Running the Gamut: Music, the Aesthetic, and Wittgenstein's Ladder


  • Lawrence Kramer Fordham University, English and Music



Ludwig Wittgenstein’s thinking about musical aesthetics (a small but persistent strain in his writings) focused primarily on questions of demonstration and proper performance: how should this waltz or march sound? These emphases were part of a modernist-inspired effort to move aesthetics down from the heights of Kantian contemplation onto the plain of quotidian practice. But Wittgenstein does not so much escape Kant’s formulations as he extends them. The result opens the possibility of elaborating ordinary, even banal, comments about music into complex accounts of musical meaning.

Author Biography

Lawrence Kramer, Fordham University, English and Music

Lawrence Kramer is Professor of English and Music at Fordham University and editor of the journal 19th-Century Music.  His numerous books on music and culture include, most recently, Musical Meaning: Toward a Critical History (California, 2002), Opera and Modern Culture: Wagner and Strauss (California, 2004), Critical Musicology and the Responsibility of Response: Selected Essays (Ashgate, 2006), Why Classical Music Still Matters (California, 2007), and the forthcoming Interpreting Music (California, 2010).  Musical Meaning and Human Values (Fordham 2009), co-edited with Keith Chapin, is a collection based on an international conference held in Kramer’s honor in 2007.  The conference featured the premiere of nine songs from his cycle The Wanderer and his Shadow to texts adapted from Nietzsche’s The Gay Science.  Recent performances include “A Ring of Light” (song cycle) and “Five Songs and an Epilogue from The Wings of the Dove” (Edinburgh, 2007); “Sand Dunes” (solo flute, New York, 2008); “Song Acts” (Vienna, 2009); and “Ecstasis” (solo piano, Keele, 2009).




How to Cite

Kramer, L. (2010). Running the Gamut: Music, the Aesthetic, and Wittgenstein’s Ladder. Konturen, 2(1), 151–167.