Music and Metaphor in Nineteenth-Century British Musicology: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Music and Metaphor in Nineteenth-Century British Musicology

1st Edition

By Bennett Zon


248 pages

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’In a word, I shall endeavour to show how our music, having been originally a shell-fish, with its restrictive skeleton on the outside and no soul within, has been developed by the inevitable laws of evolution, through natural selection and the survival of the fittest, into something human, even divine, with the strong, logical skeleton of its science inside, the fair flesh of God-given beauty outside, and the whole, like man himself, animated by a celestial, eternal spirit….’ W.J. Henderson, The Story of Music (1889) Critical writing about music and music history in nineteenth-century Britain was permeated with metaphor and analogy. Music and Metaphor examines how over-arching theories of music history were affected by reference to various figurative linguistic templates adopted from other disciplines such as art, religion, politics and science. Each section of the book discusses a wide range of musicological writings and their correspondence with the language used to convey contemporary ideas such as the sublime, the ancient and modern debate, and, in particular, the theory of evolution. Bennett Zon reveals that through their application of metaphorical frameworks taken from art, religion and science, these writers and their work shed light on nineteenth-century perceptions of music history and illuminate the ways in which these disciplines affected notions of musical development.


’Twenty-first century British musicologists can be thankful to Bennett Zon for his account of their discipline in the 19th century…there is much here to enjoy, particularly for anyone with an interest in the history of ideas; and Zon is a useful guide to have through the writings of those thirty-plus individuals, familiar and unfamiliar, whose work is analysed here.’ The Musical Times '… can certainly be recommended as a reference source to anyone interested in 19th-century historiography.' International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction and background: Some preliminary points and definitions; The balance of Continental and English sources: Art; Religion; Science; General histories of music; Musicology through the arts: Music and painting: William Crotch; Music and architecture: Ruskin and one of his interpreters; Music as imitation: Jones, Goddard, Wylde and Garbett; Music as language and poetry: Turnpin, Banister, Prescott and Osbourne; Music images: MacFarren and Wallace; Musicology through religion: Music is God: Pugin and Formby; Music’s divine origin: Jebb and Young; Divinity in some general histories of music: Brown and Dickinson; Music and mysticism: Edwards and Newton; Musicology through science: Basic technical books and their definitions of science: Reeves, Brown and Cook; The principal evolutionary theorists: Spencer and Darwin; Writers on music influenced by evolution: Edmund Gurney, Joseph Goddard, C. Hubert H. Parry, William Wallace; Addendum: J. Alfred Johnstone and evolutionary anti-evolutionism; General histories of music: Musical imperialism in general and national histories; Primitive music as a mirror of the present: Rowbotham and Wallascheck; Issues concerning the balance of narrative and metaphor; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Bennett Zon is Senior Lecturer in Music at the The School of Music, Durham University. He is the author of The English Plainchant Revival (OUP, 1998) and editor of Nineteenth-Century British Music Studies (Ashgate, 1999).

About the Series

Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain

So much of our ‘common’ knowledge of music in nineteenth-century Britain is bound up with received ideas. This series disputes their validity through research critically reassessing our perceptions of the period. Volumes in the series cover wide-ranging areas such as composers and composition; conductors, management and entrepreneurship; performers and performing; music criticism and the press; concert venues and promoters; church music and music theology; repertoire, genre, analysis and theory; instruments and technology; music education and pedagogy; publishing, printing and book selling; reception, historiography and biography; women and music; masculinity and music; gender and sexuality; domestic music-making; empire, orientalism and exoticism; and music in literature, poetry, theatre and dance.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General