Three Classics in the Aesthetic of Music

PDF-file by Claude Debussy

Three Classics in the Aesthetic of Music PDF ebook download One of the joys of reading about aesthetics, in particular as the field applies to music, is that there is such a variance of thought about what is beautiful.For all three of the authors included in this collection, beauty is not solely defined by consonance and dissonance. These composer-authors grapple with the role of inspiration, philosophical contexts, and music itself.


Claude Debussy, "Monsieur Croche the Dilettante Hater" (1927)
Debussy does notmince words and offers invective toward everything from opera to arts administration. It is more music criticism than a specific treatise on aesthetics.It is impossible, however, to read this group of essays without tasting the clear flavor of Debussy's own aesthetic agenda. For example,the Paris Opera, for Debussy, "...continue[s] to produce curious noises which the people who pay call music, but there is no need to believe them implicitly." (24)


Ferruccio Busoni, "Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music "(1911)
Busoni gives the reader a more straightforward offering complete with footnotes and musical examples.However, even Busoni likes to wax poetic: "Tradition is a plaster mask taken from life..." (n.1, p. 7). In another footnote, Busoni makes the case for microtonality, attacking the idea of musical "purity":


But what is "pure," and what "impure?"We hear a piano "gone out of tune," and whose intervals may thus have become "pure, but unserviceable," and it sounds impure to us.The diplomatic "Twelve-semitone system" is an invention mothered by necessity yet none the less do we sedulously guard its imperfections. (89)


Charles Ives, "Essays before a Sonata" (1920)
It is Ives' contribution that is the most beautiful read.He offers an essay that is one part program note (for the Concord Sonata (1915, rev. 1947)) to two parts philosophical and aesthetic treatise.Writing with all the passion and transcendental fervor he can muster, Ives presents various New England literary figureheads as aesthetes, blurring the line between the artistry of literature and that of music.

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