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Contents

Music in the Nineteenth Century

THE SEA OF HARMONY

Chapter:
CHAPTER 10 Deeds of Music Made Visible (Class of 1813, I)
Source:
MUSIC IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
Author(s):
Richard Taruskin

Impressively detailed though it may seem, this account of the musical texture of the Norns’ scene, far from complete, has not even begun to broach what for Wagner was the main issue. Simply as a medley of twenty-three themes the scene would not even begin to be, in Wagnerian terms, “dramatic.” For it would engage only the listener/spectator's cognitive faculties—that is, the faculties of mind that perform the task of recognizing symbols, which is to say the part of the dramatic impression that depends on representation. The purely (or merely) cognitive aspect of Wagner's tissue has often lent itself to satire or outright ridicule. The Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, for example, writing almost a decade after Wagner's death, tried to discredit what he considered the tiresome hypercomplexity of Wagner's “polyphonic fabric” as a “colossal abuse of symbolism”:

The listener cannot derive any immediate impression from all these leitmotives as they steal in and out of the contrapuntal web. And in point of fact, if character A, finding himself in a certain mood, were to speak with character B about character C, and if in the accompanying music we hear the contrapuntally interwoven motives A, B and C, perhaps with the addition of a fourth denoting their mood, can one then clearly distinguish such a situation from the reverse: i.e., where C speaks to A about B, or B and C discuss A?39

Citation (MLA):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 10 Deeds of Music Made Visible (Class of 1813, I)." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2018. <http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1-010007.xml>.
Citation (APA):
Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 10 Deeds of Music Made Visible (Class of 1813, I). In Oxford University Press, Music in the Nineteenth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 21 Nov. 2018, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1-010007.xml
Citation (Chicago):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 10 Deeds of Music Made Visible (Class of 1813, I)." In Music in the Nineteenth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 21 Nov. 2018, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1-010007.xml
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