By comparison with most philosophers Ernst Bloch wrote an unusual number of words about music.1 Given the bleak period before and during the Second World War in which he came to maturity as a thinker, he also committed to paper a valiantly large amount of thought about utopian longing. Yet from the beginning Bloch's broad commitment to the utopian potentials of aesthetic form caused considerable unrest among colleagues on the left, among them Walter Benjamin and György Lukács, who, in view of the desperateness of the times, regarded his method as something of an ineffectual luxury. In 1935 Benjamin remarked in a letter cited by Elaine Kelly at the end of this colloquy that Bloch's recently published book Heritage of Our Times had arrived at a scene devastated by an earthquake—meaning of course the rise of fascism in Europe—over which its lordly author merely “spread[s] out the Persian carpets,”...
Ernst Bloch's Musical Thought
JOHN DEATHRIDGE is Emeritus King Edward Professor of Music at King's College London and a former President of the Royal Musical Association. His current projects include essays on Beethoven's Fidelio, administrative music research, and Nietzsche's gratitude to Wagner, and a longer study of German music on trial. His essay “Waiting for Wagner” appeared in the Opera Quarterly issue “Wagner and the Left” (2014) and his new translation of Wagner's Ring is forthcoming from Penguin Classics.
MICHAEL GALLOPE is Assistant Professor in the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Deep Refrains: Music, Philosophy, and the Ineffable (University of Chicago Press, 2017) and of over a dozen published articles and essays on music and philosophy. As a musician he has worked in a variety of genres from avant-garde composition and experimental improvisation to rock music and West African electronica.
BETH M. SNYDER is Associate Tutor in the Department of Music and Media at the University of Surrey, having spent the previous year as a Visiting Lecturer (in music) at Scripps College and (in philosophy) at California State University, San Bernardino. Motivated by an interest in music's role in the construction and critique of national identity and in the establishment of cultural legitimacy, her current research explores the political uses of Greek myth on the East German operatic stage.
STEPHEN DECATUR SMITH is Assistant Professor of Music History and Theory at Stony Brook University. His research interests lie in the area of nineteenth- and twentieth-century music and musical thought, focusing especially on sites where musical Romanticism and modernism intersect with philosophical constructions of nature. His work has appeared in Popular Music, the Journal of Music Theory, Contemporary Music Review, and Opera Quarterly, and he is currently completing a book tentatively entitled Grass Angels: Adorno, Natural History, and Musical Modernism.
SHERRY LEE is Associate Professor of Musicology and Associate Dean of Research at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music. A specialist in music and modernist cultures and philosophical aesthetics, her work has appeared in this Journal, the Cambridge Opera Journal, Music and Letters, 19th-Century Music, the Germanic Review, and several collected volumes including Alban Berg and His World (Princeton University Press, 2010), the Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability Studies (2015), and Music, Modern Culture, and the Critical Ear (Routledge, forthcoming).
BENJAMIN M. KORSTVEDT is Professor of Music at Clark University, where he is also affiliated with academic programs in comparative literature and in media and cultural studies. He is the author of Listening for Utopia in Ernst Bloch's Musical Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 2010). He has long been engaged in research into the textual and performance histories of Bruckner's symphonies. His critical edition of the Fourth Symphony will be published in the Neue Anton Bruckner Gesamtausgabe in 2018.
ELAINE KELLY is Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on the intersections between music, politics, and intellectual history in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Germany and she is the author of Composing the Canon in the German Democratic Republic: Narratives of Nineteenth-Century Music (Oxford University Press, 2014).
John Deathridge, Michael Gallope, Beth M. Snyder, Stephen Decatur Smith, Sherry Lee, Benjamin M. Korstvedt, Elaine Kelly; Ernst Bloch's Musical Thought. Journal of the American Musicological Society 1 December 2017; 70 (3): 819–855. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jams.2017.70.3.819
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