CALIBAN REBORN by Wilfrid Mellers


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Wilfrid Mellers is an extremely literate and productive British scholar and critic; and some of his many books, such as Music in a New Found Land (America) and Music and Society, are among the best on their respective subjects. However, this volume, prepared for Ruth Nanda Anshen's World Perspectives series, is considerably slighter than his other works, and in its sketchiness lies most of its deficiencies. It is not, by any means, a scholarly history of modern music, nor does Mellers have an overarching critical thesis to propound. Caliban Reborn is, rather, a jumpy commentary in which a number of preoccupations are introduced, dropped, and introduced again. Most of these preoccupations are of a philosophical or literary character, and in this respect essentially musical gestures. Moreover, Mellers patently has large quarrels with contemporary practice, particularly the revolt against traditional notions of hierarchy; but rather than approach these quarrels directly, he all too often talks around them. At its best, the book analyzes in close detail two major contemporary operas--Wagner's Tristan and Debussy's Pelleas. Otherwise, Mellers has done better elsewhere.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1967
Publisher: Harper & Row