Haydn's ingenious jesting with art: contexts of musical wit and humor

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Schirmer Books, 1992 - Biography & Autobiography - 269 pages
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Wit, humor, and comic effects have been commonly noted in accounts of Joseph Haydn's instrumental music from his own day to ours. Haydn's Ingenious Jesting with Art is a unique critical and historical study of this celebrated aspect of the composer's music and the key role of listeners in its success. "Artful jesting" indicates a strategy that involves the listener as an active interpreter of compositional alternatives in a musical work. Wheelock discusses how Haydn, utilizing the subversive potential of wit in a variety of classical forms, genres, and venues, both challenged and affirmed the musical conventions of his day. The book is divided into three sections, each providing a different perspective on the wit and humor of Haydn's music. Part I, "Coming to Terms", takes a multidisciplinary approach to issues of compositional intent and reception history, focusing on changing values of wit and humor in late eighteenth-century literary sources and reviews of Haydn's music. Chapter 1, "The Musical Joke: A Laughing Matter?" details the productive role of humor in heightening consciousness of play with the most basic classical conventions. Dependent on often subtle ambiguities, these musical jokes challenged listeners' understanding of how convention and invention should interact, engaging them as participants themselves in a process of completing the jest. Chapter 2 traces important distinctions between wit and humor in a broad range of eighteenth-century sources, both German and English. Chapter 3 examines the critical understanding of the composer as humorist. Such views - both favorable and unfavorable - are inextricably linked with changing attitudes toward the proper role ofinstrumental music, popular taste, and the role of the composer in fulfilling expectations of increasingly mixed audiences. Part II, "Frames of Reference", establishes several models for investigating the process of jesting in Haydn's instrumental works. Chapter 4 explores incongruous manners in the composer's symphonic minuets. Wheelock argues that Haydn's fusing of strictly academic and more popular dance styles subverted the measured dignity and refinement of a "proper" minuet, and that such disturbances of the "humors" actually helped to activate the discovery of wit. Chapter 5, "Engaging Wit in the Chamber", examines the metaphor of conversation in connection with Haydn's Opus 33 string quartets, presenting a convincing case that as the voices of the quartet listen and respond to each other the audience is simultaneously engaged in actively mediating this complex dialogue. Chapter 6 explores the deceptions involved in the symphonic finales, where eccentric motives and procedures focus listeners' attention on predicting their progress. Chapter 7, "The Paradox of Distraction", takes theatrical comedy as a point of departure in locating numerous comic devices akin to fixation, memory lapses, digressions, and incongruous juxtapositions of melody and rhythm. Part III, "The Implicated Listener", examines how Haydn transformed humorous rhetoric into a new aesthetic, and considers the broader implications of comic procedures in instrumental music of the Classic era. Haydn's Ingenious Jesting with Art combines a historical and social perspective with strong critical analysis, appealing not only to students of Haydn's music but also to those interested in the Classic style in general.

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Contents

A Laughing Matter?
3
The Decorum of Wit and the Nature
19
A Question of Taste? Early Views of Haydn
33
Copyright

10 other sections not shown

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About the author (1992)

Wheelock is associate professor and director of graduate studies in musicology at the Eastman School of Music. She earned her Ph.D. at Yale University, where she studied piano.