Faculty Book: Richard Kramer
(Oxford University Press, 2008)
Unfinished Music draws its inspiration from the riddling aphorism by Walter Benjamin that serves as its epigraph: “the work is the death mask of its conception.” The work in its finished, perfected state conceals the enlivening process engaged in its creation. An opening chapter examines some explosive ideas from the mind of J. G. Hamann, eccentric figure of the anti-rationalist Enlightenment, on the place of language at the seat of thought. These ideas are pursued as an entry into the no less radical mind of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, whose bold idiosyncrasies, like Hamann's, disrupted the discourse of Enlightenment aesthetics. Bach is a central player here, his late music the subject of fresh inquiry; but there are others whose unfinished works are addressed—among them, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert—as the author explores the uneasy relationship between the finished work and the elusive traces of profound labors buried in its past. Richard Kramer is a distinguished professor of music at the Graduate Center.
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Submitted on: APR 16, 2008