Essays on the Philosophy of Music

This volume contains a selection of essays in translation by the German philosopher and man of letters Ernst Bloch (1885–1977), on the philosophy of music. For Bloch - often simply assimilated to the Marxist tradition, but whose thought shows a strongly individual and idealist cast - music was a primary focus on reflection. His musical knowledge and expertise were of a very high order and he was well acquainted with many of the leading composers and theorists of music of his time in Germany: even divorced from his philosophy his criticism remains of value and significance. Throughout, whether discussing the complex and varied relations between text and music, or questions relating to the ‘expressive’ as opposed to the ‘descriptive’ functions of music, Bloch is intent on elucidating and placing musical experience.


Translator’s preface; Introduction; 1. The philosophy of music; 2. Magic rattle, human harp; 3. Paradoxes and the pastorale in Wagner’s music; 4. On the mathematical and dialectical character in music; 5. The exceeding of limits and the world of man at its most richly intense in music; Translator’s notes; Index of persons and musical works.


‘ … this anthology and its translation into English are an event. Peter Palmer’s version represents ataxing encounter with the sybilline eloquence of the original. It reads persuasively. David Drew’s ample preface … is of the greatest interest and incisiveness.’

– George Steiner, Times Literary Supplement