Hans Keller

Hans Keller

Infobox musical artist
Name = Hans Keller
Background =

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Origin = flagicon|Austria Austria
Genre = Classical
Years_active = 1938–1985
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Hans Keller (1919-1985) was an Austrian-born British musician and writer who made significant contributions to musicology and music criticism, and invented the method of 'Wordless Functional Analysis' (in which a work is analysed in musical sound alone, without any words being heard or read).


Keller was born into a well-to-do and culturally well-connected Jewish family in Vienna, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/|Oxford Dictionary of National Biography] : "he described himself as an 'unpious Jew'"] and as a boy was taught by the same Oskar Adler who had, decades earlier, been Arnold Schoenberg's boyhood friend and first teacher. He also came to know the composer and performer Franz Schmidt, but was never a formal pupil. In 1938 the Anschluss forced Keller to flee to London (where he had relatives), and in the years that followed he became a prominent and influential figure in the UK's musical and music-critical life. Initially active as a violinist and violist, he soon found his niche as a highly prolific and provocative writer on music as well as an influential teacher, lecturer, broadcaster and coach.

An original thinker never afraid of controversy, Keller's passionate support of composers whose work he saw as under-valued or insufficiently understood made him a tireless advocate of Benjamin Britten and Arnold Schoenberg as well as an illuminating analyst of figures such as Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. Much of this advocacy was carried out from within the BBC, where he came to hold several senior positions.

Keller's gift for systematic thinking, allied to his philosophical and psycho-analytic knowledge, bore fruit in the method of 'Wordless Functional Analysis' (abbreviated by the football-loving Keller as 'FA'), designed to furnish incontrovertibly audible demonstrations of a masterwork's 'all-embracing background unity'. This method was developed in tandem with a 'Theory of Music' which explicitly considered musical structure from the point of view of "listener expectations"; the 'meaningful contradiction' of expected 'background' by unexpectable 'foreground' was seen as generating a work's expressive content. An element of Keller's theory of unity was the 'Principle of Reversed and Postponed Antecedents and Consequents', which has not been widely adopted. His term 'homotonality', however, has proved useful to musicologists in several fields.

Keller was married to the artist Milein Cosman, whose drawings illustrated some of his work.

As a man very prominent in the world of 'contemporary music' (even working for several years as the BBC's 'Chief Assistant, New Music'), Keller had close personal and professional ties with many composers, and was frequently the dedicatee of new compositions. Those who dedicated works to him include:
* Benjamin Britten (String Quartet No.3, Op. 94)
* Benjamin Frankel (String Quartet No.5, Op.43)
* Philip Grange,
* David Matthews (Piano Trio No.1; 'To Hans Keller')
* Bayan Northcott,
* Buxton Orr (Piano Trio No.1; 'In admiration and friendship'),
* Robert Simpson (Symphony No.7; 'To Hans and Milein Keller').
* Robert Matthew-Walker (Piano Sonata No.3 - 'Fantasy-Sonata: Hamlet'), Op.34


"Art arises where the "arbitrary" and the "predictable" are superseded by "unpredictable inevitability"::Hans Keller, "Music Survey".

"...there is no point to musical analysis at all unless it is 'two-dimensional' -- unless, that is to say [...] , one examines the music in terms of what I call its 'Background' (and this 'Background' is the sum total of the expectations which the composer creates) and its 'Foreground' (and its 'Foreground' is what he does instead); that is to say, the composer creates certain expectations, "well-defined" expectations, which he proceeds to "meaningfully contradict"; there is therefore a strong relation between 'Background' and 'Foreground', between that which happens and that which lies at its back -- or to put it the other way round, between that which the composer leads you to expect, and that which he does instead..."::Hans Keller, Lecture on Beethoven's Op.130, BBC broadcast from Leeds University, 1973.


* Hans Keller and Donald Mitchell (Contrs & Eds): "Benjamin Britten - A Commentary on His Works from a Group of Specialists" (ISBN 0-8371-5623-8).
* Hans Keller and Milein Cosman: "Stravinsky Seen and Heard" (Toccata Press; ISBN 0-907689-02-7).
* Hans Keller (Ed. Julian Hogg): "Criticism" 1987 (ISBN 0-571-14802-6).
* Hans Keller: "Music, Closed Societies and Football" 1986 (ISBN 0-907689-21-3)
* Hans Keller: "The Great Haydn Quartets - Their Interpretation" (OUP; ISBN 0-460-86107-7).
* Hans Keller (Ed. Christopher Wintle): "Hans Keller - Essays on Music" (ISBN 0-521-67348-8).
* Hans Keller (Ed. Christopher Wintle): "Music and Psychology - From Vienna to London (1939-1952)" (ISBN 0-9540123-2-1).
* Hans Keller (Ed. Gerold W. Gruber): "Functional Analysis: the Unity of Contrasting Themes: Complete Edition of the Analytical Scores" (Lang 2001; ISBN 3-631-36059-2).
* A.M. Garnham, "Hans Keller and the BBC: the musical conscience of British broadcasting, 1959-79" (Ashgate 2003; ISBN 0-7546-0897-2).
* 'The Keller Instinct': TV documentary by Hans Keller and Anton Weinberg (Channel 4, 1985)
* 'Hans Keller: The Last Interview' (conversation with Anton Weinberg, transcr. and ed. Mark Doran, 'Tempo', No. 195 (Jan 1996), pp. 6-12
*'The Keller Column: Essays by Hans Keller' (Ed. R. Matthew-Walker, Lengnick & Co, 1990)


* Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
* Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians

External links

* [http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/person.asp?LinkID=mp59792 At the National Portrait Gallery]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTfDUyUkVYE Interviewing Pink Floyd on BBCTV, 1967]

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