Music in the World of Arts.
by. M. Kagan.
Press House "Ut".
232p., St.Petersburg, 1996.
ISBN 05-7443-0021-X

The author of this book is well-known to Leonardo readers. Some titles of his books are placed in the summary Soviet Bibliography of the special "Prometheus" issue of Leonardo (N.5,1994). This journal published his article written specially for the "Prometheus" issue. For Russian theoreticians of art M. Kagan is known as the leading specialist in the field of aesthetics. One of his "sensational" books is called Morphology of Art [1]. It is devoted to classification of arts and their interrelation; the book has evoked a warm response among the scientific public of Russia (notably, e.g., B.Galeyev claims to have derived his "periodic system of arts" based on the ideas by Kagan [2].

Throughout this book Kagan emphasized the theme of musical arts. At the conclusion of the book Kagan promised to write its continuation in the future. Unfortunately, the book Morphology of Art was severely critisized in Soviet times by Party officials for its "bourgeois formalism". For this reason, Kagan failed to fullfil this promise during the seventies or eighties. Still even later, in the nineties there were difficulties, now financial. Withall, he has recently finally managed (after a series of journal publications on this theme) to publish this long-awaited monograph Music in the World of Arts. It is noteworthy that other researches in the USSR (Russia) were "on the alert" during the years after publication of the monograph Morphology of Art.

In 1991 B. Galeyev published the book Light Music in the System of Arts that is near to it in spirit but more local in theme [3]. At the very same time the two-volume educational manual Music as a Kind of Art by V. Kholopova was published in Moscow [4]. In her book, V.Kholopova considers music "from the inside and outside". He places emphasis on the relationships of music with other kinds of art both in the genetic and systematic plane. In the first, theoretical section "The Place of Music in the System of Arts" the author considers in full details the specificity of music, reasoning from the division of all arts into their spatial and temporal variations. Viewing music as one of the temporal kinds, Kagan considers it to be the first and the basic symptom (sign, property) that determines the ontological status of music. At the same time he believes that it will be insufficient for complete comprehension of music nature and that there arises, by virtue of this fact, the problem of its semiotic analysis (which will make it possible to determine the language of music as the sign system of "non-representational" character). In the subsequent separate chapters Kagan considers music as the "method of cognition of the human life spirit", as the "expression of man's attitude to the world". The special chapter is devoted to the analysis of genres of music. The second section of the book is of historical character; it is called "Changes of place of music in development of the world artistic culture". It treats separately such topics as "Origination and evolution of musical creation in syncretic art of antiquity", "Music in artistic culture of feudal society", "Music in artistic culture from Renaissance to Romantism", and, finally, "Music in artistic culture of 19th and 20th centuries".

The last chapter is most closely approximated to ISAST interests; it traces in full details the functions of synaesthesia in musical creation, and, correspondingly, the synthetic trends that lead to light-music experiments, to mastering and revealing of new specific potentialities of music as applied to cinema, television, and the scene of new theatre. Also scrutinized are the results of technological revolution in music, which not only generates new genres (electronic, spatial, computer music) but influences also the language and content of music itself. Like many other theoretical works of M. Kagan, this publication is provided with a number of graphical schemes that make it possible to facilitate and systematize the perception of rather complicated texts of the author. Of large and, one may say, original independent value is the extensive bibliography of books on systemic analysis of musical art (both domestic and foreign publications in many European languages).


  1. Kagan, M. Morphology of Arts, Iskusstvo, Leningrad, 1972 (in Russian).
  2. Galeyev, B. The New Laokoon: A periodic system of arts. - Leonardo, 1991, No.4, pp.453- 456.
  3. See reviews on this book: (S.Voronin in Leonardo (no.5, p.449, 1994) and I.Vanechkina in Languages of Design (no.3, p.286, 1993)
  4. Kholopova, V. Music as a Kind of Art, in 2 vols., State Conservatory, Moscow, 1991 (second edition - 1994) (in Russian).

Irina Vanechkina

(Published in Leonardo Music Journal, v.8, 1998, pp.76- 77; in Leonardo Digital Reviews, March 10, 1998, v.6, N2)