In the foreword to his Grundlagen der Musikgeschichte (1977), translated into English as Foundations of Music History (1983), Carl Dahlhaus names three reasons for writing the book: the lack of theoretical reflection in his own field; the problem of mediation between methodological maxims and their political implications; and the difficulties he encountered while preparing his history of nineteenth-century music. Each of the three reasons can now be understood more precisely and historically contextualized in light of recently uncovered letters and notes. Dahlhaus’s methodological critiques of political music as conceptually distinct from aesthetically autonomous works—contrary to a popular claim by Anne Shreffler (2003)—were directed mainly at the “Western left.” Moreover, in the 1980s this controversy became intertwined with historiographical questions regarding the concept of “event” that was reinforced in publications by the “Gruppe Poetik und Hermeneutik.” A postscript discusses the English translation of the book and the concept of “structural history” in late Dahlhaus.

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