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Grappling With Donald Jay Grout’s Essays on Music Historiography

Author(s): Kristy Johns Swift

Journal: Journal of Music History Pedagogy
ISSN 2155-109X

Volume: 1;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 135;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Donald J Grout | Hayden White | Hans Keller | music historiography

Donald Jay Grout contributed more to musicology than his widely read textbooks A History of Western Music and A Short History of Opera. This paper explores Grout’s little-known essays on music historiography and previously unstudied archival material by employing theories of historians, Hayden White and Hans Kellner, to show Grout as historiographer, critic, pedagogue, and philosopher. White and Kellner posited that looking beyond a historical narrative’s finely tuned content uncovers the “middleground”—the place between the background (sources) and the foreground (narrative) where historians spend most of their time making decisions. In his essays and personal papers Grout established his middleground, one in which he outlined the tasks he deemed most important for musicologists: choosing a subject, maintaining objectivity, and explaining and narrating music history. He grappled with these issues and with a larger philosophical question: why write music history? Simply put, isn’t the music itself enough?
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