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Tom Perchard on 'Lee Konitz: Conversations on the Improviser's Art'

In 'The Wire'
Published: 11/03/07


Biography's name is mud to many scholars: they're suspicious of the genre's professed ability to synthesise the historical and the literary, and of its authors’ easy massaging of inarticulate details into subjective coherence. Here Andy Hamilton, a stalwart at The Wire since the early days of the magazine, provides a new kind of jazz biography, one formed largely of conversations between author and subject. This dialogical model has already been imagined in postmodern anthropological texts, but Hamilton’s work may well mark the inception of a format new to writing on Western music, one which avoids both the self-aggrandising of autobiography and the stylised subjectification of biography. Click here for more information.

 

Roger Scruton on 'Aesthetics and Music' 

Institute for the Psychological Sciences,
Arlington, Virginia. 


This book is a survey of musical aesthetics, which also develops an original conception of the nature of music and of the right way to philosophize about it. Hamilton has read widely, listened hard and had his own practical engagement with music as a jazz pianist, and there is much to be learned from his argument. Although the book opens with a chapter devoted to some ancient Greek theories of the philosophical significance of mousike (a term that embraces much more than music as we know it), and although Hamilton rightly pays attention to the discussions that began in the 18th century concerning the nature of 'absolute' music, the emphasis is not historical. Nor is the book compendious from the contemporary point of view, Hamilton being content to pass over many fashionable topics, including music and emotion, musical analysis, and the arguments that have arisen in the wake of Heinrich Schenker's theory of tonal syntax. The book is in fact driven by a fairly narrow agenda, dictated by Hamilton's strongly motivated stance as a 'card-carrying modernist' and a disciple of Adorno, whom he praises as 'the most important writer on the aesthetics of music in the 20th century'. 

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Brian Kane on 'Aesthetics and Music'

In 'Current Musicology'
No. 85, Spring 2008.


Andy Hamilton's Aesthetics and Music is an unusual concoction: one part history of the aesthetics of music, one part review of recent work in the Analytic philosophy of music, and one part original contribution to musical aesthetics. Published as part of Continuum's new series of introductory texts on art and aesthetics, Hamilton's book is more than a student text and less than a specialist's essay. Three historical chapters - which quickly survey the musical aesthetics of ancient Greece, Kant and the nineteenth century, and Adorno and modernism - alternate with philosophical chapters that treat some recalicitrant problems in a more sustained manner. These latter chapters - titled "The Concept of Music,""The Sound of Music,""Rhythm and Time," and "Improvisation and Composition" - contain the substance of Hamilton's thinking. They also revisit ideas originally developed in the British Journal of Aesthetics and other anthologies (Hamilton 1990, 2003, 2007a, 2007b)."

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M. Rowe on 'Aesthetics and Music'

Uniformity of format does not guarantee uniformity of content. Readers of David Davies' Aesthetics and Literature, in Continuum's new 'Aesthetics and ...' series, will know that it is a lively and reliable guide to most contemporary disputes in the analytic philosophy of literature: the nature of literature, fiction, fictional characters, literature and the emotions, the cognitive value of literature, and so forth. While equally impressive, Andy Hamilton's contribution to the same series is altogether different: quirkier, more individual, more original, but less of a survey and less concerned with what's at the forefront of academic fashion. Consequently, students who turn to it in search of handy summaries of various contemporary philosophers' views on, for example, expression or ontology will not find them. But what they will discover is a deeply informed author thinking hard about the musical matters which he considers – with justification – to be the most important. Click here for more information.

 

S. Davies on 'Aesthetics and Music'

Aesthetics and Music is a rich and interesting study. Hamilton's approach is innovative. He interleaves chapters on the history of philosophical thought about music with more theoretical discussions of music, sound, rhythm, and improvisation, but does not cover the work-performance relation, depiction, or expression. He draws on an atypically broad range of examples, including avant-garde, medieval, non-Western, and jazz. The assumptions are humanist: 'I wish to argue for an aesthetic conception of music as an art...according to which music is a human activity grounded in the body and bodily movement and interfused with human life' (pp. 5-6). Click here for more information.