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The book’s contributors engage many of the critical themes in Diamond’s work, including musical historiography, musical composition in historical and contemporary frameworks, performance in diverse contexts, gender issues, music and politics, and how music is nested in and relates to broader issues in society. The essays raise important themes about knowing and understanding musical traditions and music itself as an agent of social, cultural, and political change. Music Traditions, Cultures, and Contexts will appeal to music scholars and students, as well as to a general audience interested in learning about how music functions as social process as well as sound.
In the first section, “Place and Displacement,” contributors examine what happens when composers and their music migrate in the culturally complex world of the late twentieth century. The past one hundred years produced record numbers of refugees, and this fact is now beginning to resonate in the study of music. As Anhalt himself forcefully asserts, however, not all composers who emigrate should be understood as exiles. The first chapters of this book explore some of the problems and questions surrounding this issue.
Essays in the second section, “Perspectives on Reception, Analysis, and Interpretation,” look at how performing acts of interpretation on music implies bringing the time, place, and identity of the musician, the analyst, and the teacher to bear on the object of study. Like Kodály, Kurtág considers his work to be “naturally” embedded in Hungarian culture, but he is also a quintessentially European artist. Much of his production—he is one of the twentieth century’s most prolific composers of vocal music—involves the setting of Hungarian texts, but in the late 1970s his cultural horizons expanded to include texts in Russian, German, French, English, and ancient Greek. The book explores how musicologists’ divergent cultural perspectives impinge on the interpretation of this work.
The final section, “The Presence of the Past and Memory in Contemporary Music,” examines the impact time and memory can have on notions of place and identity in music. All living art taps into the personal and collective past in one way or another. The final four chapters look at various aspects of this relationship.