Alexander Waugh

Richer Sounds

Understanding Music: Philosophy and Interpretation

By

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‘Music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, psychological mood, etc … If, as is nearly always the case, music appears to express something, this is only an illusion and not a reality.’ These famous lines from Stravinsky’s An Autobiography (1936) caused a great fuss when they were first published. Only a few critics seemed to understand that Stravinsky was not attacking music for its shortcomings but challenging the boundaries of what can or cannot be said about it. A quarter of a century later, while standing by his original point, he sheepishly changed the wording to ‘music expresses itself’. 

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