In the early 1900s, August Halm was widely acknowledged to be one of the most insightful and influential authors of his day on a wide range of musical topics. Yet, in the eighty years since his untimely death at age 59 (in 1929), Halm -- the author of six widely read books and over 100 essays -- has received much less attention than such contemporaries as Hugo Riemann, Heinrich Schenker, Ernst Kurth, and Arnold Schoenberg. Lee Rothfarb's engaging and deeply researched study provides the missing images that comprise the multifaceted life of this astute musical sage.
August Halm: A Critical and Creative Life in Music begins by setting the cultural stage and examining Halm's life with rich details from unpublished personal letters, diaries, notebooks, and lecture notes. Further chapters explore Halm's notion of musical logic and his proposal that the evolution of compositional technique had, by his day, culminated in three successive musical "cultures" epitomized in Bach (fugue), Beethoven (sonata), and Bruckner (symphony). Another chapter examines, for the first time anywhere, Halm's own compositions, their motivating aesthetic premises, and their connection with late twentieth-century postmodernism. The volume closes with an assessment of Halm's significance for present-day music theory, including its branches that deal with narrativity, plot theory, embodiment, and semiotics.
Halm's subject matter and creative activities ranged widely, and he aimed at maintaining a style that would be accessible and intriguing to music amateurs and music educators at all levels. Lee Rothfarb's book -- written in the same spirit -- will interest not only music theorists and musicologists but also composers and classroom and private music teachers.
Lee Rothfarb is Professor of Music at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His previous publications include Ernst Kurth as Theorist and Analyst and Ernst Kurth: Selected Writings.