Extreme chromaticism by J. P. E. Harper-Scott is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.jpehs.co.uk/2011/10/09/extreme-chromaticism/.
Review of Daniel Albright, Music Speaks: On the Language of Opera, Dance, and Song (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2009), and Ruth Katz, A Language of Its Own: Sense and Meaning in the Making of Western Art Music (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). Published in the Times Literary Supplement, 7 October 2011, pp. 12–13.
Theodor W. Adorno wrote that music has a ‘language character’ both mimetic and rational. Mimesis – of the human body, of dance, of ritual – gives music expressive and gestural range; the rational logic of its organization, the form and structure, lends music the identifiable air of a form of communication. Both sides of this language character exist perpetually in dialectical equipoise. Daniel Albright cites Adorno at the beginning of his diverting meditations on the language character of music, which however he views more strongly, with frank disregard for non-Western musical traditions, as ‘the one universal language, a sort of pentecostal tongue of fire, a language not learned systematically but understood intuitively by everyone’. Continue reading