Melbourne Conservatorium of Music - Theses

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    Music and criticism: a study of some trends during the twentieth century
    Samson, Patricia Woraine ( 1964)
    To spend time and energy in criticizing music the critic must value music highly. To criticize criticism implies also that one considers criticism of the arts worthwhile. The concert-goer who expects only that he shall enjoy a relaxing evening will probably not bother even to read the notes in his programme, and even if he does so. He will look for no more than a few technical sign posts to lessen his confusion if a work new to him is included in the programme. Such an attitude implies that its possessor dismisses music as an inessential luxury, and that he relegates the composer to the role of entertainer. Plainly, such a concert-goer does not value his music enough to discuss it. Fortunately he is not the only kind of person who listens to music, although he may be monomer than is often realized. His is certainly the easiest attitude to adopt, for to take music and criticism seriously involves much hard thought. The idea that art is a form of human communication is a widely accepted one. Most of the disputes which arise about this notion are concerned with the questions of what and how art communicates rather than whether it does so. Another way of looking at art is as a form of discipline: one cannot create in any artistic form, nor can one fully respond to a work or art, without the exercise of self-discipline, and the study of particular branches of the arts has long been recognized as a way to the achievement of a disciplined mind. The value of art lies in both of these aspects: in what it communicates and in the kind of activity it demands from those who take part in it. These two are inseparable – one cannot discuss the “content” of a work of art without discussing the means by which it is communicated, although, as we shall notice later, one can become involved in an arid discussion of the means alone. A musical work does not concern itself with conceptual thought, as many learned critics have noted. They hold that in this respect it differs from poetry, which can express concepts. They do not seem to have noticed that great poetry does not discuss ideas as philosophy does, but demands an emotional involvement, as painting and music do. All three arts also demand an intellectual involvement, but it is not of the strictly logical or syllogistic kind, even in reputedly “intellectual” poetry. Poetry and painting represent situations known to human beings by experience, in such a way that the expression of experience renders it comprehensible. (From Introduction)