Joseph Kerman, Colorful Critic of Musicology, Dies at 89 Joseph Kerman By Vivien Schweitzer March 25, Joseph Kerman, an eminent musicologist and critic who modernized a field he had found insular and stagnant, challenging conventional wisdom with colorful, pungent prose, died on March 17 in Berkeley, Calif. He was His death, after a long illness, was confirmed by his daughter, Lucy Kerman. Kerman, the author of a number of admired books and essays, disliked what he saw as the intellectual isolation of musicology and encouraged a more multidisciplinary approach. In , for example, he noted that feminist criticism, an integral part of film, literary and art studies, was largely absent from musicology. Among Mr.

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He constantly challenged conventional musicological assumptions across his more than half-century career in an attempt to stimulate more profound academic discussion about music in the discipline. Even though he retired in after 43 years on the UC Berkeley faculty, he remained active in musicological circles for many years thereafter. Born in London to an American journalist, Joseph Wilfred Zukerman changed his name to Kerman because, as he was wont to say, he was tired of being at the end of the alphabet.

Kerman served in the U. Navy after his graduation and upon his discharge from the service married Vivian Shaviro on September 14, Bukofzer, professor on the Berkeley music faculty from until his premature death in , was another important influence on him. Kerman became a full professor in and was chairman of the music department from to He again became chairman of the Music Department from until Kerman published numerous other books and articles. Joseph Kerman held many honors among his most cherished being tapped to give the Faculty Research Lecture at UC Berkeley, the highest peer accolade for a Berkeley scholar.

Many of them grace the faculty of music departments in the United States and abroad. Joe and Vivian designed and built an extraordinary and gracious garden, which they loved, and kept a home that welcomed and pampered all. Together they hosted opera singalongs, elegant dinners, and dance parties at which Joe played jazz piano, enjoyed gardening, dog shows, and shared political intrigue.

Joseph Kerman was preceded in death by his son Jonathan d.


Joseph Kerman, Colorful Critic of Musicology, Dies at 89

Photograph: Kathleen Karn As a writer, the American musicologist Joseph Kerman, who has died aged 89, brought the highest standards of scholarly rigour and precision to his chosen musical specialisms. He was also a teacher at American and British universities for more than 40 years. Unlike many of his colleagues, Kerman was convinced that thinking and writing about music was too important to be left to academics. For him, writing about music was a humane discipline along the lines of literary criticism, and he deplored the tendency he noted towards arcane jargon and "scientism" in musicology. Producing convoluted explanations of musical mechanisms with the aid of sophisticated analytical tools he felt was a waste of time: what counted was finding a deeper understanding of the values and meanings in the music itself. When young, he used Kerman as a pen-name, and then adopted it officially.


Joseph Kerman, musicologist, critic, cultural shaper, dies

He then joined the faculty of University of California, Berkeley where he became a full professor in and was chairman of the music department from to In , he was appointed Heather Professor of Music at Oxford University , a post he held until , when he returned to Berkeley and again became chairman of the music department from until his retirement in For Kerman, the value of an opera as drama is undermined when there is a perceived disconnection between text and music. He maintained an interest in the English madrigal composer William Byrd throughout his career, and wrote several influential monographs on his work.

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