An Unnatural Attitude traces a style of musical thought that coalesced in the intellectual milieu of the Weimar Republic—a phenomenological style that sought to renew contact with music as a worldly circumstance. Deeply critical of the influence of naturalism in aesthetics and ethics, proponents of this new style argued for the description of music as something accessible neither through introspection nor through experimental research, but rather in an attitude of outward, open orientation toward the world. With this approach, music acquires meaning in particular when the act of listening is understood to be shared with others.
Benjamin Steege interprets this discourse as the response of a young, post–World War I generation amid a virtually uninterrupted experience of war, actual or imminent—a cohort for whom disenchantment with scientific achievement was to be answered by reasserting the value of imaginative thought. Steege draws on a wide range of published and unpublished texts from music theory, pedagogy, criticism, and philosophy of music, some of which appear for the first time in English translation in the book’s appendixes. An Unnatural Attitude considers the question: What are we thinking about when we think about music in non-naturalistic terms?