This week we sat down with Professor Michael Puri of the McIntire Department of Music. Professor Puri specializes in music theory and analysis, 19th- and 20th-century classical music (especially Ravel, Wagner, and Debussy), critical theory, memory studies, and hermeneutics. At the University of Virginia he has taught a variety of courses, including all levels of music theory, as well as seminars on nineteenth-century music, program music, French music at the fin de siècle, and Schenkerian analysis. 

Some of the questions covered in this episode include:

  1. What is the value, if anything, of music that is intended to be flashy? Or on the flip side, is there detriment to appreciating a work of art only because it sounds good, or is pleasing?
  2. What is the distinction between “program music” and “absolute music”? What were some of the debates surrounding “program music,” and why was it so contentious?
  3. What caused such a major change in the purpose for which composers composed, from celebrating the “glory of God” in Bach’s time, to expressing and celebrating oneself in the Romantic Era?
  4. Has this trend of music to that began with the Romantic celebration of the individual (“express yourself”) gone too far? Are musicians are so focused on self-expression that they forget to consider art in other regards than “how it makes them feel”?
  5. What are some tips for listening to music? How can one become a more engaged, thoughtful listener?
  6. In 2011 you came out with a book on Ravel called Ravel the Decadent: Memory, Sublimation, and Desire. Can you describe the project of this book? What made you want to write about Ravel?

And many more!

(Also, here is the piece that Professor Puri references in his interview, Maurice Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit


Thank you again Professor Puri!

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