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Musical autonomy

IRASM coverA new paper by Dr Keith Chapin tracks the emergence of concepts and practices of autonomy in 17th-century Germany, a  concept normally associated with the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The paper is published in the International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music. Since the 1970s the journal has been a pre-eminent forum for research on the intersection of two branches of scholarship sometimes held apart.

Dr Chapin takes a treatise by the singer and composer Christoph Bernhard (1628-1692) as the starting point for an examination of the complex artistic practices underpinning both Bernhard’s music theory and late 17th-century German musical culture in general. 

The article tracks the emergence of concepts of autonomy including theoretical autonomy (the features that gave works excellence beyond function and durability after the event), aesthetic autonomy (the principle that music can be considered an end rather than as a means to some further end), and social autonomy (control over creative conditions).

Dr Chapin examines each of these concepts in turn, although acknowledging that the three cannot be neatly separated. The paper also looks at some of the reasons that French and German intellectuals began to treat art or artworks as autonomous in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

‘A Harmony or Concord of Several and Diverse Voices: Autonomy in 17th-Century German Music Theory and Practice’ by Dr Keith Chapin is published in IRASM.