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Editor's Note

Volume 12• Number 1

Spring 2005


 

 

Editor's Note

 

"Beethoven and Freedom"—the suggestive conjunction served as the title of a session at the 2002 meeting of the American Musicological Society in Columbus, Ohio, the occasion that included the first three articles published here. Because of freedom's continuing relevance, however, not only to historical but also to contemporary Beethoven reception, the title applies in various ways to almost the entire contents of this issue and to some of the next one, too.

The relevance is double-edged, both a virtue and a problem. The idea of freedom is a prime example—arguably the prime example—of what W. B. Gallie called an "essentially contested concept," that is, a concept with "no one clearly definable general use." Disputes about meaning should be considered genuine, even though they are unlikely to be resolved by argument; moreover, as Gallie remarked, it is "perfectly respectable arguments and evidence" that sustain them. No one connotation can be "set up as the correct or standard usage." It is the historian's task to recognize and analyze the plurality of contested meanings, as our authors do here. The discussion of freedom, to quote the historian Eric Foner, "must transcend boundaries rather than reinforce or reproduce them."

 

 

 
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