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Volume 10 • Number 1

Spring 2003



Absolute Meanings

by Marshall Brown

Daniel K. L. Chua. Absolute Music and the Construction of Meaning. New Perspectives in Music History and Criticism. Edited by Jeffrey Kallberg, Anthony Newcomb, and Ruth Solie. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. xii, 314pp.

Who is Daniel Chua? With his outrageous aphorisms and proliferating puns (body-Bildung, polyp-hony), he often seems the whizziest kid on New Musicology's block. In other moods he is an intense cultural analyst, inspired (according to the typically pithy preface) by Benjamin, Foucault, and Adorno. Meanwhile, underneath lurks a sober spirit of historical synthesis. The gusto of this ambitious and chronologically wide-ranging book is exhilarating, yet I grew frustrated not knowing which author I was ultimately reading.

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