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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“Another music of the soul”: The musical aesthetics of Alphonse de Lamartine
by Hutchings, Spencer, Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder, 2009, 284; 3387548
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the musicological significance of the nineteenth-century French writer and politician Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) by analyzing his philosophy of and involvement in the musical arts. Though little studied from a musical perspective today, Lamartine was a dominant figure in the literature and politics of mid-century Europe and had personal relationships with many prominent artists, including composers such as Liszt, Chopin, and Rossini. A childhood enriched by religious hymns and Enlightenment airs led to an early career colored by Italian opera; in later years he would turn to philosophical inquiries about music. Lamartine's commentary on the composers and musical genres of his epoch offers valuable insight into nineteenth-century music reception and, more broadly, Romantic aesthetics. His long critical essay "The Music of Mozart" (1858) and numerous other works (including poetry, prose, orations, and letters) take on central issues in the philosophy of music.

Lamartine maintained throughout his career that poetry is the mode of expression par excellence; however, as I show in Chapter One, his writings on music augment this view by claiming that music, by its particular non-reliance on verbal content, can surpass the syntactical grammar of the written and spoken word. Lamartine also extends such categorical investigations to the world of music alone, asking whether music with or music without lyrics or textual associations possesses a greater aesthetic import. He concludes that each artistic language consists of its own complete and independent grammar and is therefore most powerful when uncomplicated by dependence on an adjoining artistic medium. His belief that instrumental music merits the greatest praise within the musical arts (the subject of Chapter Two) is linked to his reverence for the divinity of nature (Chapter Three), within which he finds the purest musical expression known to humanity. It is also from his perspective on the natural world that he derives a means by which to measure a composer's genius—such as Mozart (Chapter Four) and Rossini (Chapter Five)—as well as the moral and spiritual value of different musical genres, such as opera (Chapter Six). By presenting and analyzing Lamartine's music theory and criticism, I hope to contribute to a modern understanding of French Romanticism and of this important historical figure.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Caballero, Carlo, Heydt-Stevenson, Jillian
Commitee: Bruns, Steven, Caballero, Carlo, Heydt-Stevenson, Jillian, Maloy, Rebecca, Smith, Jeremy
School: University of Colorado at Boulder
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- Colorado
Source: DAI-A 71/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Romance literature, Music
Keywords: Aesthetics, France, Germany, Italy, Lamartine, Alphonse de, Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, Music, Romanticism, Rossini, Gioacchino
Publication Number: 3387548
ISBN: 978-1-109-53606-5
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