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What is "Normal?" A Beethovenian Reconsideration of Some of Tovey's Aesthetic Principles

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Title: What is "Normal?" A Beethovenian Reconsideration of Some of Tovey's Aesthetic Principles
Author(s): Warner, Michael A.
Advisor(s): Kinderman, William A.
Department / Program: Music
Discipline: Music
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: M.Mus.
Genre: Thesis
Subject(s): Ludwig van Beethoven Beethoven Donald Francis Tovey Tovey bagatelle bagatelles piano sonata sonatas piano sonatas music classical music quartet quartets string quartet string quartets Op. 119 Op. 131 Op. 111 Op. 90 Op. 78 Op. 54 unity
Abstract: Donald Francis Tovey’s writings on music continue to have a strong influence on scholarship seventy years after his death. In several of his essays, he mentions “normality” and “freedom” as meaningful aesthetic principles, but when one examines closely his use of these concepts, one discovers seemingly contradictory formulations. On the one hand, Tovey insists that “normality” in music is achieved by the resolution of internal conflicts, and that the process by which this occurs is one of “freedom”—in other words, the process is not formulaic but rather unique to each composition; as Tovey puts it, “an art form grows from within instead of being moulded from without.” On the other hand, his writings demonstrate clearly that he values convention in music, and his notion of “normality” is undoubtedly also informed by the fulfillment of certain expectations cultivated externally; he writes, for instance, that “nothing is more sterilizing than the critical conventions which demand originality as a sine qua non for all artists,” and that “it is stupid to use a convention in a way which shows that you have missed its point, but it is no cleverer to violate a convention because you do not understand it.” Tovey applies his paradoxical conceptions of “normality” and “freedom” to Beethoven’s C-sharp–minor string quartet, Op. 131. In my thesis, I first demonstrate how Tovey’s ideas have informed and continue to influence scholarship on that work. I then probe the extent to which his principles can be applied to some of Beethoven’s other structurally abnormal compositions, the mature two-movement piano sonatas (Opp. 54, 78, 90, and 111) and the eleven bagatelles, Op. 119. Ultimately, I find that while Tovey’s concepts are helpful, they do not yield equally fruitful results when applied to several types of pieces.
Issue Date: 2011-01-14
Rights Information: Copyright 2010 Michael A. Warner
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-01-14
Date Deposited: December 2

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