Hans Keller

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Hans (Heinrich) Keller (11 March 1919 - 6 November 1985) was an Austrian-born British musician and writer who made significant contributions to musicology and music criticism, as well as being an insightful commentator on such disparate fields as psychoanalysis and football. In the late 1950s he invented the method of "Wordless functional analysis", in which a musical composition is analysed in musical sound alone, without any words being heard or read.


  • ...there is no point to musical analysis at all unless it is 'two-dimensional' – unless [...] one examines the music in terms of what I call its 'Background' (and this 'Background' is the sum total of the expectations which the composer creates) and its 'Foreground' (and its 'Foreground' is what he does instead). That is to say, the composer creates certain expectations, well-defined expectations, which he proceeds to meaningfully contradict. There is therefore a strong relation between 'Background' and 'Foreground', between that which happens and that which lies at its back – or to put it the other way round, between that which the composer leads you to expect, and that which he does instead...
    • Hans Keller, Lecture on Beethoven's Op.130, BBC broadcast from Leeds University, 1973.
  • Well, there it is. I think you can pass your verdict as well as I can. My verdict is that it is a little bit of a regression to childhood, but after all, why not?
    • Hans Keller, discussing the then-new group Pink Floyd, The Look of the Week, BBC TV, May 1967.

Quotes About Keller

  • My experience from many talks with Hans Keller: always touching the nerves of a subject. Never escaping commitment to an answer. Sharply cutting half truths. Generous and gentle to a reliable friend. Regardful for struggling minds, uncompromising with garrulous talkativeness in words as well as in music. Quick but never in a hurry. Precise timer and flexible thinker. Innovative from a deep source of sensitiveness and fully conscious observations. Untiring worker.
    • Josef Tal. Music Analysis 5 (2/3) 1986, p. 392.
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