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Generalized Musical Intervals and Transformations Paperback – November 16, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0199759941 ISBN-10: 0199759944

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (November 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199759944
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199759941
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.7 x 5.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #823,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Generalized Musical Intervals and Transformations, David Lewin's masterpiece, has prompted a twenty-year efflorescence in the field of mathematical and systematic music theory. GMIT leads readers to the head of a series of distinct paths, suggests by example where each path leads, and leaves readers to their own explorations. Many music theorists now spend their careers working out different aspects of the vision presented here; there is plenty and enough to go around."-Richard L. Cohn, Battell Professor of the Theory of Music, Yale University

"David Lewin's great gift was his ability to connect sophisticated mathematics to musical experience in ways that were deeply compelling, never losing sight of either the music, or the experience. Together these two volumes display both his theoretical brilliance and his sensitivity to the individuality of musical works. Most significantly, they are imbued with his unflagging dedication to and abiding love for the acts of making and understanding music."--Andrew Mead, Professor of Music, University of Michigan

"Lewin was a revolutionary thinker, and GMIT is a revolutionary book."--Journal of the American Musicological Society

"David Lewin's work is among the most important on music theory in the twentieth century. Through some of the examples of practical applications, Generalized Musical Intervals and Transformations was the inception and theoretical basis of the 'Neo-Riemannian' strand of tonal music theory. In addition, its transformational network analysis paradigm has become part of every music theorist's standard repertory for analysis, and has since been extended by Lewin himself, Klumpenhouwer, Lambert, Stoecker, Headlam, Rahn, and Mazzola among many others. The analytical essays in Musical Form and Transformations illustrate the new analytical paradigm Lewin introduced in Generalized Musical Intervals and Transformations. These seminal works on music theory are essential reading."-John Rahn, Professor of Music, University of Washington

"While David Lewin's thought had been animated for decades by some of these books' ideas---the complex significance of interval, the audibility of pitch-class inversional indices, the definition of directed motion more by context than convention---it was their concentrated presentation here that enabled many readers to assimilate them as a 'theory.' The result was a shift in the discipline's conception of its methods, even its goals, to the point where imitation of the books (of their imitable aspects) could become a career path. In a renewed encounter with the originals, we are confronted once more by Lewin's intellectual probity, his intense concern with every construction's relation to hearing (which need not mean anything so simple as that every construction is heard), his fastidious eschewal of hype. With these taken as exemplary, the field would change again."--Joseph Dubiel, Professor of Music, Columbia University

"A book that has rightly earned its place as one of the most important and highly esteemed of its kind in the last half century or so...This OUP volume makes what truly is a revolutionary theory on the way music works (and not just contemporary music... Bach and Wagner people the opening pages in no small way) available to us now. Put in the work to understand the admittedly often dense (but always lucidly set out) material which Lewin handles so deftly, and the rewards are huge. The technicalities of the book's production, indexing, footnoting, clarity of reproduction of the examples (musical and mathematical), proofing and so on are all just as one would expect from OUP. Unreservedly recommended."

About the Author

Over his 42-year teaching career, David Lewin (1933-2003) taught composition, with an increasing focus on music theory, at the University of California at Berkeley, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Yale University, and finally at Harvard University. Among his music-theoretic writings are many articles and books, including Musical Form and Transformation (Yale, 1993), which received an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award, and Studies in Music with Text (posthumous, Oxford 2006). He was the recipient of honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago, the New England Conservatory of Music, and the Marc Bloch University, Strasbourg, France, for his work in music theory.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Spencer Topel on May 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I have studied this book, and continue to study it. This text has been a wealth of information for my own compositional work as well as my understanding of integrated serial technique. Milton Babbitt considers David Lewin a genius and Generalized Musical Intervals and Transformations is proof of his statement. In addition to this comment he made recently after Mr. Lewin passed away, he mentioned that a fair portion of his writing remains unpublished. It is my hope that a wise publisher or institution will come along soon and see the value of this important theorist's work, and return the books that are out of print to the presses and publish as much of his remaining work as possible.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gene De Lisa on July 24, 2014
Format: Paperback
" recognized as the seminal work ..." by whom? I'm going to have to drop you a letter grade for using passive voice.

This is a publish or perish tome. Music theory has jumped the shark with writings like this.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By theta on August 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Music theory can profit quite a bit from objective mathematical analysis, but it's well to remember that music theory can never BE mathematics. At some point in the late twentieth-century certain music theorists began to pose as mathematicians and to spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to define rigorously the terms of a proposed mathematical analysis without ever getting to the mathematical analysis itself (to say nothing of the actual music). Lewin is even worse (or better, depending on your proclivities). His "generalization" is not even specific to notes or rhythms or instrumentation. Instead we have musing about mathematical group theory in the abstract. I wouldn't mind so much if his prose style were not so hideously pompous. In any case, I don't see how anything is to be gained.
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