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Music as Message

An Introduction to Musical Semantics

Constantin Floros

Music is often defined as art for the ear, as the language of feeling, of the heart, as sound play, or as the science of composition. But music also conveys intellectual and emotional experiences, literary, religious, philosophical, social and political ideas. Countless composers encrypt contents in their music that can be deciphered by a variety of methods. This book is designed as an introduction to the basic questions of musical semantics and discusses Beethoven’s committed art, the core ideas of the «Ring of the Nibelung» and of the «Symphony of a Thousand», Wagner’s idea of a religion of art, the relation of music and poetry, the musico-literary conceptions of composers, the large field of program music and the history of the impact of Gustav Mahler.
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Gustav Mahler’s Mental World

A Systematic Representation. Translated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch

Constantin Floros

With his extensive three-volume investigation, the author has newly drawn the image of Gustav Mahler for our time. Should Mahler’s symphonies really be categorized as «absolute music»? – Little-known manuscript sources contain significant hints to the contrary: programmatic titles and catchwords or phrases, mottos, literary allusions, associations, sighs, exclamations. Mahler fully understood his symphonies as «erlebte Musik», music of experience, as autobiography in notes, and as expressions of his «weltanschauung». All the symphonies, including the purely instrumental ones, can be traced back to programs that Mahler originally made public, but suppressed later on. A knowledge of the programmatic ideas provides access to a hitherto barely sensed interior metaphysical world that is of crucial importance for an adequate interpretation of the works. This first volume uncovers the complexity of relations between Mahler’s wide-ranging reading and education, his aesthetics and his symphonic creation.

 

About the German edition of this book:

«One of the most thoroughgoing and comprehensive investigations of Gustav Mahler’s work and world to date.»

(Norddeutscher Rundfunk)

 

«The way in which Mahler’s literary background, his education, and his aesthetic and philosophical maxims are presented here indeed opens up a new approach.»

(Die Musikforschung)

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New Ears for New Music

Translated by Kenneth Chalmers

Constantin Floros

20th-century music is characterized by a bewildering multitude of trends and movements. Often several movements co-exist in contradiction to each other, in a reflection of the century’s intellectual currents and social and political changes, and the reactions they prompted. In this book, renowned musicologist and author Constantin Floros provides a survey of the different styles and tendencies in new music, presenting the most important composers from Schoenberg to Rihm in a series of fluent and readable essays that will appeal to connoisseurs and non-specialists alike. For Floros, music and biography are inseparable, and here he puts music in the context of the social and psychological background of its time.
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The Origins of Western Notation

Revised and Translated by Neil Moran. With a Report on «The Reception of the «Universale Neumenkunde, 1970-2010»

Constantin Floros

Modern music notation developed out of the so-called square notation and this out of the Latin neumes. The question of where these neumes came from has long been the subject of scholarly debate. As the author demonstrated in his three-volume Universale Neumenkunde published in German in 1970, there is a very close relationship between the Paleo-Byzantine notation and the Latin neumes. Although the study aroused a great deal of dispute, more recent studies have revealed that the relevance of the Neumenkunde remains essentially unchallenged after 40 years. Those path-breaking research results on the relationship of the Greek and Latin notational systems are now available for the first time in a completely revised and augmented English translation.

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György Ligeti

Beyond Avant-garde and Postmodernism. Translated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch

Constantin Floros

This monograph is an authoritative study of the œuvre of one of the most important composers of our time. For the first time, Ligeti’s key works are presented in the context of their drafts and sketches. His personal and artistic development is set forth and illuminated, and his principal compositions are analyzed and reinterpreted, based on detailed studies of the scores and drafts, as well as on personal conversations with the composer. In addition, numerous questions concerning today’s composing are raised and discussed. Music does not have to be puristic: Ligeti’s spheres of interest are close to universal, embracing history, natural science, and visual arts, as well as music of diverse eras and ethnicities. This expanded world of the musical comprises not just tones and sounds, speech and music, the vocal and the instrumental: Ligeti conceives music as a cosmos of acoustic form.
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Brahms and Bruckner as Artistic Antipodes

Studies in Musical Semantics

Constantin Floros

In the last third of the 19 th century Brahms and Bruckner were regarded as antipodes. Is this perception really true to the historical reality or had their contemporaries overestimated the «dimension of their distance», as argued later? Both wrote autonomously conceived music, both held on to traditional forms, and both rejected program music. To find an answer to this question, part I tries to elucidate Brahms’ relation to Bruckner in its biographic, historical, artistic and art-theoretical aspects. At the center of the second part, whose subject is Brahms’ early work, is the question whether Brahms was indeed an autonomously working composer. The topic of the third part is a taboo of Bruckner research: Bruckner’s relation to program music.
«The second and third part of the study achieve new insights. With a consistent analysis of biographic data and, simultaneously, a careful scrutiny of musical facts (increased experience in assessing the music of the 19 th century), Floros gains convincing interpretations.»
(Friedrich Heller about the German edition of the book)
«The book is the result of Floros’s intensive study of Mahler, during which he found hitherto undiscovered clues to the interpretation of Brahms’s and Bruckner’s work. Most of the borrowings discussed confirm differences between the two composers in both ideologies and musical heritage. Long thought to be ‘absolute’ music, Bruckner’s compositions carry significant semantic meaning when the composer desired.» (Musical Borrowing)
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The Origins of Russian Music

Introduction to the Kondakarian Notation. Revised, Translated and with a Chapter on Relationships between Latin, Byzantine and Slavonic Church Music by Neil K. Moran

Constantin Floros

Five kondakarian manuscripts dating from the 11 th to 13 th century belong among the oldest witnesses of Russian church music. The Slavonic church texts are accompanied by a peculiar notation which represents the most complex notational system of the European Middle Ages. For centuries this system has been viewed as being undecipherable. In 1962 the author of this book succeeded in deciphering this notation using various methods even though directly compatible Greek sources were unknown at that time. His research appeared in two issues of journal which ceased publication several years ago. After the publication of the first part of this study a Greek philologist discovered in Kastoria (Northern Greece) a unique manuscript with a system of notation similar to that of the Russian kondakaria, confirming there by his research results in a most unexpected and indubitable manner. This path-breaking study has been revised and brought up to date in the present publication. The prominent Russian scholar Yuri Keldysh was of the opinion that «no historian of Russian music would be able to proceed without taking into consideration this study».
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Johannes Brahms. «Free but Alone»

A Life for a Poetic Music. Translated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch

Constantin Floros

Johannes Brahms was until now widely regarded as the archetype of the «absolute musician». Based on new research, the study shows how close autobiographic and poetic elements are in fact linked to his œuvre. Like Robert Schumann, Brahms subscribed to an aesthetic of «poetic» music. In many of his compositions he got his inspiration from personal experiences, poems or images, as is shown by hitherto unpublished documents, letters, and diary entries, as well as from close analyses of individual works. Brahms’s personality, too, is seen in a new way. He adopted Joseph Joachim’s motto «Frei, aber einsam», «Free but Alone». The tonal code F – A – E, the musical symbol of this, recurs frequently in his works. Not least, the English version of the book, originally published in German in 1997, includes four additional chapters that investigate novel aspects by dealing in detail with the First Symphony, the German Requiem, Nänie and the Four Serious Songs. The American Brahms Society stressed the importance of the study for all those who want to come to know the unknown Brahms.
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Listening and Understanding

The Language of Music and How to Interpret It. Translated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch

Constantin Floros

To grasp music in its depth dimension is an art that can be learned and perfected. Categories of formal analysis here play a subordinate role – at least as important it is to be consciously aware of timbres, dynamic processes, musical characters and expressions. Following general reflections about the art of listening, the volume in hand presents exemplary work analyses. The roster of composers introduced extends from Mozart to Bernstein, that of the genres discussed from the piano piece to the opera. A detailed register and a survey of the chief works referred to make this book an indispensable companion for both scholars and laymen.

About the German edition of this book:

«In Floros’ book all these details unite to form a magnificent mosaic. Individual works discussed meet us in an entirely new light, and we begin to decipher the language of music with a different set of tools.»

(Helmut Peters)

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Beethoven’s «Eroica»

Thematic Studies. Translated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch

Constantin Floros

With this study the author «opened up a previously locked door of Beethoven research» (Martin Geck). The book presents conclusive answers to questions that had occupied critics for more than a century. It makes clear what exactly Beethoven and his contemporaries meant by the term «heroic». It proves that the «heroic-allegorical ballet» The Creatures of Prometheus is a key work for an understanding of the Eroica, and shows that Beethoven associated the First Consul of the French Republic, Napoleon Bonaparte, with the mythical figure of the Titan Prometheus. The book draws on interdisciplinary researches in the areas of Greek Mythology, Napoleonic History and Comparative Literature.