Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Leon W. Couch III (Texas A&M University, USA)

Rhetorical persuasion in the organ music of 17th-c north Germany

Seventeenth-century German music theorists are best known for fugal theory and the codification of musical-rhetorical analogies. Although these two developments and the literature they describe surfaced simultaneously in the same locale, few scholars have investigated the relationship between these seemingly disparate historical developments.

In this paper, I will first argue that the desire for persuasive music drove not only the obsessive identification of countless emotive musical-rhetorical figures but also motivated the development of musical analogies to logical argumentation found in oratory. With quotations from relevant treatises and demonstrations at the keyboard, I will support my belief that the issues of tonal answers and invertible counterpoint spring from the desire for proper musical proof. Such a view brings unifies the disparate textures of the North German toccata, for instance, under one musical-rhetorical goal: proof of a work’s content, including its theme(s) and associated affection(s). As in rhetoric, musical argumentation employs the two standard methods of affective pleas and logic to persuade listeners to feel and believe the performer/orator’s case. Although emotional figures may be widely recognized by scholars, the purpose of fugue is not. When one examines the North German toccata from a musical-rhetorical vantage point, one quickly discovers that, underneath the variety of textures, specific musical figures and musical procedures do indeed create a clear progression of structures and effects analogous to classical speech-making. This paper addresses how specific musical procedures impart a feeling of logic and sense of musical content upon which listeners remark when listening to this repertory.

Last updated on 10 May 2004