The Invention of 'Folk Music' and 'Art Music'

Emerging Categories from Ossian to Wagner

by Matthew Gelbart

Series: New Perspectives in Music History and Criticism (No. 16)

We tend to take for granted the labels we put to different forms of music. This study considers the origins and implications of the way in which we categorize music. Whereas earlier ways of classifying music were based on its different functions, for the past two hundred years we have been obsessed with creativity and musical origins, and classify music along these lines. Matthew Gelbart argues that folk music and art music became meaningful concepts only in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and only in relation to each other. He examines how cultural nationalism served as the earliest impetus in classifying music by origins, and how the notions of folk music and art music followed - in conjunction with changing conceptions of nature, and changing ideas about human creativity. Through tracing the history of these musical categories, the book confronts our assumptions about different kinds of music.

In The Press

Review of the hardback: 'The Invention of 'Folk Music' and 'Art Music' is an important work with a wealth of interesting things to say to students of the Enlightenment and the Romantic Revival. It represents a major contribution to the field.' William Donaldson, author of The Highland Pipe and Scottish Society, 1750–1950, Eighteenth-Century Scotland