Paradigms, Politics and Persuasion: Sociological Aspects of Musical Controversy

  • Martin Brody
  • Allan Janik
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 114)


Musical composition is unquestionably difficult to discuss apart from the context of the language of technical musical analysis. It is all the more difficult to discuss to the extent that composers become champions of opposing styles. Moreover, we can never be certain that a composer’s style (of composition) is consonant with his verbal statements about music. Thus controversies between composers may appear particularly complex and irrational. We wish to reconsider the nature of representative statements of composers and music theorists — both in their informal manifestations (composers criticizing each other’s work) and in their supposedly more rigorous applications, i.e., in the interpretive apparatuses of contemporary music theory. We intend to focus our discussion on musical controversy in order to demonstrate one central contention — that controversies in music inherently involve verbal discourse and that this discourse has a life of its own, at once independent of and contingent upon the music it describes. Moreover, verbal discourse about music profoundly influences future practitioners of musical composition and shapes our understanding of the music of the past. Of course, a composer may “respond” to a piece of music by composing another piece of music, and these two pieces may be understood as representative of “competitive aesthetics”.


Cluster Concept Measure Phrase Musical Composition Interpretive Strategy Music Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago, 1970); see especially chs. 3–5, pp. 23–51 etpassim.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Margaret Masterman, “The Nature of a Paradigm”, Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, ed. Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 59–90.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    See Elisabeth Janeway, “Who is Sylvia: On the Loss of Sexual Paradigms”, Signs, 5 (1980), pp. 573–589 and T. Hutchinson, On Revolutions and Progress in Economics (Cambridge, 1978), passim.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    See Imre Lakatos, “Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programs”, Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, pp. 91–196.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Stephen Toulmin, Human Understanding (Princeton, 1973), vol. I, p. 379.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Toulmin, loc. cit.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Toulmin, ibid., p. 398.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    William Gallie, “Essentially-Contested Concepts”, The Importance of Language, ed. Max Black (Englewood Cliffs, 1962), p. 125.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Gallie, loc. cit.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    William Connolly, The Terms of Political Discourse (Lexington, Mass., 1974), p. 14.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Connolly, ibid., p. 18.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Connolly, ibid., p. 27–9.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Anne Sayre, Rosalind Franklin and DNA (New York, 1975), pp. 112–3.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    Our discussion of the sociology of scientific competition is heavily indebted to Sayre’s discussion, which is vastly superior to what passes for academic sociology of science. For a classic discussion of the latter see Warren O. Hagstrom, The Scientific Community (New York and London, 1965), pp. 69–104;Google Scholar
  15. 15a.
    cf. M. J. Mulkay, “The Scientific Research Community,” Science, Technology and Society, ed. I. Spiegel-Rösing and D. de Solla Price (London and Beverly Hills, 1977), pp. 117–48. The latter contains a useful bibliography.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    James D. Watson, The Double Helix (New York, 1968), p. 55.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Watson, ibid., p. 56.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Watson, ibid., p. 99.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Watson, ibid., p. 106.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Watson, ibid., pp. 20–1.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Sayre, ibid., p. 207 n. 6.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Our discussion of the work of Hauer will be necessarily elliptical. The theorist-composer developed his ideas in numerous studies (for example, Zwölftontechnik: die Lehre von den Tropen Vienna, 1926). A brief consideration of Hauer’s theory is presented in George Perle, Twelve-Tone Tonality (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1977), p. 1–4.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Thus, attention has been called to Hauer’s importance in George Perle, loc. cit., and in George Perle and Paul Lansky, “Twelve-note composition”, New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie, (London, 1980), p. 287. On the other hand, Allen Forte has cast aspersions on Lansky and Perle’s reference to Hauer in his review of the theory articles in the New Grove (in The Musical Quarterly, LXVIII no. 2, p. 178). Forte suggests that Lansky and Perle have been uncritical of Hauer, failing to point out inconsistencies in his research and presumably over-valuing his achievement.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Gallie, op. cit., p. 125.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    In Theodor Adorno, The Philosophy of Modern Music, trans. Anne G. Mitchell and Wesley V. Blomster (New York, 1973), passim.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    In Arnold Schoenberg, Style and Idea, ed. Leonard Stein (New York, 1975), p. 482.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Ibid., p 482–3.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Igor Stravinsky, Autobiography (New York, 1936), p. 67.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Arthur Lourie, “Neogothic and Neoclassic”, Modern Music, V no. 3 (March, 1928), p. 6.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Seymour Shifrin, “Style and Idea by Arnold Schoenberg”, Perspectives of New Music, 14 no. 1, pp. 177–9.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    This analytic example is not a quotation from earlier studies, but it is meant to indicate, concisely, how atonal set theory and what we might call “twelve-tone thinking” have effected the discourse on Stravinsky. The approach to Stravinsky suggested here derives in part from Arthur Berger, “Problems of Pitch Organization in Stravinsky”, Perspectives on Schoenberg and Stravinsky, ed. B. Boretz and E. Cone (Princeton, 1968), pp. 123–55 and Pieter C. Van Den Toorn, “Some Characteristics of Stravinsky’s Diatonic Music”, Perspectives of New Music, 15 no. 2, pp. 58–95.Google Scholar
  32. 33.
    See, for example, Joseph Straus, “A Principle of Voice Leading in the Music of Stravinsky”, Music Theory Spectrum, 4 (1982), pp. 106–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 34.
    See Heinrich Schenker, “Supplement: Musical Examples”, Free Composition, trans. and ed. Ernst Oster (New York, 1979), fig. 42.2.Google Scholar
  34. 35.
    Connolly, op. cit., p. 14.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Brody
  • Allan Janik

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations