» Nonsite Author: Patrick McCreless
January 20th, 2013
Formalism, Fair and Foul
By (Yale University)

Fair is foul, and foul is fair;
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

Thus chant the three witches at the beginning of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Now it’s clear enough that the witches weren’t talking about formalism; they had more sinister, bloodier business to attend to. But suppose for a moment that they were talking about formalism–in aesthetics in general, or about formalism in musicology, music theory, and composition in particular. What then might their words mean?

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