1. Although Hewett examines the entire musical realm, he defines his discourse in terms of Western classical music. Why?
2. Why is the term “world music” a misnomer?
3. What does Hewett see as a reason for the “unhealthily hermetic character” of modern music?
4. Why does Hewett see as ironic the attempt by modernists like Boulez to rebuild the musical realm?
Chapter 1 Depths and Shallows
1. Historically, in what regard has its social function been an important component of music’s identity?
2. When music began to be transported from one location to another, what new formal aspect was created?
3. As the Age of Sentiment shifted criteria from taste to sincerity, how were musical forms affected? The notion of “pretty”?
4. What was lost as certain features of music became highlighted for particular attention?
5. What ironies are suggested when Couperin is accepted into the canon while Liszt in not?
6. Is all folk music admired?
7. What is the artistic response to a middle class that does not want to be highbrow all the time?
8. “In traditional societies, music cannot be a matter of personal choice.” Why?
9. Enumerate other ways in which our Western conception of music differs from that of traditional societies.
Chapter 2 Words, Words, Words
1. In what regard is music “cultural fly-paper”?
2. As music evolved from a public to a private endeavor, what changes did it undergo? Conversely, what changes emerged in the public music experience?
3. Characterize Stravinsky’s and Schönberg’s opposing concepts of music’s content. Which 19th-century figures would agree with one or the other of the two composers?
4. How did composers and promoters respond to music’s becoming, increasingly, the province of professionals?
5. How did 19th-century musical trends develop in the 20th century?
Chapter 3 Things Fall Apart
1. How has classical music historically viewed the musical Other? In what regard is this view more complex that the view held by tradition musical cultures?
2. In addition to a gloomy Viennese mainstream, suggest a second vein in which modern music developed in the 1920’s.
3. Before Western music embraces a novelty, it customarily neutralizes it. Which musical cultures was Western music able to embrace readily? Which cultures, conversely, proved problematic? For what reasons?
4. As we read in Levine, “mass culture” poses problems for modern music. How was jazz regarded, positively and negatively, in the first decades of the 20th century?
5. Hewett suggests an underlying cultural agenda behind Schönberg’s 12-tone system. What is it? Why is his point curiously valid?
6. What qualities in Balkan folk music allowed Bartók to constitute his later compositions in a wholly different light?
7. In retrospect, what salient characteristic dominates the music of the 20th century’s giants?
Chapter 4 Multiplicities
1. How did fascism and Stalinism respond to the modern?
2. How did mid-century composers respond to the absence of a simple, agreed-upon ordering of music?
3. How do middle-class audiences frequently respond to compositions that lack melody, harmony, tempo, or form?
4. What is the ironic result of the cult of “pure” music?
5. How do composers like Carter and Ligeti manage, in some regard, to make their music a collective experience?
6. How is Boulez’s highly mathematical system problematic in a way that Schönberg’s is not?
7. How does one best describe the institutional unity shared by the highly personal constructions of modern composers? How does this differ from 19th-century Vienna, for example?
8. What danger do we court in our neutrality?
Chapter 5 Text, Body, Machines
1. Explain the distinction that Hewett makes between craft and technology in modern music.
2. In the first half of the 19th century, sincerity and simplicity were acceptable modes of musical discourse. What spectre arose in the second half of the century? With what unfortunate and enduring results?
3. What key elements of classical music composition does electronic music eliminate? What “metaphysical duality” is lost as a result?
4. How does a score differ from a blueprint?
5. In their attitudes towards the score, how do contemporary composers and performers differ from their counterparts who worked before the end of the 18th century?
6. The increased fetishization of the score has what result on performance?
7. What expressive need does the violence of modern music serve? What is its opposite?
8. Why did most mid-20th-century composers ultimately abandon attempts at styles of notation that gave performers more choice?
9. In what respects are the solutions of John Cage, Luciano Berio, and others, problematic?
10. How have some composers attempted to reconfigure the relationship between text, performance, and audience? With what result?
Chapter 6 Authenticities
1. In its futile attempt to reconstitute a historical unity, what result has modern music achieved instead?
2. In what respects have the paradigms of modern music changed in the past 30 years? What are some characteristics of the recently new plurality?
3. Since so few specifics characterize the bulk of modern music, is it sufficient for it merely to aspire to seriousness?
4. What traps make authenticity a slippery criterion?
5. What contradictions inhere in discussions of the authenticity of world music? Jazz? Baroque and classic repertoire?
6. When composers scrupulously avoid expressivity, what ironic result ensues?
7. When obliquity becomes a composer’s goal, what dangers lurk?
Chapter 7 Expression Makes a Comeback
1. What reasons does Hewett offer for spending more time on modernist music than on neo-tonal music?
2. At the start of the modern era, when tonality was seen to be not a law of nature but a convention, what changes occurred in its status within a composer’s available choices? With what results?
3. How does Hewett characterize sentimentality? How does minimalism avoid genuine sentimentality?
4. Hewett describes the music of several American composers. Which are you moved to investigate? Why?
5. How does Hewett distinguish between discourse and gesture?
6. What lay behind the 19th-century dream of a music without conventions? As modernism strove to realize that dream, what new conventions did it create?
7. What characterizes modernism’s fraught relationship with the past?
Chapter 8 The New Naivety
1. In modernism’s continuing dialogue with the past, what form of memory produces a deep discomfort?
2. What other processes tinge the “desire to re-enter a lost paradise” that characterizes the new tonality?
3. Repeated patterns, and references to tonality, make possible un-classical classical composers. For all that they reject, what do they still desire?
4. What function did the “web of allusion” serve during the period of common practice?
5. What does Hewett see as the result of a musical discourse consisting solely of evocations?
6. How have the sampler and the fader affected modern music?
Chapter 9 Rediscovering Music
1. When it seeks public funding, what double bind does classical music encounter?
2. When music loses its social function and becomes an autonomous realm, how do performers and listeners then participate?
3. How is modern music faring in its strenuous efforts to maintain the integrity of its realm and not be taken over by expressivity, evocation, words, and images?
4. Discuss the two parodic inversions that music has undergone in the past decade?
5. What is the unspoken assumption of their music that composers fail to question? Why is this dangerous?
6. Why does Hewett feel that Western classical music offers the last best hope for the future of music? How do you evaluate his reasons for denying comparable status to one or another of the rival claimants for musical “depth”.
7. How is Hewett able to state that classical music is both historical and contemporary?
8. Within the concept that music only serves us well when we submit to it, what advantages does classical music hold over other musical practices?
9. What results will ensue if and when we are able to make musical culture active again rather than passive?
10. What advantages are there to being musically bilingual? Why does Hewett embrace this condition?
11. Hewett invokes Leonardo and Jung to suggest an essential component that is missing from our contemporary experience of music. What is that component? How are we to compensate for its lack?