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Leonard B. Meyer, R.I.P.

One of our greatest musical thinkers in these last fifty years, Leonard B. Meyer has passed away. His series of books from 1956 onwards are still avidly bought, read and discussed in 2007, and that’s no mean feat. Some of his work was pioneering, some spookily prescient, and a lot of it has stuck in this head since my earliest college days. Thanks for all the fish, Leonard.

Comments

Comment from Jeff Harrington
Time: January 2, 2008, 1:09 pm

It’s really difficult to express what Meyer meant to those of us writing in the 70’s and 80’s who were not followers of the serial/expressionistic camp. He represented a vision of hope and his concept of a static but pluralistic musical style future similar to the Egyptians (in Music, the Arts and Ideas) was just breathtakingly visionary.

Comment from David Salvage
Time: January 4, 2008, 2:14 pm

For those of you who haven’t heard of Meyer, “Emotion and Meaning in Music” is highly recommended.

Comment from Dan Schmidt
Time: January 4, 2008, 11:31 pm

Oh, that is upsetting to hear, although I knew that he must have been old. I’ve read all of his books, as far as I can tell, and they all expanded my understanding of music a great deal. I was just rereading Music, the Arts, and Ideas, and though it didn’t have quite the same impact as when I first read it, it was still really impressive. I’m glad to hear that others have been equally affected by his work.

Comment from zeno
Time: January 7, 2008, 11:00 am

Thanks for noting this and for your comments, gentlemen.

When I am in a theoretical and aesthetic mood, I am often tempted to spend more time with Professor Meyer’s more recent theory of style, which I find highly interesting and more comprehensive and promising than his “Emotion and Meaning in Music” (and which is much more important, I feel, than almost all of the post-Schenkerian, post-Babbitt/Forte theoretical literature that is out there, or at least used to be out there in the 1970s and 1980s.)

I also fondly recall Richard Crocker’s stripped down (though still fairly comprehensive)”History of Musical Style” from my freshman year (under Professor Crocker); and I imagine that some future scholar will write a similarly engaging, one-volume history of Western style incorporating some of Professor Meyer’s rhythmic, motivic, harmonic, and humanistist ideas.

Frankly, while I have most of Professor Meyer’s books on my shelf, I find myself spending more time with the less-theoretical, though equally brilliant, critical writings of Professor Meyer’s age-peer, Joseph Kerman.

I recommend the full body of Professor Kerman’s musicological and humanistic criticism to those readers here who aren’t familiar with it.