Toward a Theory of Musical Production


Max Read

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Pierrey Macherey began his 1966 book A Theory of Literary Production by asking a question: ?what is literary criticism?? Macherey argues that even the word ?criticism? is ambiguous?implying at once ?a gesture of refusal, a denunciation, a hostile judgment? and a ?positive knowledge of limits, the study of the conditions and possibilities of an activity??leaving us with two different attitudes, which Macherey calls ?criticism-as-condemnation? and ?criticism-as-explanation,? or ?criticism as appreciation? and ?criticism as knowledge?. We may move between these two attitudes quite freely, but they are fundamentally quite different: ?criticism as appreciation? is normative while ?criticism as knowledge? is speculative; one ?invokes rules,? the other ?formulates laws?; the first is an art and the second a science. The question for Macherey, then, is whether or not the two can be practiced simultaneously, and what each method might mean. A Theory of Literary Production endeavors to identify the ways conventional criticism fails and looks toward the articulation of a new model of criticism that accounts for those failures. In the spirit of Macherey?s fascinating book, I, too, want to pose a question with my research: ?what is music criticism?? Is it different from literary criticism? My research considers the ways in which TLP might move beyond the question of purely ?literary? criticism to inform music-critical discourse, through a close reading of TLP and an examination of contemporary music criticism, both in the ways in which it succeeds and the way it fails.


Warren Montag




Ford Research Endowment

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