August Halm

November 2009
22 black and white, 26 line illustrations
317 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
ISBN: 9781580463294
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS020000, MUS050000, MUS041000

August Halm

A Critical and Creative Life in Music

Lee A. Rothfarb

The first detailed study of a prolific and influential early twentieth-century composer, critic, educator-a true sage of music.
In the early 1900s, August Halm was widely acknowledged to be one of the most insightful and influential authors of his day on a wide range of musical topics. Yet, in the eighty years since his untimely death at age 59 (in 1929), Halm -- the author of six widely read books and over 100 essays -- has received much less attention than such contemporaries as Hugo Riemann, Heinrich Schenker, Ernst Kurth, and Arnold Schoenberg. Lee Rothfarb's engaging and deeply researched study provides the missing images that comprise the multifaceted life of this astute musical sage.
August Halm: A Critical and Creative Life in Music begins by setting the cultural stage and examining Halm's life with rich details from unpublished personal letters, diaries, notebooks, and lecture notes. Further chapters explore Halm's notion of musical logic and his proposal that the evolution of compositional technique had, by his day, culminated in three successive musical "cultures" epitomized in Bach (fugue), Beethoven (sonata), and Bruckner (symphony). Another chapter examines, for the first time anywhere, Halm's own compositions, their motivating aesthetic premises, and their connection with late twentieth-century postmodernism. The volume closes with an assessment of Halm's significance for present-day music theory, including its branches that deal with narrativity, plot theory, embodiment, and semiotics.
Halm's subject matter and creative activities ranged widely, and he aimed at maintaining a style that would be accessible and intriguing to music amateurs and music educators at all levels. Lee Rothfarb's book -- written in the same spirit -- will interest not only music theorists and musicologists but also composers and classroom and private music teachers.

Lee Rothfarb is Professor of Music at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His previous publications include Ernst Kurth as Theorist and Analyst and Ernst Kurth: Selected Writings.

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Table of Contents

An Intellectual and Creative Life in Music
Formal Dynamism and Musical Logic
Analysis between Description and Explanation
Two Cultures: Bach's Fugue and Beethoven's Sonata
Third Culture: Bruckner's Symphony
Aesthetic Theory and Compositional Practice: Tradition, Imitation, and Innovation
Halm's Oeuvre: Wisdom and Prophecy


Offer[s] breadth and depth to the life and work of a figure . . . , in Adorno's words, "disgracefully forgotten." . . . A very lucid volume, and an excellent digest and (in places) extension of [Rothfarb's previous] work on Halm. MUSIC & LETTERS [Nicholas Attfield]

[Halm] can be considered the "musical conscience of his time." His writings . . . promote a philosophy of listening and of musical analysis. . . . Rothfarb leads his readers on a journey in masterful manner. . . . The physical production of the book is beyond reproach. REVUE DE MUSICOLOGIE [Marc Rigaudière]

Just as Halm wrote for a wide audience of musical amateurs and professions, so too will Rothfarb's book be of interest to students and scholars, and it is recommended for academic libraries that support comprehensive music programs. . . . One of the strenghts of Rothfarb's works is his comparison of Halm's principles to those of earlier, contemporary, and later theorists, which places his ideas in historical context. MUSICAL LIBRARY ASSOCIATION NOTES [Brian Weiner]

[Reveals] a truly original corpus of writings of quite ambitious scope. Halm could be a bracing voice for so many of us who are trying to incorporate critical perspectives within our music analyses [and] provide an invigorating tonic to our ongoing disciplinary conversations. MUSIC THEORY ONLINE [Thomas Christensen] Read the full review at

With this remarkable personal and intellectual biography, Lee Rothfarb continues work begun in his volumes on Ernst Kurth [Halm's best-known student]. August Halm was a music educator, composer, and critic as well as a music theorist, and, in the course of studying his work closely, Rothfarb also constructs for us a richer, more detailed, and more nuanced view of German music-intellectual life and practice in the early twentieth century. Meticulous and commanding in its scholarship and beholden to no current mythologies, this is historical writing on music theory at its best.
--David Neumeyer, Leslie Waggener Professor in the College of Fine Arts, The University of Texas at Austin

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