Influence, Innovation, and Structure: Modernist Evaluative Criteria in the Reception Histories of Charles Ives and Jean Sibelius
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In 1987, Maynard Solomon published an article titled “Charles Ives: Some Questions of Veracity,” which challenged the priority and probity of Charles Ives’s technical innovations and ignited a scholarly firestorm. Nearly twenty years later, John McGinness ruminated on the uproar, asking, “While unquestionably of historical importance, why, in our postmodern times, should dating and/or the addition of dissonance play a crucial role in the critical evaluation of Ives’s music?” McGinness continued by questioning the effects of what he called “Modernist Criticism” on Ives studies and concluded by problematizing its usefulness to evaluations of Ives’s music. This thesis continues the conversation that McGinness began. First, I broaden his discussion to include the reception history of Jean Sibelius and recent contributions to Sibelius studies, for throughout their respective reception histories, the musics of Ives and Sibelius have been particularly vulnerable to negative valuations based on modernist criticism. Next, I borrow Richard Taruskin’s definition of modernist criticism, which he describes as comprising three tenets: influence, innovation, and structure. Taruskin’s three tenets serve as the subjects of the central chapters of this thesis, each of which seeks to outline the origin of its subject as a criterion of musical evaluation in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German philosophy and to sketch a brief narrative of its application to the reception histories of Ives and Sibelius in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Finally, I explore the ramifications of modernist aesthetic assumptions that the parallels and similarities in the reception histories of Ives and Sibelius reveal. My research continues a budding tradition that examines and uncovers the biases musicologists bring into their discipline. My purpose is to demonstrate the pervasiveness of modernist criticism in musicology and the related fields of theory and criticism and to challenge influence, innovation, and structure as evaluative criteria in the reception histories of Ives and Sibelius.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Influence -- Innovation -- Structure -- Epilogue