Kerman, Joseph (Wilfred)

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Kerman, Joseph (Wilfred)

Kerman, Joseph (Wilfred), American musicologist and critic; b. London (of American parents), April 3, 1924. He studied at N.Y.U. (A.B., 1943), subsequently taking courses with Strunk, Thompson, and Weinrich at Princeton Univ. (Ph.D., 1950, with the diss. The Elizabethan Madrigal: A Comparative Study; publ. in N.Y., 1962). He also taught at Westminster Choir Coll. in Princeton, N.J. (1949–51). In 1951 he joined the faculty at the Univ. of Calif., at Berkeley, being made a prof. in 1960 and serving as chairman of its music dept. from 1960 to 1963 and again from 1991 to 1993. After serving as Heather Prof, of Music at the Univ. of Oxford (1971–74), he resumed his professorship at Berkeley. In 1977 he became a founding ed. of the journal 19th Century Music, serving as its co-ed, until 1989. In 1997-98 he was the Charles Eliot Norton Prof, of Poetry at Harvard Univ. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in London (1972) and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1973). A leading figure in the generation of American musicology directly following its mostly German or German-trained founders, Kerman has also been influential with general college students through the many editions of his “Introduction to Music” textbook Listen (1972), and with intellectuals at large through his writings in periodicals such as the Hudson Review and the N.Y. Review of Books. His first book, Opera as Drama (1956; rev. 1988), which has been called a minor classic, manifests along with evident shortcomings the level of critical insight developed further in Kerman’s more sustained and scholarly work on Beethoven and Byrd. His tract Contemplating Music (1985) is credited with nudging the discipline of musi-cological from a more philological, positivist orientation toward criticism and cultural studies.


Opera as Drama (N.Y., 1956; rev. 1988); The Beethoven Quartets (N.Y. and London, 1967); with H. Janson, History of Art & Music (N.Y. and Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1968); ed. L. van Beethoven: Autograph Miscellany (”Kafka Sketchbook”) (London, 1970); ed. WA. Mozart: Concerto in C, K. 503 (N.Y., 1970; Norton Critical Score); with V. Kerman, Listen (N.Y., 1972; 7th ed., 1999, with G. Tomlinson); The Music of William Byrd: Vol. I, The Masses and Motets of William Byrd (London, 1981); Contemplating Music (Cambridge, Mass., 1985; publ. in England as Musicology, London, 1985); ed. Music at the Turn of the Century: A “19th-Century Music” Reader (Berkeley and Oxford, 1990); Write All These Down: Essays on Music (Berkeley, 1994); Concerto Conversations (Cambridge, Mass., 1999).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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