So long as linked with words, tones retain an embarrassing residue of earthiness. This is the reason why, in the last analysis, adherents to Hegel’s view of music cannot regard music set to words as music of the highest rank, as “absolute music.” Down to this day, the more severe among them bear Beethoven a grudge for having permitted tones to make their way spontaneously back to words in the last movement of his last completed symphony. Others regard this as the exception that confirms the rule: after all, Beethoven’s thirty-six other symphony movements, his sonatas, and his chamber music speak about nothing and to nothing but “the inner life of the soul that is wholly devoid of an object.” “From the heart—may it reach other hearts”: the heart knows no objects.

Victor Zuckerkandl, Sound and Symbol, Volume 2: Man the Musician