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.
On the Foundations of Dahlhaus’s Foundations
Tobias Robert Klein studied musicology, African studies, and computer science at Humboldt-Universität, Berlin, where he currently teaches as a Privatdozent at the Institut für Musikwissenschaft and Medienwissenschaft alongside his participation in the joint German-Austrian-Swiss research program “Writing Music.” His publications and research interests are equally divided between the musical (and literary) cultures of Western Europe and West Africa (in particular Ghana). He is currently preparing an edition of selected letters of Carl Dahlhaus.
Stephen Hinton is the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University. Before moving to Stanford, he taught at Yale University, and before that at the Technische Universität Berlin, where he served as Carl Dahlhaus’s academic assistant (“wissenschaftlicher Assistent”). His principal research focuses on the music of German-speaking lands from the classical period through the present. Together with the St. Lawrence String Quartet, he recently created Defining the String Quartet, a series of online courses that focus on the music of Haydn and Beethoven.
Tobias Robert Klein, Stephen Hinton; On the Foundations of Dahlhaus’s Foundations. Journal of Musicology 1 April 2021; 38 (2): 209–229. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jm.2021.38.2.209
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