Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226425979 Published August 2013
Cloth $58.00 ISBN: 9780226425962 Published June 2010
E-book $10.00 to $35.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226425986 Published January 2010 Also Available From

A Language of Its Own

Sense and Meaning in the Making of Western Art Music

Ruth Katz

A Language of Its Own

Ruth Katz

384 pages | 4 halftones, 7 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2009
Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226425979 Published August 2013
Cloth $58.00 ISBN: 9780226425962 Published June 2010
E-book $10.00 to $35.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226425986 Published January 2010

The Western musical tradition has produced not only music, but also countless writings about music that remain in continuous—and enormously influential—dialogue with their subject. With sweeping scope and philosophical depth, A Language of Its Own traces the past millennium of this ongoing exchange.

Ruth Katz argues that the indispensible relationship between intellectual production and musical creation gave rise to the Western conception of music. This evolving and sometimes conflicted process, in turn, shaped the art form itself. As ideas entered music from the contexts in which it existed, its internal language developed in tandem with shifts in intellectual and social history. Katz explores how this infrastructure allowed music to explain itself from within, creating a self-referential and rational foundation that has begun to erode in recent years.

A magisterial exploration of a frequently overlooked intersection of Western art and philosophy, A Language of Its Own restores music to its rightful place in the history of ideas.  

Review Quotes
Rose Rosengard Subotnik, Brown University
“This book is the crowning achievement of a first-rate scholar, drawing on decades of intensive as well as extensive expertise. The perspective it offers on Western art music is not just exceptionally well informed but also thoroughly original. Scholars in generations to come will find it an invaluable document of how scholars working at the end of the Western canonic paradigm viewed that paradigm.” 
Wall Street Journal
A Language of Its Own is not a long moan about the rise and fall of Western music. Ruth Katz is an elegant analyst, not a polemicist. And she is hopeful that our musical tradition can regain its footing, perhaps by recreating the ‘abstracting’ process that allowed Western music, despite its inability to describe what it does, to beguile and fascinate us for so long.”
Times Literary Supplement
“This is a history of Western art music ‘in its entirety,’ a process of historical development, in the old-fashioned Hegelian sense, that ‘culminated in what is generally known as “absolute music.”’ The result is a Fukuyamalike reading of the end of a musical history that was completed by the composition of the great nineteenth- and twentieth-century works.”
Jeffrey Alexander, Yale University
“Intertwining musicology with cultural and intellectual history, Ruth Katz produces an almost unnervingly brilliant philosophical history of sound. Following in the footsteps of Max Weber, Katz is able to draw upon semiotics—as Weber was not—to understand musical rationalization. Reconstructing Western music as a signifying system without concrete referent, A Language of Its Own inserts music analysis into contemporary debates about culture and social theory.”
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