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Book Review

Volume 13 • Number 2

Fall 2006

 

Allusing to Allusions

 

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.

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