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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Prefacing Music in the Concert Hall: Program Books, Composer Commentaries, and the Conflict over Musical Meaning
by Waxman, Jonathan, Ph.D., New York University, 2012, 314; 3546489
Abstract (Summary)

An often overlooked change in the concert hall during the mid-nineteenth century was the distribution of explanatory writings intended to aid the listeners' understanding of the standard repertory. During this same time, composers increasingly produced information detailing the meanings of their works. For both types of writings, music critics and composers often had different philosophies on how prose could best be used to present music to an audience, or whether it should be included at all.

This dissertation examines issues critical to an understanding of the connections among these explanatory writings, the musical work, and the performance. There are two overarching themes of the thesis: the first is how prose created by either a program annotator or a composer could contribute to an audience's construction of musical meaning; the second is why and under what circumstances these individuals differed on how these explanations should be given to the audience.

The first chapter attempts a theory of these writings, investigating how descriptive notes about pieces along with titles, and composers' biographies contribute to an audience's extra-musical knowledge about music. The second chapter explores these commentaries' nineteenth-century origins in annotated programs and composers' descriptive programs. Chapter three examines the program notes written for four major symphony orchestras, in particular how notes for new pieces compared to those for works in the established repertory.

In the last two chapters, case studies on three twentieth-century composers, Gustav Mahler, Antonin Dvořák, and Charles Ives, explore the intersection of the composers' writings with program books. Chapter four revisits the commentaries written for the world premiere of Dvořák's New World Symphony, and the New York premiere of Mahler's First Symphony, to show how Dvořák's willingness to provide notes and Mahler's refusal affected the United States reception of these works and composers in the decades following their premieres. Chapter five compares Ives's writings, especially the Essays Before a Sonata, written to accompany the Concord Sonata, with program notes created by Ives's advocates for the premiere of his Second Symphony.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Beckerman, Michael
Commitee: Boorman, Stanley, Daughtry, J. Martin, Karchin, Louis, Mueller, Rena
School: New York University
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 74/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music
Keywords: Composer commentaries, Musical meaning, Program books, Program notes, Symphonic culture
Publication Number: 3546489
ISBN: 978-1-267-80082-4
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