Zur Frage der ästhetischen Inhalt-Form-Relationen in der Musik by Eberhard Lippold

VEB Deutscher Verlag/Breitkopf


Music mirrors mentalities. For theists, it enciphers divinity; For socialists (national or international) it embodies humanity. Thus its meaning can become a mere means, whether for church or state. Harmony and instruments were once anathema because they might render the liturgy inaudible. The Nazi opposition to Schoenberg was nor only anti-semitic but pro-semantic. Marxists too feel that music should sing of social significance. The danger of abuse is manifest; hence no doubt the “bourgeois” flight to the polar extreme of rigorous structural analysis, a practice duly decried by Herr Lipphold.

   He feels that music directly represents objective reality. Useless to ask why it should, or how it can; it just must. This party line is played out for some 40 pages until the main theme is reached thus (my translation):


Inquiry into the relations between content and form is of great interest for Marxist-Leninist aesthetics, and is rightly reckoned one of its central problems. Oddly enough, this problem has nevertheless remained in the background in published work on aesthetics in recent years, in comparison with other questions… In Marxist-Leninist philosophy there is far-reaching agree­ment that there is an indivisible dialectical unity ofcontent and form in all aspects of objective reality as well as ofsocial life. There is no content without its corresponding form, just as there is no form without its corresponding content…


Il sounds throughout like a New Statesman competition prize-winning parody of its own style. After 30,000 words of it, I felt as if I had read the same 30 words a thousand times each, not always in any strikingly different order.

   One can discern however, deep down among the dense dark verbiage, a few frail etiolated shoots of original thought. Other Marxists are sharply criticized for over-simplification – from this source, a damaging charge. Even the Soviet school can apparently lose Marx. If the teachers err, no wonder the class struggle. But Herr Lippold finds his best form in arguing philosophically that though Marxist musical aesthetics may be non-existent, it is not therefore non-essential. More than most arts, music is of course shaped by social forces, whether the home circle or the market square; and it might well benefit from a survey by a latter-day Lukacs or Caudwell. The present text’s viewpoint, however, seems too entrenched ever to see the field in perspective. The vast territory of music’s relation to humanity is narrowed down to this one arid tract, which itself resembles life mainly in being both short and dear.


The Musical Times, June 1972 (p. 566) © the estate of eric sams