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date: 18 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Because music is unable to communicate its meaning as directly as words, it has always relied upon thought to help convey its meaning. Nineteenth-century musical thought therefore comes in two interrelated forms: (1) as literature about music (‘music-in-thought’), such as music history, philosophy, or theology; and (2) as music itself (music-as-thought) written for soloists, instruments, and voices in secular or sacred contexts like the concert hall or church. This chapter traces their complex metaphysical interrelationship by using Romantic philosophical and theological concepts of musical meaning to probe understandings of created natural order, from the sound of nature to birdsong, and from the music of man to the music of God. The Great Chain of Musical Being provides a foil for gauging the resilience of the Romantic period’s theological commitment to an incarnational Christianity straining under the influence of secularization.

Keywords: absolute music, birdsong, Great Chain of Being, hymn, Kunstreligion, music-as-thought, music-in-thought, musicology, plainchant, programme music

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