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Conventional WisdomThe Content of Musical Form$
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Susan McClary

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780520221062

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520221062.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 24 September 2021

Turtles All the Way Down (On the “Purely Musical”)

Turtles All the Way Down (On the “Purely Musical”)

(p.1) Chapter 1 Turtles All the Way Down (On the “Purely Musical”)
Conventional Wisdom

Susan McClary

University of California Press

This chapter sets out the purpose of the book, which is to explore in music history the kinds of processes Raymond Williams calls “structures of feeling,” Fredric Jameson the “political unconscious,” Roland Barthes “mythologies,” Thomas Kuhn “paradigms,” Kaja Silverman “dominant fictions,” or Ross Chambers simply the “social contracts” that establish the conditions for the production and reception of artworks. Whatever we label these structures, they are intensely ideological formations: whether noticed or not, they are the assumptions that allow cultural activities to “make sense.” Indeed, they succeed best when least apparent, least deliberate, and most automatic. Although musicologists and theorists often grant these kinds of formations the status of the “purely musical,” this book treats them as conventions—albeit conventions which so permeate human transactions that we usually fail to notice their influence. It examines the values they represent, the interests they reinforce, the activities they enable, the possibilities they exclude, and their histories within the contested field that music inevitably is. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.

Keywords:   purely musical, musical convention, conventional practices, music history

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