others saw modernism (‘The age of machines’) as the great rupture in human history and culture, showing itself in literature as the death of meaning and the metanarrative of Myth. In ‘The Abolition of Man’, CSL predicted with astounding accuracy the cultural and human consequences of the modernist literary theory of his day, producing ‘men without chests’ as we see around us today. Igor Stravinksy, the dominant musical figure of C20 music makes for a striking illustration of the transition with occurs between musical late-Romanticism and modernism. Examining some of his later, modernist claims as to music’s inability to mean anything in relation to his earlier work’s success highlights the tension to be unfolded and explored during the week. Modernism into postmodernism and the current trends in the academy, including the new musicology.

Representation and symbolism

SESSION #2  |  WITH HUW WILLIAMS  In “Abolition”, CSL identified one of the central problems with the new literary criticism as robbing an object (eg. Coleridge’s waterfall) of any inherent value. It simply produces certain feelings in the individual which are subjective, and also have the effect of robbing the object of intrinsic value and/or meaning. How can music mean something? Representation and depiction as the simplest form of meaning. Programmatic music such as Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ are accessible for very good reasons (and often dismissed by modern critics for the same reasons.) At the other end of the spectrum, music symbolism carries meaning in significant fashion.

Meaning and Topic I’ - Speaking the same language.

SESSION #3  |  WITH HUW WILLIAMS 

Language operates in reference to itself. To understand a language one has to be familiar with the rules of language. So with music. But what are the cultural reference points which bring common meaning to music. The enlightenment had a sophisticated relationship with meaning, which can lead us to the incorrect conclusion that the death of the narrative occurs at the end of the C18. However, Wye Jamison Allanbrook’s ground-breaking study, “Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart” offers deep insights into how C18th dance forms carried social, and even political, meanings into Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni.

Meaning and Topic II’ - Beyond Dance forms, Beethoven and revolution.

SESSION #4  |  WITH HUW WILLIAMS  Beethoven as a pivotal figure in musical history for many reasons, taking established musical conventions and stretching them to extremes, with dramatic results as befits a soundtrack to the age of revolutions. Continuing a study of the concept of rhythmic gesture, we can examine Beethoven’s complex relationship with meaning through various approaches in his music, as well as the ‘rebirth of the Myth’ in early romanticism.

Romanticism, Myth and Wagner

SESSION #5A  |  WITH HUW WILLIAMS 

Are the early seeds of modernism sown in the music of Richard Wagner? He is one of the most controversial figures in musical history, whose music continues to divide opinion. Yet his influence on the development of music into the C20 and beyond is unquestionable. What was his relationship with Myth, the ideals of romanticism and did he shape the onset for musical modernism?

Romanticism, Myth and Wagner

SESSION #5B  |  WITH HUW WILLIAMS  Are the early seeds of modernism sown in the music of Richard Wagner? He is one of the most controversial figures in musical history, whose music continues to divide opinion. Yet his influence on the development of music into the C20 and beyond is unquestionable. What was his relationship with Myth, the ideals of romanticism and did he shape the onset for musical modernism?

Late Romanticism and the death of the Myth.

SESSION #6  |  WITH HUW WILLIAMS 

In a statement strikingly resonant with Tolkien’s idea of the artist as “sub-creator”, Mahler famously stated that for him, to write to a symphony was to “create a world”. At the same time, late Romanticism sees the seeds of pessimism growing, which would grow into full maturity in modernism. While the myth was being lost, meaning in music was still very much alive.

Waiting for the prodigal

SESSION #7  |  WITH HUW WILLIAMS  Where are we today? An examination of current trends in art music, including ethnomusicology, popular culture, and critical theory. How we choose to listen to music reflects, in many real ways, how we view life in God’s world. Is the Myth dead and forgotten? Or is the great Myth Fact?

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