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Music in the Moment (Paperback)
  • Music in the Moment (Paperback)

Music in the Moment (Paperback)

Paperback 196 Pages / Published: 30/11/2007
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What is required for a listener to understand a piece of music? Does aural understanding depend upon reflective awareness of musical architecture or large-scale musical structure? Jerrold Levinson thinks not. In contrast to what is commonly assumed, Levinson argues that basic understanding of music only requires properly grounded, present-focused attention, and that virtually everything in the comprehension of extended pieces of music that suggests explicit architectonic awareness can be explained without positing conscious grasp of relationships across broad spans.

Levinson rejects the notion that keeping music's large-scale form before the mind is somehow essential to fundamental understanding of it. As evidence, he describes in detail the experience of listening to a wide range of music. He defends, with some qualifications, the views of nineteenth-century musician and psychologist Edmund Gurney, author of The Power of Sound, who argued that musical comprehension requires only attention to the evolution of music from moment to moment.

Music theory standardly misapprehends the experience and mindset of most who know and love classical music, concludes Levinson. His book is a defense of the passionate and attentive, though architectonically unconcerned, music listener.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801474293
Number of pages: 196
Weight: 340 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 12 mm


"A small book, a big question. Does musical understanding require reflective, explicit awareness of large-scale musical structure? Jerrold Levinson's answer is, interestingly, no. As a recovering Schenkerian myself, I am struck by the glorious yet disconcerting heresy of this thesis.... Rarely has a new book in musical aesthetics so rattled my ideas about the actual event of listening. In music academia, any view that denies an architectonic view of how music works at even the most elemental level is practically unthinkable. Yet here it is. Brilliantly argued and cogently presented, Music in the Moment not only muddies the pond, it dashes and splashes about. It will be interesting to see who jumps on it."

* British Journal of Aesthetics *

"When a musically sophisticated aesthetician like Levinson feels compelled to polemicize, we do well to pay heed.... Listening is both an experience of occurrent sound and an invitation to contemplation, and such contemplation will engage a wide range of thoughts and memories.... Perhaps, then, Levinson is telling us that... we too often seem to forget that music is, first and foremost, for listening."

* Journal of the American Musicological Society *

"Brilliant and compelling.... It is engagingly written and powerfully argued.... This very fine book amply deserves the attention it will receive from both philosophers and musicologists."

* Philosophical Quarterly *

"Jerrold Levinson is one of the world's outstanding philosophers of music. His new book, Music in the Moment, is bold, meticulous, cogent and immensely illuminating of the experience of listening to music."

-- Malcolm Budd, University of London

"Jerrold Levinson's new book, Music in the Moment makes a major contribution to the now flourishing field of philosophy of music. He has a daring thesis about music listening that is going to shake up the experts, and pose for them, and for us all, some very hard questions. To reuse, yet again, the old cliche, no one interested in the field, can afford not to read Levinson's book."

-- Peter Kivy, author of Authenticities

"Levinson's theory that musical understanding lies in entering the flow of linked musical moments is firmly and compellingly made in his Music in the Moment. This slim, taut book makes the case for its deceptively simple thesis with such clarity and gentle certainty that, at the end, it's hard to understand why anyone would think otherwise."

* Washington Times *

"Music in the Moment is a welcome addition to the... list of books in aesthetics and the philosophy of music."

* Philosophical Review *

"The conundrum of musical understanding has always been problematic because of music's keen relationship to time: it progresses through time, and therefore does not reveal itself inherently holistically. Jerrold Levinson examines this dichotomy most effectively.... Recommended for general readers and all levels of students."

* Choice *

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