Document Type

Honors Project

Publication Date



Johannes Brahms composed music in a time when ideas about meaning in music were intensely divided. In late nineteenth-century Europe, the banners of “absolute” and “program” music waved above polemic diatribes concerning musical expression. Although quite aware of the arguments swirling around him, Brahms was reluctant to get involved. Evidence shows that he really wanted nothing to do with either side of the debate. Since the nineteenth century, many musicians have relied upon “absolute” and “program” categorizations in order to understand how Brahms thought meaning could be expressed in music. This misguided approach hinders active discussion of meaning more than it supports it. Understanding the historical aesthetics of nineteenth-century Europe is important, but letting old categorizations from the past limit interpretations in the present stifles fruitful interaction with the music.

Level of Honors

cum laude


Conservatory of Music


John Ito

Keep Honors Project_Score.pdf (2437 kB)
Supplemental Score for Keep Honors Project