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Journal Article

Overture and Finale: Lévi-Strauss, Music, and Religion

Christopher I. Lehrich
Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Vol. 23, No. 3/4 (2011), pp. 305-325
Published by: Brill
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23555784
Page Count: 21
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Abstract

Claude Lévi-Strauss's writings are filled with intricate discussions of music, seemingly intended to clarify his thinking about myth and ritual. His peculiar, idiosyncratic musical remarks point in surprising directions, posing a significant and continuing challenge to scholars of religion. In an important recent book, music semiologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez explicates Lévi-Strauss's musical ideas and levels a number of strong criticisms. Drawing on the original texts as well as Nattiez's critique, I argue that while Lévi-Strauss is certainly wrong about music, this very wrongness reveals dimensions of his project of considerable importance for our own discipline. Specifically, I find that Lévi-Strauss's conception of myth, as it arises in the context of his somewhat bizarre ideas about contemporary music, raises difficult methodological and ethical questions about particularism and the necessity of comparison.

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