Musical biography has rarely been an object of theoretical and methodological reflection. Our present-day perception of the lives of prominent composers and performers of the past has been largely formed by cultural and political assumptions of nineteenth-century biographers and their twentieth-century followers. While older biographies are being scrutinized for veracity and 'updated' with new evidence, their historiographical premisses and narrative techniques remain largely unchallenged. The epistemological upheavals in the humanities since the 1960s have generated a body of theoretical thought that has undermined many of the assumptions of traditional biography. Consequently, many of these assumptions have lost their hold as viable underpinnings for present-day scholarly biography. For example, the accumulation of facts is no longer believed to bring us closer to an understanding of the subject; nor are the traditional views of the unified self and the self as a foundational idea taken for granted. This volume brings together musicologists and historians who explore, through individual case studies, the rich potential of these new theories for writing musical lives. The authors of this volume examine how the insights provided by these theories illuminate our critical reassessment of older biographies - and the interpretations of musical works these biographies were used to construe - and help forge new approaches to musical biography. The authors also explore the functions musical biographies served in different historical contexts, the relevance of biography for musical criticism, the reliability of archival evidence, the ethics of biography, the demands placed on biography by feminist and gender history, and the new possibilities offered by cinema. The contributors to this volume challenge the view that biography has little importance for music history, analysis, and criticism. Collectively, they reassert biography's centrality and relevance, and dem
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction, Jolanta T. Pekacz; 'Renovating' Bach and Handel: new musical biographies in the German Democratic Republic, Toby Thacker; The nation's property: Chopin's biography as a cultural discourse, Jolanta T. Pekacz; Maurice Ravel: private life, public works, Steven Huebner; Lingering legends: Liszt after Walker, Michael Saffle; Fanny in Italy: the female composer as travel writer, Marian Wilson Kimber; This is (y)our life: (re)writing women's autobiographies in music in 19th-century Germany, James Deaville; Unremarkable musical lives: autobiographical narratives, music, and the shaping of the self, David Gramit; A life on film: Renato Castellani's The Life of Verdi, John C. Tibbetts; Bibliography; Index.
Jolanta T. Pekacz is Associate Professor of History and Canada Research Chair in European Studies at Dalhousie University, Canada.
'Musical Biography offers an excellent in-depth examination of past biographical practices in showcasing musical personalities and more recent approaches to the study of musical biography. This volume is a must for musicologists and general historians as well as for anyone venturing into writing a biography of a musician or composer.' American Reference Books Annual ’... a valuable addition to existing research...yielding many fascinating new insights into a largely untapped source for musicological research... a vast area in which much work remains to be conducted, and which this essay collection has made more alluring and promising than ever before.’ Biography ’Musical Biography contains a stellar-line up of contributors... This is an engaging book that I simply could not put down once I had begun reading it... It challenges the reader to think more deeply about music biography and encourages musicologists to take biographical writing much more seriously. The book I am sure will inspire many new research topics: it has already given me much food for thought... this book should be compulsory reading on graduate courses covering research methodology, feminist studies and nineteenth-century music history.’ Musicology Australia