by Karen Painter
Christopher Alan Reynolds.
Motives for Allusion: Context and Content in Nineteenth-Century Music.
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003. xii, 230pp.
Motives for Allusion: Context and Content in Nineteenth-Century Music
is much more than a magisterial compendium on borrowing. Christopher Reynolds
delineates a methodology for the study of influence, so urgently needed.
Unlike the reminiscence hunter of yore, he seeks to ennoble the pursuit
with a theory and principles of interpretive practice, lucidly set out
in the introductory chapter on definitions. Reynolds then proceeds with
a typology of borrowing: transformations (chapter 2); assimilative allusions,
which preserve the meaning of the source (chapter 3); contrastive allusions,
which do not (chapter 4); texting, when vocal music alludes to instrumental
music (chapter 5); and "naming," or motives whose pitches refer to an
individual (chapter 7). The remaining chapters are chiefly historical:
"inspiration" in the creative process (chapter 6), the traditions for
certain allusions and audiences (chapter 8), and, in a double entendre
that veils the author's optimism in old-fashioned history, "Motives for
Allusions" (chapter 9). In practice there is more flexibility than the
terminology suggests. Still, whether this immensely subjective mode of
perception and practice so grounded in historical style and performance
practice can be systematized remains uncertain.