Ways of Listening (怎樣聆聽音樂)


The following article investigates the issue of how a listener hears art music. Unlike common discussions on the similar topic, this article opens a new and creative perspective for one to understand music from the receptive side .

Note: Since the following essay is a qualified academic paper presented at The University of Hong Kong, I have reserved the main portion, which contains some important new findings of mine, to prevent plagiarism. Hereby published is only the introduction section of this paper. If anyone who would like to go through the whole paper, please contact me directly.

Ways of Listening: Aesthetics, Metaphors and

Quotations in Music

    For some listeners, the response is almost instantaneous.  A mistuned March parade easily sparks the most spectacular sound picture in Ives’ orchestral set.  A hurdy-gurdy waltz furtively occasions in the movement of the most ambitious Mahler’s symphonic music.  The ability in both to weave banalities into wonders, with the mundane – whether it be the band music in one or the street waltz in the other – being transmuted into the stuff of marvels, reconfirms us a saying, that, “in music, nothing seems impossible.”  Would it be a singer’s voice, a familiar tune, a sonic gesture or a rhythmic pattern or any other musical device that can exert such tremendous impact on listeners?  I would suggest that musical quotation is able to do it.
Musical borrowings have long occupied an important place in western music.  For centuries, composers have incorporated materials from existing music or earlier works into their compositions.[1]   From the parodic masses of Dufay’s or the use of Lutheran hymns by J.S. Bach to the “re-composition” of earlier music in Stravinsky, borrowing as a compositional procedure constantly presents itself as a challenge to the composer’s imagination.  Yet there has never been such an epoch as the 20th century in which quotations and references feature so extensively in works of numerous composers.  And it is in the music of Charles Ives, an American native composer that one discovers, perhaps for the first time in history, some missed opportunities and unrealized potential in western music.
One of the first tasks that confront Ives’ scholars who undertake research into his music has always been to go through the labyrinth of quotations in the composer’s works. Peter J. Burkholder, who identifies different kinds of “quotations” in Ives’ music, focuses on exploring the complex musical, psychological and philosophical motivations behind the borrowings, and shows the purpose, techniques and effects that characterize each one.  Wiley Hitchcock offers a general but succinct survey of Ives’ music in his Ives: A Survey of the Music, providing analyses of some important pieces and tracing the sources of the quotations.  Philip Lambert’s studies apply set theory analysis to music, revealing the pitch organization and structural coherence of the works.   Larry Starr adopts Lambert’s approach but offers analyses that relate Ives’ musical settings to the composer’s philosophical ideas and biographical background.  Other scholars also advocate research on Ives’ uses of quotations in relation to the European musical tradition, American patriotism, the early 20th century socio-cultural background of New England and other European masters such as Stravinsky, Mahler and Schoenberg.  Doubtless the above-mentioned research takes place in the domain of either the compositional dimension or the biographical terrain of Ives.  As such, the issues of quotation, if any, are viewed mainly from the composer’s scope. 
Despite the multifarious approaches, however, few regard it an issue of aesthetics or attempt to address quotations from the perspective of the audience.  How does a listener experience, feel or respond when facing the network of quotations in Ives’ music?  In what way do listeners respond to these quotations in relation to their own socio-cultural surroundings?  Referring to the functions of music, Tia DeNora remarks that music “is not merely a ‘meaningful’ or ‘communicative’ medium.  It does much more than convey signification through non-verbal means.  At the level of daily life, music…may influence how people compose their bodies, how they conduct themselves, how they experience the passage of time, how they feel – in terms of energy and emotion – about themselves, about others, and about situations.”[2] Music in general, and quotations in particular, can be read as a force of social life, a medium of social relation, a technology of self, or a device of social ordering.[3]  Furthermore, if music, just as what Nora has claimed, consists of an interlacing of experience (feeling, action) and the materials that are accessed as the referents for experience and its metaphoric and temporal parameters,[4] it may thus be seen to serve as an operating platform for the temporal structure of one’s past events, as well as the emotional responses. 
    This paper attempts to explore different ways of listening to Ives’ quotations by offering a critical survey of some of his music.  Quotations, as I would like to argue, can and ought to be read and understood in terms of metaphor.  In fact, just as Lakoff has claimed, “metaphor permits an understanding of one kind of experience in terms of another, creating coherences by virtue of imposing gestalts that are structured by natural dimensions of experience.”[5]  From this sense, metaphor is not only a matter of imaginative rationality, but also aesthetic experience.  It is created from our daily surroundings and cultural experiences, and is able to conceptualize our cognitive minds and to induce our emotional sensations.  New metaphors are capable of creating new understandings and new realities, involving all the natural dimensions of our sense experiences, especially that of sound.  Analysis, therefore, is no mere counting of quotes or characterization in terms of compositional techniques.  It rather evokes the totality of the sonic world of a specific time, place and event, operating in every dimension of the listeners’ psychological and aesthetical states.  Be it a tune, a rhythmic pattern or a specific sonority, a reference to a style or genre, a quotation is a tangible link between the sonic and cultural reality of the past and those of the present, as well as a metaphorical representation in one’s own imagination.  Applying ideas and concepts borrowed from paintings and literature, it is hoped that an intertextual reading of the quotations will open up new areas of scholarship on the subject.
David Leung
2010-12-26 (published)
2010-12-31 (republished)
Copyright Reserved by David Leung Tai-wai, Hong Kong 

Was Beethoven a hard-selling salesman, or really an innovative artist?

This brief discussion about Beethoven’s Sonata in F major op.54 is contributed to all pianists and piano teachers. In order to offer audience a stylistic performance, this short article may open a wider perspective for all of you to understand the underlying marvellous pecularities of Beethoven’s work.  If you are interested in reading the whole analysis and intrepretation of this work (the whole article), you can send me a request.

Abstract: Generic Ambiguities in Beethoven’s Sonata in F major op. 54:
An Innovation or Self-enterprise?
Lying between the two gigantic neighboring sonatas, Waldstein and Appassionata, Beethoven’s op.54 in F major, a sonata of only two movements, must be considered one of the most original if somewhat neglected piece of the composer. Of the three concomitant sonatas written around 1803-1805, the years marking the beginning of Beethoven’s middle period of compositional style,[1] Sonata op. 54 stands relatively on its own.  Carrying no specific dedication to any individual patron, this work amounts to the only exception with the composer’s works written in the same period.  The Waldstein Sonata (op.53) and the Appassionata (op.57), for instances, were dedicated respectively to Count Waldstein and Count Brunsvik; while both the Triple Concerto op.56 and Symphony no.3, “Eroica,” op.55 were dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz.  The fact that Beethoven decided to keep the “miniature” for himself seems to lend support to the argument that the piece has a character all of its own.
In the following discussion, I shall offer an analysis of the F major sonata in an effort to lay bare its generic ambiguities.  I shall also attempt to postulate how generic choices were made, taking into account both the socio-cultural milieu of the early 19th-century Vienna, and the innovative and revolutionary instinct of Beethoven.   I shall argue that it is the external socio-cultural environment as well as Beethoven’s internal innovative, self-enterprising attitudes that constitute the creative force for this tiny work.  I shall start off my exploration by reviewing the historical background of the years spanning Beethoven’s middle style-period.  Next, I shall attempt a structural analysis of the work.  The discussion of Beethoven’s innovative features reflected in the music then follows.  I shall also observe the formation of this revolutionary attitude with reference to both the internal and external factors, namely, Beethoven’s self-constructed image of “genius” and the mass-produced image of “genius” in the early 19th-century Vienna.  Finally I shall explore Beethoven’s own marketing strategy in promoting this generically ambiguous sonata, to see how he built himself up as one of first self-enterprisers in the music publishing industry of the early 19th-century Vienna.
Tovey, among others, considers the F major Sonata a work of extraordinary beauty and subtleties.  It represents what can be regarded as Beethoven’s “Socratic humor” carried to the full.[2]  A “sonata” in name but of materials more suited for a minuet and a toccata, this “Socratic irony” is also evidenced in his grouping of two monothematic movements in the same key.  The piece was as much applauded for its subtlety and humor as for its experimental nature.  Charles Rosen regards it as essential to the composer’s stylistic development.[3]  Frohlich Martha, siding with Rosen, refers to it as the first important two-movement sonata by Beethoven.[4] William Kinderman, another Beethoven scholar, claims that the directional process and ongoing synthesis of experience explored in the second movement of the sonata, described as a perpetumn mobile, have received further development in some of Beethoven’s late sonatas, such as the “Arietta” of op. 111.[5]  Kinderman discerns a variety of innovative approaches to the genre amongst the composer’s middle-period sonatas, particularly regarding to the problem of welding the successive movements into a unity.[6] 
    While scholars long regarded op.54 an anomaly, few undertook the task of considering the auditory experience of the work, let alone exploring the implication of its generic ambiguity, which, however, is what makes it one of the most original works for the piano in the composer’s middle style-period.  Marked “In Tempo d’un Menuetto,” the first movement has been variously interpreted as a monothematic rondo, a variation, or a minuet-scherzo with da capo reprises.  Yet it is the absence of a sonata-allegro movement, rather than what has sprung up to take its place, which holds a challenge to, and helps extend the boundary of, the very notion of the genre. 
    The two-movement structure of the sonata may, as some argue, have its precedents in some of the piano sonatas of Haydn’s, but its substance is almost entirely of its own.[7]  For in Haydn’s case, generic expectations are always met by the presence of a sonata-allegro movement, whereas it is the sole purpose of Beethoven to defy what has often been taken for granted.  By introducing a minuet-scherzo like movement in his sonata, and by compressing the formal plan into a pair of movements, Beethoven tries consciously to break the generic contract set up between the audience and his work, inviting the former to question previously held assumptions of the genre.

    The finale of the F major sonata can be understood either as a two-part contrapuntal toccata suggested by Tovey, or, as I would argue, as an etude.  But the enormous development section launched after an extremely short exposition may, alternatively, remind us of a monothematic sonata in a nascent form.  But what is certain, however plausible the interpretation, is the ambiguity of the genre, the very element by which Beethoven has succeeded in extending the “sonata” legacy in the development of the genre.
    Apart from its contribution to the overall meaning of the sonata, op.54 also reflects Beethoven’s attitude toward the genre.  Presented as neither preeminently “heroic” nor “lyrical”, the F major sonata comes closest to what Rosen had in mind when he said, “the most prestigious form of serious music was Beethoven’s piano sonata.”[8]  Once considered a kind of “Hausmusik” (music in the home) confined to the aristocratic salons and amateurs at home, the piano sonata, a genre Beethoven had much to contribute, had come to be regarded as one of the greatest achievements in the Vienna’s musical culture of the 19th century. 
    Beethoven’s piano sonatas also helped toward effecting the change from a patron system dominated by the church and the court to an open system of music publishing and concert performance.  They formed a bridge that served to connect music practised at home to that performed in the concert hall.  The F major sonata, for one, and in particular its second movement, typically presents the kind of technical challenge that often remains a formidable obstacle to all but the most accomplished musicians.
David Leung
2008/04 (Written)
2010/12/25 (Published)
Selected bibliography
Beethoven. Beethoven’s Letters: With Explanatory Notes by Dr. A.C. Kalischer, transl. by J. S. Shelock. New York: Dover publications Inc., 1972.
Downs, G. Philip. Classical Muisc: The Era of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1992.
Kinderman, William. “Beethoven” In Nineteenth-century Piano Music, ed. by R. Larry Todd, New York: Routledge, 2004.
Frohlich, Martha. “Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in F Major Op. 54, Second Movement: The Final Version and Sketches.” The Journal of Musicology 18, no. 1 (Winter 2001): 98-128.
Rosen, Charles. Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas: A Short Companion, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002.
Somfai, Laszlo. The Keyboard Sonatas of Joseph Haydn: Instruments and Performance Practice, Genres and Styles, transl. by the author in collaboration with Charlotte Greenspan. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995.
Tia, DeNora. Beethoven and the Construction of Genius: Musical Politics in Vienna, 1792-1803. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1995.
Tovey, F. Donald. A Companion to Beethoven’s Pianoforte Sonatas, Southampton: The Camelot Press Ltd., 1931.
Truscott, Harold. “ The Piano Music I.” In The Beethoven Companion, ed. by Denis Arnold and Nigel Fortune. London: Faber and Faber Ltd., 1986.

[1] I will suggest that 1803-1823 is the middle period of Beethoven’s musical style.  In 1803, the renowned symphony no. 3 op. 55, Eroica, was started composing, marking the revolutionary spirit of Beethoven’s compositional manner.  First piano sonata of the middle-period musical style was Waldstein op. 53.  Of the thirty-two Beethoven’s piano sonatas, twenty were written in his first-period and twelve for the middle-period.  The last piano sonata was finished in 1822.
[2] Donald F. Tovey, A Companion to Beethoven’s Pianoforte Sonatas, (Southampton: The Camelot Press Ltd., 1931), 161-62.
[3] Charles Rosen, Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas: A Short Companion, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002), 189-91.
[4] Beethoven has written seven pieces of two-movement sonata during his career.  Please refer to Martha Frohlich, “Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in F Major Op. 54, Second Movement: The Final Version and Sketches,” The Journal of Musicology 18, no. 1 (Winter 2001): 100-101.
[5] William Kinderman, “Beethoven,” in Nineteenth-century Piano Music, ed. by R. Larry Todd, (New York: Routledge, 2004), 63.
[6] Kinderman regards Beethoven’s revolutionary middle-period of Beethoven’s musical style began from 1802 onward.  It is a bit earlier than my suggestion.  Please refer to footnote 1.  For further information, also see: Kinderman, Beethoven, 59.
[7] Of nine Haydn’s mature two-movement sonatas, only the op. 54 G does not contain sonata form movement.  Please refer to Laszlo Somfai, The Keyboard Sonatas of Joseph Haydn: Instruments and Performance Practice, Genres and Styles, transl. by the author in collaboration with Charlotte Greenspan, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995), 195.
[8] Rosen, Beethoven Piano Sonata, 4-6.

Michelangelo and His ‘David’

To all my unknown 知音人:

I like to write poem.
I like to write prose.
I like to write music.

This is I.

The first article published here is something about the ‘David’ and me — David.

Any response are strongly welcome.

Michelangelo and His ‘David’

Florence of Republic was established in 1501. The Medici Family, which ruled the city for over a half century, was repelled. The new regime decided to make a symbol of liberty for memorization. Michelangelo, therefore, was commissioned to create the sculpture David, which regarded as the symbol of ‘Strength’ and ‘Wrath’

Michelangelo broke away from the traditional way of representing David. He did not present us the winner with the giant’s head at his feet and the powerful sword in his hand, or try to depict us a nearly womanlike youth with a hat wearing posture. Instead, Michelangelo placed his ‘David’ in a most perfect and affectionate poise in which the two important virtues of the ancient patron city of Hercules, ‘Strength and ‘Wrath’, were embodied. These lofty virtues, coincidently, were the essential elements that the newly formed political community required.
                  Strength and Wrath: Michelangeo’s David

                      Donatella’s Young Warrior David

In this article, I will like to examine the main features of the sculpture David as well as some interesting
backgrounds of its formation. By examining the underlying ideas and symbols of the sculpture, at the same
time, I will try to demonstrate how Michelangelo gives rebirth to the ‘Classical humanism’, exploring the
concept of the ‘Renaissance individualism’ that influences the creative trends of the artists later.

The Origin of ‘David’

The most important and memorable event for the Florentines in 1501 was not only the formation of the new Government, the Republic of Florence, but also one of the greatest statues that they can be really proud of, David, was in the process of being sculpted. Michelangelo, a genius artist acknowledged already as the foremost sculptor of his day, was given a commission by the new Republican Government to chisel a statue from an abandoned large block of marble left in the Cathedral in Florence. In 1464, Agostino di Duccio had been commissioned to execute the statue from the same block, but he did nothing, and nor did his follower, Antonio Rossellino, in 1476. The task, therefore, seemed to be obstinate and problematical. It was thought that the block was practically worthless and that nothing worthwhile could come of it. However, even a stone could become a piece of gold in the hands of a genius. Michelangelo decided to carve a statue, David, symbolizing that just as David, the king of Israel in the ancient kingdom, had protected his people with unrelenting strength and governed them with the wrath of justice, so would whoever was entrusted with ruling Florence[1].

The Political Connotation of the Statue

The decision to carve the statue, David, was not a mere coincidence making use of a large block of discarded marble, but represented a desire and yearning of the Florentines. From the previous century onward, David the shepherd boy who became king of Israel by defeating the tyrant, was a common motif in Florence. He was a warrior as well as a ruler, who united the kingdom of Israel and re-captured Jerusalem for his people. More importantly for the Christianity of Florentines, David not only seemed to prefigure Christ, symbol of salvation, but according to the Book of Matthew, he was also Christ’s direct ancestor[2]. Thus, it was not surprising that the Florentines could accept a young, justice figure like King David as their traditional symbol of the city-state. Furthermore, the bravry, courage and righteousness of warrior David portrayed by Donatello and Verrocchio in their sculptures had successfully rooted in every mind of the Florentine. As such, the newly established Republican Government really required ‘David’ to represent the triumph of the People’s Republic over the tyrant. The defeat of the fierce giant Goliath by King David symbolized the successful revolution of the common people against the Medici family of the stronger side, and also her monarchic rule of the city for over a half century[3].

Sculpture Technique and Artistry

Doubtless Michelangelo’s David breaks away from the traditional way of representing King David. He does not present us with the young winner with the giant’s head at his feet and holding the powerful sword in his hand, somewhat like the style of Verrocchio, nor a tenderly feminine-liked figure of not more than two meters height, wearing a hat and standing sensuously which is in the style of Donatello, after the battle with Goliath. Michelangelo’s David is a mature young man, more like a statue of Goliath than the ruddy shepherd boy with a sling. He portrays David in the phase immediately preceding the battle. Perhaps, this is the moment that his people are hesitating and getting frightened, while giant Goliath is jeering and mocking them. The strength of David is felt not only in his muscular arms and mature body, but also from every nuance of flesh and detailed facial expression. Without depicting any vigorous and energetic action, the sculptor skillfully conveys the impression of the unrelenting strength, or even the wrath of justice, through the sparkling eyes, the frowned forehead, the closed lips, and the tightened eyebrows of David to viewers. The determination and courage of David are easily felt. Michelangelo’s ‘David’ could overcome any difficulties laid ahead without any hesitation in order to protect his people and maintain justice in the country[4], so as could the Republican Government.
Nevertheless, the poise of the statue is not entirely new. Using classical male nude as a medium of expression is seen in the work of Donatello and Verrocchio. However, the style that Michelangelo revealed is not only the revival of classical humanism and realism, but also its extension. The portrait of David is remarkable for his detailed naturalism, delicacy, elegance and complexity. In such a way Michelangelo developed a formidable sculptural technique that David rivaled the work some ancient sculptors such as Praxiteles, or to some extent, surpassed them[5]. David’s perfect poise is full of latent energy and strength, with huge limbs and a watchful expression on his sharply delineated features. One massive hand dangles loosely against his right thigh and the other is raised to hold the sling, so that the long line of the open, bent left hand silhouette contrasts with the closed, straight forms on the right. According to the art historian, J. Wilde, the Medieval concept emphasized the right side of the human body as the closed, active, defended, and God-protected side; while the open, vulnerable, passive and unprotected side was on the left[6]. The turn of David’s head
directs the viewer to look in the direction, the left side, from which attack may come. His left hand is ready to fight against any enemy with the sling and even his body, his left foot, turns and steps a bit leftward opposing the open, relaxing right side. The underlying idea of Michelangelo’s David is clear. This is the David of watchfulness, faith and hope. He represents the essence of all civic virtues, the courage, fortitude, faith and far more important, the ‘Strength’ and the ‘Wrath of justice’ that came from these virtues. All these qualities possessed were also the essential elements required for fortifying and unifying the newly established Republican Government and the people of Florence[7].


A Republican Legacy

Without letting anyone saw the work in progress, Michelangelo spent nearly two and a half years on the task. It is a statue of seventeen feet high and hence, people often like to call it ‘Giant’[8]. When David came to Florence in 1504, he indubitably brought tremendous impact to the society of Florentines, as well as the committee of the highest ranking citizens and artists. Where should David be placed, in the main square 

of the town or in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, or the Town Hall? Although the dispute was not easily settled,

it gave no harm to the loftiness and respectability of David. The two most important virtues, passionate

strength and wrath of justice that are embodied in Michelangelo’s David are not only the most

indispensable elements of the Florentines and their Republican Government in the past, but also, to some

extent, of all the people, including every individual, every nation and even every Government in the present


David Leung

2001-11-01 (written)
2010-12-23 (published)

[1] Rupert Hodson, Michelangelo, Litografica Faenza: Philip Wilson Pub., 1999, p38
[2] Hodson, p42
[3] 王文融等譯,世界藝術史,第三版,聯經出版社,台灣,一九九九年,120頁。
[5] W. Fleming, Arts & Ideas, 9th ed., Forth Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1995, p284.
[6] 王文融等譯,世界藝術史,第三版,聯經出版社,台灣,一九九九年,121頁。
[7] Linda Murray, World of Art: Michelangelo, Singapore: Thames & Hudson, 1992, pp40-41.
[8] 王文融等譯,121頁。

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