Leonard B. Meyer

American composer, philosopher, and music theorist

Leonard B. Meyer (January 12, 1918 – December 30, 2007) was a musicologist, composer, author, and philosopher. He contributed major works in the fields of aesthetic theory in Music, and compositional analysis. Best known for his various musical theories expressed in his book Emotion and Meaning in Music and Style and Music: Theory, History, and Ideology.


  • "In 'pure' instrumental music, the strategies chosen by composers to create unity were responsive to the tenets of Romanticism...Even in the absence of an explicit program, motivic continuity created a kind of narrative coherence. Like the chief character in a novel, the 'fortunes' of the main motive--its development, variation, and encounters with other 'protagonists'--served as a source of constancy throughout the unfolding of the musical process."
  • "Because of the variables and the complexity of their interaction, the data assembled by descriptive musicology yield relatively few observable regularities."
    • "Universalism and Relativism in the Study of Ethnic music", Ethnomusicology 4, no. 2:49-54 (1960); reprinted in Reading in Ethnomusicology, p. 270-71.
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