First published in 1854, The Beautiful in Music is often referred to as the foundation of modern musical aesthetics. As such claims are typically overstated, it is probably best to consider it the codification of such notions of musical autonomy and organicism. It is also interesting to note that these ideas proliferated in academia, in which he was the first professor of music history and aesthetics. Importantly, while this text certainly lays the theoretical groundwork for musical formalism, formal analysis is something that Hanslick himself never did.
Chapter 1: Aesthetics as Founded on Feelings
This chapter critiques the standing aesthetics of music as Hanslick sees it, which he refers to as the “aesthetics of feeling.” He also asserts the autonomy of music, writing, “The beautiful is and remains beautiful though it arouse no emotion whatever, and though there be no one to look at it. In other words, although the beautiful exists for the gratification of an observer, it is independent of him.” He cites the following authors to demonstrate “how deeply these doctrines [aesthetics of emotion] have taken root:” Mattheson, Neidthardt, J.N. Forkel, J. Mosel, C.F. Michaelis, Marpurg, W. Heinse, J.J. Engel, J.Ph. Kirnberger, Pierer, G. Schilling, Koch, A. André, Sulzer, J.W. Boehm, Gottfried Weber, F. Hand, Amadeus Autodidaktus, Fermo Bellini, Friedrich Thiersch, A. v. Dommer, and Richard Wagner. By ending his list of theorists with Wagner, he makes his primary critical target obvious; Wagner had recently published his own essay, Opera and Drama, in 1851, in which he demonstrates how his compositional technique expresses the feelings inherent in the content and form of poetry.
Chapter 2: The Representation of Feelings is Not the Subject of Music
Hanslick posits that since emotion is not present in the music (objective) but is dependent on the listener’s interpretation (subjective) it cannot be the basis for an aesthetics of music. He does admit, however, that music may “awaken feelings,” but maintains that it cannot “represent” them.
Chapter 3: The Beautiful in Music
Hanslick writes, “The essence of music is sound and motion” and suggests that the proper basis for an aesthetics of music are “sonically moving forms.” Furthermore, he suggests that these forms extend, or grow, from a freely conceived musical theme. He writes,
“The initial force of a composition is the invention of some definite theme, and not the desire to describe a given emotion by musical means. Thanks to that primitive and mysterious power, whose mode of action will forever be hidden from us, a theme, a melody flashes on the composer’s mind. The origin of this first germ cannot be explained, but must simply be accepted as a fact. When once it has taken root in the composer’s imagination, it forthwith begins to grow and develop; the principal theme being the center round which the branches group themselves in all conceivable ways, though always unmistakably related to it. The beauty of an independent and simple theme appeals to our aesthetic feeling with that directness, which tolerates no explanation, except, perhaps, that of its inherent fitness and the harmony of parts, to the exclusion of any alien factor. It pleases for its own sake, like an arabesque, a column, or some spontaneous product of nature – a leaf or a flower.”
Chapter 4: Analysis of the Subjective Impression of Music
He distinguishes between the composer, musical work as an autonomous object, and the activity of the listener. When discussing the initial compositional conception he cites women as an example for why this process cannot be emotional, but must be intellectual. He writes, “Women by nature are highly emotional beings, [but] have achieved nothing as composers.” He acknowledges that composers do possess a highly developed emotional faculty but that in music it is not the “productive factor.” Furthermore, he asserts, “It is not the actual feeling of the composer” that evokes feelings in a listener, but “the purely musical features of a composition.” Regarding the listener, he includes a lengthy discussion of the science of hearing and its limitations. He concludes, “Those theorists who ground the beautiful in music on the feelings it excites build upon a most uncertain foundation, scientifically speaking, since they are necessarily quite ignorant of the nature of this connection, and can therefore, at best, only indulge in speculations and flights of fancy. An interpretation of music based on the feelings cannot be acceptable either to art or science.”
Chapter 5: An Aesthetic Hearing as Distinguished from a Pathological Hearing of Music
He identifies two modes of listening: active (“aesthetic”) and passive (“pathological”). The active listener listens to music to discover the method of composition, while to the passive listener music is merely sound. He writes,
“The most important factor in the mental process which accompanies the act of listening to music, and which converts it into a source of pleasure, is frequently overlooked. We here refer to the intellectual satisfaction which the listener derives from continually following and anticipating the composer’s intentions – now, to see his expectations fulfilled, and now, to find himself agreeably mistaken. It is a matter of course that this intellectual flux and reflux, this perpetual giving and receiving takes place unconsciously, and with the rapidity of lightning flashes. Only that music can yield truly aesthetic enjoyment which prompts and rewards the act of thus closely following the composer’s thoughts, and which with perfect justice may be called a pondering of the imagination.”
Chapter 6: Music in its Relation to Nature
Hanslick suggests, “Melody is the ‘initial force,’ the life-blood, the primitive cell of the musical organism, with which the drift and development of the composition are closely bound up.” He continues to state the both melody and harmony are “achievement[s] of man.” Rhythm and in particular duple meter, however, he believes is found in nature: “It is the only musical element which nature possesses, the first we are conscious of, and that with which the mind of the infant and the savage becomes soonest familiar.” He continues to posit that music is a product of the mind, having no precursor in nature. Even the music of a shepherd is not natural, he claims, since it was invented in the shepherd’s mind, and the imitation of cuckoos in symphonies, for example, should not be considered music, since its function is not musical but poetic (i.e., to point to something outside of the music).
Chapter 7: Form and Substance (Subject) as Applied to Music
Hanslick concludes that the idea in music can only be purely musical (“Music consists of successions and forms of sound, and these alone constitute the subject”), and the value of a piece of music is determined by the relation between the idea (for example the theme) and the whole of the work. He writes,
“We cannot acquaint anybody with the ‘subject’ of a theme, except by playing it. The subject of a composition can, therefore, not be understood as an object derived from an external source, but as something intrinsically musical; in other words, as the concrete group of sounds in a piece of music. Now, as a composition must comply with the formal laws of beauty, it cannot run on arbitrarily and at random, but must develop gradually with intelligible and organic definiteness, as buds develop into rich blossoms.”
『音楽美論』岩波文庫 青 503-1 渡辺護 訳 岩波書店 ISBN 4003350316
エドゥアルト・ハンスリック（Eduard Hanslick, 1825年9月11日 - 1904年8月6日）は、プラハに生まれウィーンで活躍した音楽評論家。
Eduard Hanslick. The Beautiful in Music. Translated by Gustav Cohen, edited with an introduction by Morris Weitz. New York: The Liberal Arts Press, 1957.