Lawrence Kramer (musicologist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Lawrence Kramer (born 1946) is an American musicologist and composer. His academic work is closely associated with the humanistic, culturally oriented New Musicology,[1] now more often referred to as cultural or critical musicology.[2] Alastair Williams describes Kramer as "a pioneering figure in the reconstruction of musicology, creatively applying theoretical developments to the study of music".[3]


Kramer was born in Philadelphia and educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale. After several years on the English faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, he moved to Fordham University in New York where he has taught since 1978 and now holds the position of Distinguished Professor of English and Music.[4] He is the author of ten books on music and over a hundred articles or chapters. Since 1993 he has been editor of the journal 19th-Century Music.[5] He has held ten visiting professorships in North America, Europe, and China. His work has been translated into seven languages.

New musicology[edit]

New and/or Critical musicology rejected the idea of the autonomous musical artwork and sought to understand music in terms of its social and cultural contexts. This position became highly influential, if never uncontroversial. According to Stephen Miles, "Whether or not one agrees with such scholars as Rose Subotnik, Lawrence Kramer, and Susan McClary, the social contingency of autonomous music is no longer seriously questioned; rather the debate has shifted to how this social contingency is to be interrogated".[6] Jonathan Hicks adds that "The notion of a 'New Musicology" retains its currency to this day, and helps to identify a particular disciplinary "moment" the like of which has not been seen since [the 1990s]. . . . Many of the practitioners who came to prominence . . . were concerned with building bridges between musicology and the broader humanities. . . . Lawrence Kramer's Music as Cultural Practice, a book first published in 1990, proposed a method of interpretation that aimed to render music's meaning no less legible than literature's. Kramer's next book, Classical Music and Postmodern Knowledge, added yet more theorists to the musicological reading list, placing particular emphasis on questions of poststructuralism and epistemology".[7]


David Beard and Kenneth Gloag write that "The work of Lawrence Kramer has raised again questions surrounding hermeneutic models and processes. Kramer has proposed the construction of a 'hermeneutic window' through which we see the potential interpretation of the work. [...] Kramer's 'hermeneutic windows" form part of a recent trend in musicology toward interpretation and, by implication, away from 'facts.'.[8] According to Grove Music Online, "The first in the English-speaking world to offer a theoretical formulation of the way in which musical hermeneutics operates, and a practical means of proceeding, was Lawrence Kramer.".[9] This approach to musical meaning encompasses music with texts as well as instrumental music. According to Steven Paul Scher, "The scholar who has contributed the most in recent years toward developing [a] new critical language is Lawrence Kramer [...] He has been able to generate and employ an imaginative vocabulary of interart discourse, breaking new critical ground in virtually every area of musico-textual convergence".[10] David Gramit similarly writes that "An extraordinary series of studies by Lawrence Kramer has explored the intersection of literary theory and music [...] [Kramer] develops a subtle and challenging framework for considering musical immediacy, seeking to demystify aesthetic experience while remaining aware of its significance".[11]


Kramer's compositions have been widely performed in the United States and Europe in venues including New York,[12][13] Santa Fe,[14] Edinburgh, London,[15] and Vienna. In 2013, his string quartet movement "Clouds, Wind, Stars" won the Composers Concordance “Generations” award in its age category.[16] Kramer's other compositions include:[17]

  • "The Wild Swans" for piano.
  • "Ecstasis": Prelude and Variations for piano.
  • Two Nocturnes for viola and piano.
  • "That Lonesome Whistle" for high voice and piano (song cycle).
  • "Songs and Silences to Poems by Wallace Stevens" for voice and piano.
  • "A Short History" (of the Twentieth Century)" for voice and percussion.
  • "Words on the Wind" for voice and chamber ensemble.
  • "Pulsation" for piano quartet.


  • Expression and Truth: On the Music of Knowledge (University of California Press, 2012).
  • Interpreting Music (University of California Press, 2010).
  • Music as Cultural Practice: 1800-1900 (1990; University of California Press, 20th Anniversary Edition, 2010).
  • Why Classical Music Still Matters (University of California Press, 2007).
  • Porque É a Música Clássica ainda Importante? Trans. Fernanda Barão (Bizancio, 2010).
  • Perchè la musica classica? Significati, valori, futuro. Trans. Davide Fassio (EDT, 2011).
  • Critical Musicology and the Responsibility of Response: Selected Essays, Ashgate Contemporary Thinkers on Critical Musicology (Ashgate, 2006).
  • Opera and Modern Culture: Wagner and Strauss (University of California Press, 2004).
  • Musical Meaning: Toward a Critical History (University of California Press, 2001).
  • Franz Schubert: Sexuality, Subjectivity, Song (Cambridge University Press, 1998).
  • After the Lovedeath: Sexual Violence and the Making of Culture (University of California Press, 1997).
  • Classical Music and Postmodern Knowledge (University of California Press, 1995).
  • Music as Cultural Practice: 1800-1900 (University of California Press, 1990).
  • Music and Poetry: The Nineteenth Century and After (University of California Press, 1984).


  1. ^ "THE NATION;Musicologists Roll Over Beethoven - New York Times". 1995-11-26. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  2. ^ Critical Musicological Reflections: Essays in Honour of Derek Scott, ed. Stan Hawkins (Ashgate 2012), 1-18
  3. ^ Alastair Williams, Constructing Musicology (Ashgate Publishing 2001, p. 121
  4. ^ "English Faculty - Bio Page - Lawrence Kramer". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  5. ^ "19th-Century Music : University of California Press | Journals + Digital Publishing". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  6. ^ Stephen Miles, "Critical Musicology and the Problem of Mediation, Notes of the Music Library Association 53 (1997), p. 722
  7. ^ Jonathan Hicks,"Musicology for Art Historians," in The Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture, ed. Tim Shephard and Anne Leonard (Routledge 2013, p. 40)
  8. ^ Beard and Gloag, Musicology: The Key Concepts (Routledge 2004, pp. 78-79
  9. ^ "Proxy Server Login - Fordham University Libraries". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  10. ^ Steven Paul Scher, "Melopoetics Revisited," in Word and Music Studies: Defining the Field, ed. Walter Bernhart, Steven Paul Scher, and Werner Wolf (Rospoi 1999), p. 14
  11. ^ David Gramit, "The Roaring Lion: Critical Musicology, Aesthetic Experience, and the Music Department," Canadian University Music Review 19 (1998), pp. 21, 25
  12. ^ "Poets Out Loud Moves to Lincoln Center for 20th Anniversary". 2011-11-02. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  13. ^ "Contemporaneous / Voices Up 2013". 2013-04-02. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  14. ^ "WMA » Events » Tentative Scheudle for the Eighth International Conference (2011)". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  15. ^ "Word and Music Studies : Ninth International Conference". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  16. ^ "Calendar » Composers Concordance ‘Generations’ concert & composition competition". 2013-05-01. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  17. ^ "Online Library". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 

Further reading[edit]

Articles and chapters concerning Lawrence Kramer and New Musicology:

  • Joel Galand, "The Turn from the Aesthetic, " Current Musicology 58 (1995): 79-97.
  • David Gramit, "The Roaring Lion: Critical Musicology, Aesthetic Experience, and the Music Department," Canadian University Music Review 19 (1998).
  • Alastair Williams, Constructing Musicology (Ashgate, 2000).
  • David Beard and Kenneth Gloag, Musicology: The Key Concepts (Routledge 2004).
  • Patricia Debly, "The Myth of Musicology, Part 2", CAML Review 32 (2004)
  • Giles Hooper, The Discourse of Musicology (Ashgate 2006).
  • David Clarke, “Between Hermeneutics and Formalism: the Lento from Tippett's Concerto for Orchestra (Or: Music Analysis after Lawrence Kramer),” Music Analysis 30 (2011): 309-59.
  • "Through a Glass Darkly: Interview with Lawrence Kramer"
  • "Il fato della melodia: intervista a Lawrence Kramer".
  • Jonathan Goldman, "La New Musicology: Survol de la musicologie américaine des années 1990," Filigrane 11 (2010), 129-140.