Kollisionen zwischen Musik und Literatur (Sprache?): Überlegungen zu ausgewählten Beispielen aus der Musikgeschichte


  • Gregor Pompe


literature and music, music and language, semantics of music, mousikē, Gesamtkunstwerk, Literatur und Musik, Musik und Sprache


Selected examples from the history of Western music serve as starting points for a discussion of the specific, often problematic relationship between music and literature. We could describe such relationships as “collisions”, which can be understood as coincidental “meetings” that are largely inharmonious in nature and characterized by a kind of indifferent ephemerality. Literature and music stand – even when combined together in a single work of art – further apart than one would like to admit. This article deals with the antique concept of mousikē, in which the art forms of poetry, music, dance and theatre which today are distinctly separated and unconnected, were still inextricably linked. Over time literature and music became increasingly autonomous, as can be seen in the politextuality of the early motets, the polyphonic madrigals of the sixteenth century, the Baroque theory of rhetoric, and the theory of affects, topic theory as applied to the music of the classical period, the nineteenth-century dichotomy inherent in Hegel’s thoughts on the shortcomings of absolute instrumental music, and Schopenhauer’s placing of music above the other arts. Additional questions are posed in connection with operatic reforms (in the light of efforts to restore the antique form of mousikē) as well as Liszt’s concept of the symphonic poem. Some instances and examples also give rise to analysis of speech-derived compositions from the second half of the 20th century. Ultimately, the thesis reflects on the idea that parallels between music and literature should not be sought on the level of two distinct art forms, but rather on the substrata-level of both art forms – between music and language – as it would seem that music often behaves like a distinctly syntactical part of language.