Essays on Art, Aesthetics, and Culture
2. Formalism in Music:Eduard Hanslick and Peter Kivy
Feelings accompany our grasp of a piece of music as they accompany events in our life.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein (1931)
In the first part of my essay I shall present Hanslick’s main arguments, and in the second part I will comment on Peter Kivy’s semi-Hanslickian views on the power and meaning of music and relate them to Hanslick’s position.
On the Musically Beautiful (Vom Musikalisch-Schönen)1 is one of the most influential treatises in the aesthetics of music. Hanslick’s small treatise, which numbers no more than a hundred pages, was published in 1854; it went through no less than nine editions before the end of the century. It was translated into several European languages; the first English translation, by Gustav Cohen, in 1891 is entitled The Beautiful in Music, a somewhat misleading translation of the German title Vom Musikalisch-Schönen. As Geoffrey Payzant, who re-translated the work into English in 1986, points out, Cohen’s title suggests that Hanslick was thinking of beauty in the generic sense, the beautiful in music being a species of the beautiful as such. Hanslick had nothing of the sort in mind, he was only concerned with musical beauty, the specific beauty that can be found in music; he did not proceed from a general idea of beauty, of which beauty in music would be an instance. Payzant’s rendering of the title is therefore superior to Cohen’s. Cohen’s translation is also in other respects...
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