Lydia Goehr

Title | Organization: 
Professor | Columbia University

Lydia Goehr is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. In 2009/2010 she received a LenfestDistinguished Columbia Faculty Award, in 2007/8 The Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC)'s Faculty Mentoring Award (FMA), and in 2005, a Columbia University Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching.

She is the author of The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music(1992; second edition with a new essay, 2007, with translations in Greek and Chinese); The Quest for Voice: Music, Politics, and the Limits of Philosophy[essays on Richard Wagner] (1998); Elective Affinities: Musical Essays on the History of Aesthetic Theory [essays on Adorno and Danto] (2008), and co-editor with Daniel Herwitz of The Don Giovanni Moment. Essays on the legacy of an Opera (2006). She has written many articles on the work of Theodor W. Adorno, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Arthur Danto (see below for publications list).

She is a recipient of Mellon, Getty, and Guggenheim Fellowships, and in 1997 was the Visiting Ernest Bloch Professor in the Music Department at U. California, Berkeley, where she gave a series of lectures on Richard Wagner. She has been a Trustee of the American Society for Aesthetics and is a member of the New York Institute of the Humanities.  In 2012, she was awarded the H. Colin Slim Award by the American Musicological Society for an article on Wagner's Die Meistersinger.

In 2002-3, she was the visiting Aby Warburg Professor in Hamburg and a fellow at the Wissenschaftskollegzu Berlin. In 2005-6, she delivered the Royal Holloway-British Library Lectures in Musicology in London and the Wort Lectures at Cambridge University. In 2008, she was a Visiting Professor at the Freie Universität, Berlin (Cluster: "The Language of Emotions") and in 2009, a visiting professor in the FU-Berlin SFB Theater und Fest.

She offers courses in the history of aesthetic theory, the contemporary philosophy of the arts, critical theory, and the philosophy of history. Her research interests are in German aesthetic theory and in particular in the relationship between philosophy, politics, history, and music. With Gregg Horowitz, she is series editor of Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts, Columbia University Press.

She also leads the Faculty-Students Aesthetics Group which meets weekly during the semester and welcomes students and faculty from many disciplines, from Columbia and the New York area.

Areas of Specialization: 

Philosophy of Music; Aesthetics; Critical Theory; Philosophy of History; 19th- and 20th-Century Philosophy.

Articles / Publications: 


1992  The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music, Clarendon Press, Oxford; pbk 1994; translations into Greek [2005], Chinese [2009], Japanese (partial) [2013], Portugese[2016], French [2014], Italian [2014/15].  2007 secondedition with new Introduction “His Master’s Choice” by Lydia Goehr and preface by Richard Taruskin.

1993 editor, Aesthetics: Past and Present. A Commemorative Issue Celebrating 50 Years of the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism and the American Society for Aesthetics, Special Issue, JAAC, 51:1.

1998 The Quest for Voice: Music, Politics, and the Limits of Philosophy, Clarendon Press, Oxford UK and U. of California Press, pbk 2002. Translation French [2015]; Chinese [2015].

2006 with Daniel Herwitz, eds. The Don Giovanni Moment. Essays on the Legacy of an Opera Columbia University Press; pbk 2008.

2008 Elective Affinities: Musical Essays on the History of Aesthetic Theory, Columbia University Press; pbk 2011. Several parts translated.

In preparation with Jonathan Gilmore: Handbook on Arthur C. Danto, coedited with Jonathan Gilmore. Wiley-Blackwell.

In preparation: Red Sea I Red Square: Bohemian passages of wit and melancholy . 



“Being True to the Work,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism47: 55-67 (JSTOR)
1996, Goldblatt and Brown, eds., A Reader in Philosophy of the Arts, Prentice Hall
2000 Derek B. Scott, ed., Music, Culture, and Society. A Reader, Oxford University Press.


“Modernity: A World Without Eyebrows,” Human Studies, 13: 173-85.

“The Power of the Podium,” The YaleReview, 79/3: 365-381.


“Concepts, Open” in Hans Burkhardt and Barry Smith, eds., Handbook of Metaphysics and Ontology, Munich: Philosophia Verlag.


“Writing Music History,” History and Theory31/2: 182-199 (JSTOR).


“Music has no Meaning to Speak of: On the Politics of Musical Interpretation,” in Michael Krausz, ed., The Interpretation of Music: Philosophical Essays, Oxford: Clarendon Press: 177-190.

“The Institutionalization of a Discipline: A Retrospective of The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticismand The American Society for Aesthetics: 1939-1992,” in Goehr, ed., Aesthetics: Past and Present51:2: 199-121 (JSTOR).


“Political Musicand the Politics of Music,” in Philip Alperson, ed. The Philosophy of Music, Special Issue, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism52:1: 99-112 (JSTOR).


“Schopenhauer and the Musicians: An inquiry into the sounds of silence and the limits of philosophizing about music,” in Dale Jacquette, ed., Schopenhauer, Philosophy, and the Arts,Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 200-228.

“The Perfect Performance of Music and the Perfect Musical Performance,” in Simon Frith, ed., New Formations27. Performance Matters: 1-22.

“Die Meistersinger: Wagner’s Exemplary Lesson,” Special Issue ‘The Trial of Richard Wagner,’ Nexus(in Dutch).

“A conversation with Lydia Goehr,” (with William Day) Conference. A journal of philosophy and theory7/1: 11-20.


“Music and Musicians in Exile: The Romantic Legacy of a Double Life,” in R. Brinkmann and C. Wolff, eds., Driven into Paradise. The Musical Migration from Nazi Germany to the United States, Berkeley: University of California Press: 66-91.

“Wagnerian Endings: The Curse and Promise of Purely Musical Listening. A Metaphysical Reading of Tristan und Isolde,” Come to Your Senses! Yearbook, Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis, Netherlands: 37-60.

Review Essay of Roger Scruton’s The Aesthetics of Music, Journal of the American Musicological Society 52/2, 398-409.


“On the Problems of Dating or Looking Backward and Forward with Strohm,” in M. Talbot, ed., The Musical Work: Reality or Invention,Liverpool University Press, 231-246 (a collection following a conference discussing my Imaginary Museum of Musical Works).


“Philosophy of Music,” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie (also part-entry on musicology).

“Radical Modernism and the Failure of Style: Philosophical Reflections on Maeterlinck-Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande,” Representations74: Philosophies in Time: 55-82 (JSTOR).

“Jewish Life and Culture, c.1912,” Schoenberg, Pierrot LunaireProject, Ian Bent, ed. (website) Columbia University.


“In the Shadow of the Canon,” Musical Quarterly 86/2: 307-328 (JSTOR).

“The Dangers of Satisfaction. On Songs, Rehearsals, and Repetition in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger,” in N. Vazsonyi, ed., Wagner’s Meistersinger. Performance, History, Representation, University of Rochester Press, 56-70; also in Otto Kolleritsch, ed. Die Musik als Medium von Beziehungsbefindlichkeiten. Mozarts und Wagners Musiktheater im aktuellen Deutungsgeschehen, Studien zur Wertungsforschung40, Wien/Graz: Universal Edition, 128-145.

“Art and Politics,” in J. Levinson, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, Oxford University Press: 471-485.


“Adorno, Schoenberg, and the Totentanz der Prinzipien. In 13 Steps,” Journal of the American Musicological Society56/3: 595-636 (JSTOR).

“Juliette fährt nach Mahagonny oder eine Kritische Betrachtung der surrealistischen Oper,” Vorträge aus dem Warburg Haus, Bd. 7, hrsg. Wolfgang Kemp, u.a., Berlin: Akademie Verlag: 167-212.

“On Music, Humor and Exile in Wittgenstein and Adorno” in Riccardo Dottori, ed., The Legitimacy of Truth, Proceedings of the III Meeting Italian-American Philosophy–Rome 2001, Münster: Lit Verlag: 79-110.

“Abgebrühte Desillusioniertheit. Mahagonnyals die letzte kulinarische Oper,” Ästhetik undAllgemeine Kunstwissenschaft48/2: 251-272.

“Gegen die Vögel. Theodor W. Adorno über Musik, Konzept und dialektische Bewegung,” hrsg. Christoph Metzger, Conceptualismsin Musik, Kunst, und Film, Berlin: Akademie der Künste: 97-114.

“Im Schatten des Kanons,” Kunst - Fest - Feier, eds. Hermann Danuser und Herfried Münkler, Schliengen: Edition Argus: 125-146.

“Music and Politics,” A conversation between Johannes C. Gall and Lydia Goehr, Eisler Mitteilungen, 32, Hanns Eisler Society, Berlin.

“Honour Displaced,” Alison Latham, ed., Sing Ariel. Essays and Thoughts for Alexander Goehr’s Seventieth Birthday, Aldershot: Ashgate.


“Dissonant Works and the Listening Public,” T. Huhn, ed., Cambridge Companion to Adorno, Cambridge University Press: 222-247.

“Adorno, Schoenberg, und der Totentanz der Prinzipien. In 13 Stufe,” Wolfram Ette, et. al, eds. Adorno in Widerstreit. Zur Präsenz seines DenkensFrankfurt: Karl Alber: 256-288.

Program note, “Walter Goehr” for performance of Malpopita, Komische Oper, Berlin.

“Music and Movement,” ed. M. Paddison, Musicae Scientiae. ESCOM: 111-123.


“Understanding the Engaged Philosopher,” T. Carman and Mark B. N. Hansen, eds. Cambridge Companion on Merleau-Ponty, Cambridge University Press: 318-51.

“Philosophical exercises in repetition: on music, humor, and exile in Wittgenstein and Adorno,” Karol Berger and Anthony Newcomb, eds., Music and the Aesthetics of Modernity, Harvard University Press: 311-340.  ANTHOLOGIZED in Routledge companion to Adorno 2015.

“Doppelbewegung. Die musikalische Bewegung der Philosophie und die philosophische Bewegung der Musik,” Axel Honneth, ed. Dialektik der Freiheit, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp: 279-317.

“Reviewing Adorno. Public Opinion and Critique,” an introductory essay for revised edition of Adorno’s Critical Models. Interventions and Catchwords, Columbia University Press: xiii-lvi.

“Para los pájaros/Contra los pájaros. Las narrativas de Danto y Adorno (y Cage) sobre el arte moderno”, en F. Pérez Carreño (ed.): Estética después del findel arte. Ensayos sobre Arthur Danto, Madrid: Machado Libros: 147-184.

“Undoing the Discourse of Fate. The Case of Der Fliegende Holländer,Opera Quarterly 21/3: 1-22.

Juliette fährt nach MahagonnyOr A Critical Reading of Surrealist Opera,” Opera Quarterly, 21/4: 647-674.

“Il concetto di musica dopo il 1800,” for J.-J.-Nattiez, et. al., eds, Enciclopedia della musica 5. L’unita della musica, Torino: Einaudi: 699-716.


“Explosive Experimente und die Fragilität des Experimentellen. Adorno, Bacon, und Cage,” Spektakuläre Experimente, Praktiken der Evidenzproduktion im 17. Jahrhundert, eds. Helmar Schramm, Ludger Schwarte, and Jan Lazardzig, Berlin/ New York: De Gruyter: 477-506.

Doppelbewegung: The Musical Movement of Philosophy and the Philosophical Movement of Music,” in J. Hermand and G. Richter, eds., Sound Figures of Modernity: German Music and Philosophy, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press: 19-63.

“The Ode to Joy. Music and Musicality in Tragic Culture,” Internationales Jahrbuch des Deutschen Idealismus /International Yearbook of German Idealism4, 57-90. Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art, eds. Karl Ameriks, Jürgen Stolzenberg.

“The Ode to Joy. Music and Musicality in Tragic Culture,”Frederik Schiller und der Weg in die Moderne, ed. Walter Hinderer (Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann, 2007): 559-590.

Entries on “Adorno” and “Benjamin” for the revised edition Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

“Film Music: Doubling, Dissonance, and Displacement,” Das Double, ed. Victor I. Stoichita, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag: 319-44.

“As narrativas modernistas de Danto e Adorno (e Cage)”: Ensaios sobre musica e filosofia, eds. Rodrigo Duarte e Vladimir Safatle, Associacao Editorial Humanitas (Portugese).

“Über Fortschritt und den musikalischen Werkbegriff. Bemerkungen zu Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf’s ‚Über Zeit und Geschichte in der Musik,’“ in Kunst, Fortschritt, Geschichte, eds. C. Menke and J. Rebentisch, Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos: 107-119.

“The Curse and Promise of the Absolutely Musical. Tristan and Isolde and Don Giovanni,” in Gerhard Seel, ed., End of Art, Endings in Art, Basel: Schwabe Verlag: 264-95.


‘“Confessions of the Commonplace,” Internet Conference on Danto’s Transfiguration of the Commonplace, organized by B. Soucek, J. Neufeld, M. Gal.

“Afterwords,” Introductory essay to Arthur Danto’s Narration and Knowledge(including his Analytical Philosophy of History), Columbia University Press: xix-lxii.

“Afterwords, An Introduction to Arthur Danto’s Philosophies of History and Art” History and Theory46: 1-28 (JSTOR).

“For the Birds/Against the Birds: The Modernist Narratives of Danto, Adorno (and Cage),” Daniel Herwitz and Michael Kelly, eds. Action, Art, History:Engagement with Arthur Danto, New York, Columbia University Press: 43-73.

Per gli uccelli/contro gli uccelli: narrazioni moderniste sulla fine dell’arte,”Revisita di Estetic, 35/2: 189-222.

Notes for M. Kowalski, ed. The Graphics, Music, and Writings of Herbert Brün, Kentler International Drawing Space.

“‘Three Blind Mice’. Goodman, McLuhan und Adorno über die Kunst der Musik und des Hörens im Zeitalter der globalen Transmission,” in C. Wulf, et. al. ed., Die Künste im Dialog der Kulturen. Europa und seine muslimischen Nachbarn, Berlin, Akademie Verlag: 220-246.


“Hardboiled Disillusionment. Mahagonnyas the last culinary opera,” CulturalCritique68: 3-37.

Amerikamüde/Europamüde. On the Very Idea of American Opera,” Opera Quarterly22 (3-4): 398-432.

“Musikdrama,” S. L. Sorgner, et. al. eds. Wagner und Nietzsche. Kultur-Werk-Wirkung. Ein Handbuch.Reinbek b. Hamburg: Rowohlt (German): 215-248

“‘Three Blind Mice’. Goodman, McLuhan and Adorno on the Art of Music and Listening in the Age of Global Transmission,” New German Critique, 35/2: 1-31 (JSTOR).

“Heil wem? Katharina: Wasted Art or the Art of Waste,” Angst vor der Zerstörung : der Meister Künste zwischen Archiv und Erneuerung. Berlin: Theater der Zeit, Recherchen 52, eds. Stephan Jöris, Sebastian Reus, Clemens Risi, Robert Sollich: 247-259.


“From Opera to Music drama: Nominal Loss, Titular Gain,” Andreas Dorschel, ed., Studien zur Wertungsforschung, Vienna/Graz; also in Wagner and His World, ed. Thomas S. Grey, NJ: Princeton University Press: 87-122.

“Kunst und Politik,” Handbuch der politischen Philosophie und Sozialphilosophie, hrsg. S. Gosepath, W. Hinsch, & B. Rössler, Berlin: De Gruyter: 692-97.

Aidaand the Empire of Emotions. On Adorno, Said, and Kluge,” Current Musicology87: 133-160.

“Normativity without Norms,” Review Essay of Andrew Bowie’s Music, Philosophy and Modernity, European Journal of Philosophy17: 597–607.

“Agon und Hybris in Politik und Kunst,” in Erziehung und Demokratie Europäische, muslimisch und arabische Länder im Dialog, eds. Christoph Wulf, Jacques Poulain, Fathi Triki: 99-118.


“Canned Laughter. Response to Daniel Leech Wilkinson,” Journal of Royal Musicological Association135/1: 63-66.

“Perspectivism without Perspective or Philosophy without Art. Standing on the Stage with Nietzsche's Gay Science,” retitled by editor as “Philosophy without Art,” New Nietzsche Studies8:1/2: 34-57.

“Perspektivismus ohne Perspektive oder: Philosophie ohne Kunst. Mit Nietzsches fröhlicher Wissenschaft auf der Bühne stehen,” Gertrud Koch, ed. Perspektive - Die Spaltung der Standpunkte,Fink: 29-48.

“How to do more with words. Two views of (musical) ekphrasis,” British Journal of Aesthetics, 50 (4), 389-410.


“’—wie ihn uns Meister Dürer gemalt!’ Contest, Myth, and Prophecy in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg,’Journal of the American Musicological Society61/1, 51-118 (JSTOR). Repr. 2014, Stefan Börnchen, Georg Mein, Elisabeth Strowick (Hg.): Jenseits von Bayreuth. Richard Wagner heute: neue kulturwissenschaftliche Lektüren, München: Wilhelm Fink.

Разорванные струны, расчлененные тела. Примерные тезисы по поводу воплощения и развоплощения музыки. (Broken Strings, Dismembered Bodies. Paragonal Theses on the Embodiment and Disembodiment of Music) in Beiträge in Paragrana, ed. Christoph Wulf: 164-198.


’Other pictures we lookat,—his prints we read.’ Danto reading Lamb reading Hogarth on the Art of the Commonplace,” for Danto and his Critics, ed. Mark Rollins. Revised edition, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell: 84-108.

“How To Do More With Words
. Zwei Konzeptionen musikalischerEkphrasis,” Die Sinnlichkeit der Künste: Beiträge zur ästhetischen Reflexivität,usw. Georg Bertram, Daniel Martin Feige and Frank Ruda: 87-114.

“Tres ratones ciegos
: Goodman, McLuhan y Adorno sobre el arte de la música y del escuchar en la época de la transmisión global Enrahonar.Quaderns de filosofia49: 121-154.

Diotimin koutek/Performing Philosophy. Interviewed by Robert Roreitner for Nomádva Slovo(Czech republic): 48-57.

“Oper: Agon und Paragone,” Basler Jahrbuch für Historische Musikpraxis 33:21-37.


“Opern für Auge und Ohr. Versuch einer bürgerlichen Geschichte des Telefons,“ in Georg Möhr and Johann Kreuzer, eds.,Vom Sinn des Hörens.Beiträge zur Philosophie der Musik,Königshausen & Neumann: 153-181; also forth as “The Diva on the Telephone“in Karen Hansen, ed., Technologies of the Diva. Cambridge University Press [2016].

With Boris Gasparov: “The Music of Language and the Language of Music,” for Colloquy on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Journal of the American Musicological Association66/1: 256-261.

“Der Agon des Improvisierens – auf Gerissenen Saiten. Zu einer Theorie von Passung und Witz,” Konturen des Kunstwerks. Zur Frage von Relevanz und Kontingenz, eds. Frédéric Döhl, Daniel Martin Feige, Thomas Hilgers, Fiona McGovern, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, München, 125-58.

“The Pastness of the Work,” ArthurDanto, Library of Living Philosophers,La Salle, Open Court Press, 345-381, with reply by Arthur Danto.

With Daniel Herwitz, Fred Rush, Michael Kelly, and Jonathan Gilmore, “Five Pieces for Arthur Danto,” in memoriam. Various places and postings

“איךלעשותעודעםמילים: שתיתפיסותשלאֶקְפְרָסיסמוזיקלי[ =“How to do more with words. Two views of (musical) ekphrasis,” in אוזןרואה, עיןשומעת: עלהקשריםביןצליללתמונהבאמנות= ed. Yael Kadudi, Ear Sees, Eye Hears: On the Interconnections among Sound and Picture in Art, Jerusalem: Magnes.


“The Concept of Opera,” Oxford Handbook of Opera, ed. Helen Greenwald, OUP, 92-133.

Goehr, Lydia. “Improvising Impromptu, Or, What to Do with a Broken String." In The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies, ed. George E. Lewis and Benjamin Piekut. New York: Oxford University Press.

“At the still point of the turning world. Two Quartets by Tom de Freston,” in Damien Freeman, Damien Freeman and Derek Matravers (eds.), Figuring Out Figurative Art(Durham: Acumen, 2014).

Foreword to reprint of Danto, After the End of Art. Contemporary Art and The Pale of History. Princeton University Press.


“Does it matter where we begin? Or, On the Art of Preparation and Preluding,” Music Theory Online


‘“All art constantly aspires to the condition of music,’ except the art of music,” in Paul Kottman, ed. The Claim of Art, Fordham University Press.

“Wagner Through Other Eyes, Or the Wit of Brevity (Thinking through parody with Mark Twain and Theodor W. Adorno), New German Critique, and for translation into German.

“Explosive Experiments and the Fragility of the Experimental (On Adorno, Bacon, and Cage),” republished in Experimental Affinities, Orpheus Institute (Belgium).

“Americans in Paris un demi-siècle après,” in English and French, Transposition (online)


“Discomposition and Fraudulence: Notes on Cavell And Adorno”

“Cultural Criticism as Social Critique,” in New Cambridge Nietzsche Companion, ed. Thomas Stern.

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