Publication Details

This book review was originally published as Mohr, R, (Review) Desmond Manderson, Songs without Music: Aesthetic Dimensions of Law and Justice, Social & Legal Studies, 11 (1), 2002.


This elegant, wide-ranging and stimulating book has everything but the music. In graphic form, even the music is available as a frontispiece to each chapter, introduced with an extract from the score of the music for which it is named. The work begins with a ‘Prelude’ and ‘Fugue’ (Bach) and has a ‘Requiem’ (Mozart) on the death penalty, while ‘Quartet for the End of Time’ (Messiaen) opposes modernism and the reification of law, looking to space (in legal geography), rather than time, for the source of a ‘critical pluralism’. Surprisingly, this apparently precious device works, and it works at a number of levels. Analogies with the pieces of music help to illustrate the point of each chapter and the playful counterpoint between the music and the argument is a source of, well, aesthetic pleasure. By drawing our attention to the appreciation of formal structure shared by music and law, as in the sparse, elegant prose of the opening ‘Prelude’, Desmond Manderson uses the format of the book to illustrate his theory.

Included in

Law Commons