‘The universal language of mankind’: Music and the Myth of Intelligibility.
Friday 17 May 2012, Wadham College, Oxford
In his 1938 poem, ‘The Composer’, W. H. Auden praises the immediacy of music, juxtaposing it with painting and poetry as arts that require mediation (‘All the others translate’) and reception (‘by painstaking adaption’). Auden’s poem is just one of the most famous articulations of the idea that, of all the arts, music is the one that requires no intervention to render it intelligible across time and space (as suggested equally by Longfellow’s reference to music as ‘the universal language of mankind’). This workshop aims to scrutinise this influential yet problematic myth with a particular focus on the period 1870-1920. Papers may wish to address (but are not necessarily limited to) the following themes: Continue reading