Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Music Online. Grove is a registered trademark. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 12 April 2021

Rhetoric and musiclocked

  • Blake Wilson,
  • George J. Buelow
  •  and Peter A. Hoyt


The connections between rhetoric and music have often been extremely close, notably in the Baroque period. The influence of the principles of rhetoric profoundly affected the basic elements of music. (See also Analysis §II.)

Interrelationships between music and the spoken arts – artes dicendi (grammar, rhetoric, dialectic) – are at once obvious and unclear. Until fairly late in the history of Western civilization, music was predominantly vocal and thus bound to words. Composers have therefore generally been influenced to some degree by rhetorical doctrines governing the setting of texts to music, and even after the growth of independent instrumental music, rhetorical principles continued for some time to be used not only for vocal music but for instrumental works too. What still remains to be fully explained is how these critical interrelationships often controlled the craft of composition. These developments are unclear partly because modern musicians and scholars are untrained in the rhetorical disciplines, which since the beginning of the 19th century have largely disappeared from most educational and philosophical system. It was only in the early 20th century that music historians rediscovered the importance of rhetoric as the basis of aesthetic and theoretical concepts in earlier music. An entire discipline that had once been the common property of every educated man has had to be rediscovered and reconstructed during the intervening decades, and only now is it beginning to be understood how much Western art music has depended on rhetorical concepts....

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Please subscribe to access the full content.

Tijdschrift van de Vereniging voor Nederlandse muziekgeschiedenis [and earlier variants]
Kirchenmusikalisches Jahrbuch
Zeitschrift für Musikwissenschaft
Music Analysis
Acta musicologica
Journal of the American Musicological Society
Collectanea historiae musicae (1953-66)
Die Musikforschung
Journal of the Royal Musical Association
Journal of Music Theory
Archiv für Musikwissenschaft
Monatshefte für Musikgeschichte
Early Music
Musical Quarterly
Jahrbuch der Musikbibliothek Peters
Music Review
Musica disciplina
Gesellschaft für Musikforschung: Kongress-Bericht [1950-]