Steven Jan

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Page Range

pp. 291–390

4 Evolutionary Metaphors in Discourse on Music

  • Steven Jan (author)
Chapter 4: discusses the impact evolutionary thought has had on discourses in music historiography and in music theory/analysis. This requires a double-layered approach that not only considers the (metaphorical) application of evolutionary ideas to questions of individual composers’ stylistic development, to diachronic and idiostructural formal-structural development, and to diachronic musical style and genre change (these particularly prevalent in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries), but that also considers verbalisation on music (as ‘verbal-conceptual memeplexes’) as itself subject to memetic-evolutionary pressures, some of these pressures arising from the need for alignment with the music that the verbal-conceptual memeplexes purport to describe and explain. The relationship between such music-discourse evolution, and the evolution of culture more broadly, is also examined, as part of an evaluation of Susan McClary’s critique of ‘absolute’ music and its relationship to socioeconomic change.


Steven Jan