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Musical Biography and the Intervention of the Work-Concept

Wiley, C (2009) Musical Biography and the Intervention of the Work-Concept In: 2009 Joint Annual Conference of the Society for Musicology in Ireland and the Royal Musical Association, 2009-07-09 - 2009-07-12, Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin.

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While the rise of the musical aesthetic of the work-concept has recently elicited significant critical attention (notably, Lydia Goehr’s landmark study and Michael Talbot’s edited volume), the specific role played by musical biography remains largely to be explored, even though various scholars have placed the work-concept’s modern emergence in the years around 1800 which also witnessed the advent of fully-fledged composer life-writing. This paper explores how several of musical biography’s most celebrated and widely-circulated tales – including the fourteen-year-old Mozart’s memorization of Allegri’s Miserere (1770), Bach’s fugal extemporization for King Frederick the Great (1747), and Mozart’s apocryphal claim that Die Entführung contained exactly as many notes as necessary (1782) – shifted their focus away from the transience of performance and towards the immutability of the composed text in subsequent nineteenth- and early twentieth-century retellings. The importance of the work-concept relative to other of biographers’ cultural priorities is evidenced by its intervention apparently operating both positively (for example, recasting Bach’s 1722 extemporization on ‘An Wasserflüssen Babylon’ as being pre-composed in homage to Reinken) and negatively (such as Mozart’s reported belief that the young Beethoven merely executed a previously memorized piece rather than a genuine improvisation during their 1787 meeting) with respect to their subjects.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Music and Media
Authors :
Wiley, C
Date : 2009
Contributors :
ContributionNameEmailORCID Royal Musical Association,
Uncontrolled Keywords : music, musical biography
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 11 Dec 2013 11:58
Last Modified : 05 Mar 2019 10:14

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