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What is music? What does it do?

Milner-Gulland, Robin and Sobolev, Olga (2021) What is music? What does it do? In: Tolstoi and the Evolution of His Artistic World. Studies in Slavic Literature and Poetics. Brill Academic Publishers, 265 – 286. ISBN 9789004465626

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Identification Number: 10.1163/9789004465633_014


This chapter is based on a ‘collective analysis’ of The Kreutzer Sonata. The authors seek to approach the work from a somewhat new angle: to look in the first place not at the obvious thematic content, still less to emphasize the work’s apparent flaws, but to establish what makes it uniquely powerful, to focus on its dominant structural motifs. In particular, they strive to identify and tease out the strange role played in it by music. They raise many questions. What kind of a work is it generically? How does it relate to other works, by Tolstoi or others? Does the work itself (without reference to Tolstoi’s obiter dicta) carry any didactic message – if so, what might that be? Is there stylistic coherence within it, particularly in the presentation of the narrator and protagonist Pozdnyshev? What, if any, symbolic system is operative in it? What are we to make of the title? Many individuals contributed to the discussion of the work, both in person and by mail. One individual, the then Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Gerard McBurney, composer, literary scholar and Russianist, summed up what many may have felt about the work: ‘It’s a great example of an artist trying to dig into the evil within himself and use it as a colossal source of energy; and it’s a stupendous example of polyphonic and unpindownable inner voices.’

Item Type: Book Section
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Additional Information: © 2021 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PG Slavic, Baltic, Albanian languages and literature
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2023 17:36
Last Modified: 29 May 2024 20:03

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