This chapter discusses the aesthetics of music in contemporary novels by Vikram Seth (A Suitable Boy and An Equal Music), Janice Galloway (Clara), Ian McEwan (Amsterdam), Amit Chaudhuri (The Immortals), and Kirsty Gunn (The Big Music). The music featured in these novels ranges from Western classical music (An Equal Music, Clara, and Amsterdam) to North Indian classical music (A Suitable Boy and The Immortals) to classical Scottish bagpipe music (The Big Music). In their own ways, all authors write against the perceived cultural centrality and aesthetic universality of European art music. While Seth in An Equal Music, Galloway, and McEwan undermine the aesthetic ideal of absolute music propounded by Eduard Hanslick, Seth in A Suitable Boy, Chaudhuri, and Gunn appropriate it for Hindustani music as a non-Western classical tradition and ceòl mór as a marginalised Western classical tradition. This, then, marks an act of decentring Western classical music and its self-perceived universal aesthetic validity, and is contrasted with the narrow range of music that E. M. Forster thought worthy of being considered sublime.
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