In 1762, the art critic Francesco Algarotti argued in his Saggio sopra l’opera in musica that the time was ripe for a new public building in which theater, knowledge and science existed in harmony with each other. “It would then become clear,” he wrote, “that a beautiful, splendid theater is not a place for bringing together a noisy crowd of human beings, but rather a solemn lecture hall, in which Addisons, Drydens and Daciers [...] would gladly be present.” With his desire to bring the theater and the lecture hall closer together, Algarotti aligns himself with the European tradition of the “Theatrum”: the term was used in the early modern period to describe not only playhouses, but also a series of different spaces for ordering, archiving and representing knowledge. Up until the early eighteenth century, however, the design and reception of such spaces was oriented towards the definition of the “theatrum” as a “showplace,” that is, as a site for the production of visual evidence. Instead, with the topos of the “lecture hall” (udienza), Algarotti in 1762 pursued a concept of education that advanced the ear as the central epistemic organ. Whereas Algarotti’s demand for an acoustically ideal theater architecture remained unspecific, towards the end of the eighteenth century, theater architects (such as Pierre Patte, George Sanders, Carl Ferdinand Langhans etc.) began to undertake theoretical and experimental research on spatial acoustics – long before the twentieth century, when the field was established as a scientific discipline.
Proceeding from this insight, my research project is dedicated to exploring the links between the history of European theater and acoustics from 1750 to the present. This period corresponds to the gradual establishment of physical acoustics and its differentiation into numerous subdisciplines, among them the subdiscipline of architectural acoustics. I wish to show thereby that the history of acoustics was not limited to the emergence of an exact science, but instead must be located in a history of the ‘acoustic’ that extends to media and cultural history and the history of the arts. The ‘acoustic’ is therefore of interest in its dual function as a) producer and b) as object of science/knowledge. It is first of all important to ask why extent theater praxis, beginning around 1750, did not simply seek out new ways of organizing space acoustically, as Algarotti demanded. Rather, an upswing in experimentation with new acoustic media technologies and transformed acoustic communication practices can be observed starting around this time. Did this make other forms of the production and transfer of knowledge, beyond the limits of the visual techniques of theater, possible? Additionally, I wish to investigate whether theater theory and practice also anticipated specific insights of acoustics, thus promoting the establishment of the discipline and later implementing its findings. My interest is thus focused here on the transfer of acoustic knowledge, media, and practices between theater and the acoustic disciplines.
Listening and attention, both in varying degrees musical and scientific concepts, began to overlap and intersect in the middle of the nineteenth century. Psychophysical studies of attention and accommodation (the change in aural experience as a result of changed attention in listening) in tone sensation was bound up with the aesthetic expectations of the music world. A close examination of the experiments of Hermann Helmholtz, Ernst Mach, Carl Stumpf, as well as the next generation of experimental psychologists of the early twentieth century, on attention and accommodation in tone sensation reveals several tensions: 1) between the subjectivity and objectivity of the listener 2) related, over the role and value of musical expertise in sound sensation experimentation, and 30) between the apparent incompatibility of universal laws of tone sensation and the historically or culturally rooted musical aesthetics and personal tastes. This examination of the experimental studies of attention and accommodation in tone sensation provides, one the one hand, a broader understanding of the changing definition of hearing and listening in both the natural sciences and the music world at the end of the nineteenth century and, on the other hand, the emergence of a new creature: the individual listener.
Early modern urban societies were primarily integrated through communication amongst those living there. The media of such communication were composed of sounds in addition to speech, rituals, and print media. All of these elements helped to structure the social, cultural, and political space of the state in a way that is specific to its epoch. The sounds of early modern cities were “legible”: they formed a highly complex acoustic media and communications system that brought a rhythm to everyday life, gave a structure to the space of the city, and, moreover, indicated specific events through specific acoustic signals. In a way that is analogous to optical media, sounds at this time can be interpreted as a networked communication or media system that is culturally formed: such a system is governed by societal norms and interwoven with societal conflicts. Historical actors did not just hear differently, but followed those specific “soundways” that formed their social world and provided them with meaning.
The guiding questions of my project include the following: to what extent can sounds be understood as media of political power? What kind of knowledge about political regimes can be communicated with regard to which sounds? Who is in control of the power that decides which sounds will be a part of the city? Conversely, can we identify strategies of acoustic subversion? What kinds of sounds would be “read” in addition to being heard, understood, and interpreted? Can one speak of a distinct sound environment of early modern urban societies? It is the hypothesis of this project that political sonic and auditory knowledgeis created mainly vis-à-vis the knowledge of the acoustic frameworks of legitimacy ordering a society. Legitimacy and illegitimacy of sounds are categories of societal power structures. Therefore, political power is always, to some extent, a measure of legitimate sound production and appropriate listening practices in a political system. At the same time, however, that which would have been deemed illegitimate or offensive noise at given period of time is by no means a priori, but rather was the result of political conflict.
My project traces the politics of acoustics through the example of the early modern urban society of Zurich in a longitudinal perspective from the fifteenth to the early nineteenth century. I am especially interested in the relationship between political, religious, and social processes of transformation and their respective production of acoustic knowledge.
My project is an investigation of the oral performance of literature in the German-speaking world from the first public readings of Klopstock's Messias to the advent of the phonograph. As Sabine Chaouche has argued, in the eighteenth century the term 'declamation' was uncoupled from the tradition of classical rhetoric and was increasingly identified with the art of speaking in the theater. In Germany in particular, the term Deklamation became synonymous with a larger cultural dispositive that encompassed a variety of discourses and practices in the realms of theater, politics, religion, literature, aesthetics and private life. As contemporary accounts of the history of language by Herder and Rousseau placed increased emphasis on the poetic and expressive dimension of spoken language, literary declamation came to occupy a privileged position within this framework. Beginning in the late eighteenth century, numerous texts were devoted to defining the art of literary declamation, providing rules for its practice and establishing a repertoire of texts for performance. At the same time, the so-called 'declamatory concert,' a type of intermedial performance that combined literary readings with music, began to be practiced independently as an art form in its own right.
Both in theory and in practice, literary declamation necessitated a confrontation between the "voice" of literature and the unique "vocality" of the individual performer's voice (A. Cavarero). For professional declamators such as Elise Bürger and Henriette Hendel-Schütz, literary declamation offered a means of vivifying the "dead letter" of print and providing the audience with an emotionally transformative media experience. Meanwhile, theorists of declamation such as Christian Gotthold Schocher and Gustav Freyherr von Seckendorff employed both musical notation and scientific discoveries in the field of acoustics in order to establish a rational, non-alphabetic system of "writing" spoken language as "declamatory music." Both theoreticians and performers of literary declamation helped to establish a new art and science of speaking, which sought to counteract the "monopoly of print" (Kittler) of the late eighteenth century by fostering an oral culture that emphasized the musical and non-verbal dimensions of spoken language. I argue that the culture of literary declamation did not undermine print culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but rather complemented it, insofar as it represented a proliferation of discourses and techniques for regulating the emotions of the listener (and the performer) through acoustic means. From the late eighteenth century onward, both print culture and literary declamation colluded in the transfer of cultural knowledge and the production of the educated bourgeois subject.
My project contributes to the network's overarching topic insofar as it investigates the emergence in the eighteenth century of hearing and listening as sites of linguistic, scientific, literary, technical and historical inquiry. I examine a variety of literary and non-literary texts, including novels (Goethe's Die Wahlverwandtschaften), reviews and narrative accounts of declamatory concerts (Der teutsche Merkur, Journal des Luxus und der Moden) and theoretical texts on declamation (Schocher, Seckendorff, J.C. Wötzel). In my readings of declamatory performances, I use methods of contemporary performance studies to describe the techniques of listening and speaking employed and developed by declamatory performers. My study is thus attentive to declamation both as a performance phenomenon and as an experimental laboratory for an emerging science of the voice. Interweaving performance theory with discourse analysis and knowledge history, my project illuminates a hitherto neglected, but nonetheless important medial and epistemic transformation in Germany prior to 1900.
During World War I, the Royal Prussian Phonographic Commission was established. The collaboration of linguists, orientalists, experts on Africa, and musicologists produced more than 2,500 grammophone and phonograph sound recordings in German prisoner of war camps. Examples of the music and the songs of “foreign peoples” on wax cylinders were intended to enlarge the collections of the Berlin Phonogram Archive. The speech and dialect samples of various groups of internees on wax discs formed the basis of the Sound Department of the Prussian State Library, established in 1920, and were transferred to the Berlin University in 1934.
The topic of my research are those sound recordings that were produced between 1939 and 1942 under the supervision of the university. Drawing legitimacy from the practice, already established during the First World War, of producing sound recordings in prison camps, three research projects were also carried out in prison camps during the Second World War: in order to analyze foreign languages, sound recordings were again made of African soldiers of the French army, who were interned in German camps in occupied France, as well as Russian soldiers interned in camps in Brandenburg. A third project extended the research agenda established in the 1920s of recording German dialects to the widest possible range: in 1941, academics recorded the dialects of German “Heimkehrer”(repatriates) from Galicia and Volhynia in “volksdeutschen Lagern” (camps of “ethnic Germans”).
My research project traces the unexamined history of the preserved sound recordings from a perspective informed by the history of knowledge and the history of science. It examines how the voices were transferred from the camps to the holdings of the Sound Archive of Humboldt University in Berlin. (Editor’s Note: in German, the word “Lager” is used to denote both a “camp” and a storage space or depot where archival materials are held.) It also asks about structural relations between the camps and the depot of voices in the archive. Sounds, speech, languages and their technical recording and reproduction are situated in an eminently political context that must be analyzed with a view to the past but also to the present.
Since the creation of the modern concert, the musical listening experience in concert halls has been dependent on intermediaries who prepared the listening experience, reporting on it, interpreting it, and spreading news of such events. In the course of the nineteenth century, journalists advanced to become the people that most often fulfilled this function. They translated what was heard into language, thereby objectifying the listening experience and making it accessible to those who were not a part of a specific and temporally limited experience of listening. In this way, journalists were constructors of knowledge related to listening, and they created a framework for concertgoers. This knowledge, summarized and presented primarily in daily newspapers, contributed to the creation of a social and cultural dimension of listening in society. Moreover, this knowledge justified the existence of concerts. Conversely, it was the aim of the concert to make such listening experiences possible. Starting at the beginning of the twentieth century, a gradual scientification of this form of journalistic knowledge began to establish itself. Themes of commonplace journalistic discourse began to be translated into special disciplines of the musical sciences, such as musical psychology, musical analysis, and musical pedagogy. Because of this phenomenon, the once central importance of journalists vis-à-vis the listening experience at concerts began to dwindle.
This project is a continuation and an expansion of themes I dealt with in my dissertation. There, I was mainly concerned with the cultural history of concerts at the beginning of the twentieth century in Frankfurt. With this project, I now turn to the question of how journalistic discourse became one of the structural conditions with regard to how knowledge about musical listening is construed in the public sphere. The project pursues several questions at once: what constituted this journalistic knowledge? What interests did the journalists themselves pursue? What journalistic tools did they use to capture the phenomenon of hearing? What kinds of boundaries did they create between visible and invisible, objective and subjective, etc.? What types of people were these journalists, and what preexisting knowledge might they have brought with them? This project does not concern itself with listening in and of itself: rather, my main interest lies in the structural conditions of such listening. The project investigates these questions on the basis of journalistic sources selected from the history of journalism that are representative of the beginning of music journalism all the way up to its heyday in the beginning of the twentieth century (e.g., Börne, Heine, Hanslick, and Bekker). At the same time, the journalists will be placed into their respective historical contexts with regard to historical anthropology in order to research the development of the journalistic construction of knowledge.
The project investigates the link, developing in the period from 1850 to 1900, between the psycho-physiological study of hearing and the cultural history of hearing and listening, in particular the practice of hearing or listening to music. Its point of departure is Hermann von Helmholtz’ theory of “tonal sentiments” (Tonempfindungen), which servedas the physiological basis of his theory of music; Helmholtz developed this idea both as a physiological basis for the theory of hearing/listening and a foundational concept of music theory. Rather than conceiving of The Theory of Tonal Sentiments (Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen) as a work that attempts to connect fundamentally discrete contributions to various disciplines such as musicology, acoustics, physiology, and psychology and at the same time seeks to heal the split between “two cultures” through interdisciplinarity, this project proceeds from the hypothesis that Helmholtz was presenting a unified and self-contained concept. It asks to what extent music itself can be conceptualized as an experimental system that significantly impacts the development of Helmholtz’ theory. For Helmholtz, even composition, insofar as it develops its own system of rules, is characterized by experimentation: it is the analytical capability executed by the ear, by means of which musicians and composers decide what aesthetic relationships between sounds are permissible. If music was indeed always a science and worked with experiments, then it was Helmholtz who introduced physiological research into its parameters. The ear, which is simultaneously an instrument of measurement and an organ, is responsible for the selection and combination of musical acoustic events. Helmholtz’ theory can thus be summed up as follows: in it, music theory and composition are conceived and reformulated as disciplines that work experimentally. Helmholtz’ theses about the foundations of music theory can thus be unified with the postulates of music theory, but they also open up a space for intervals that had no place in the music of the nineteenth century. Music in the laboratory thus encounters other ways of hearing and listening that would be developed in the music aesthetics of the twentieth century.
The starting point of this project is the question of the associations of the sound of musical instruments with specific historical contexts. The thesis is that the material and substance of the instruments presumably played an important role. For example, the bright sound of brass instruments was used in a variety of contexts, very often for music in military contexts and in war to coordinate the troops via signals and to reinforce corresponding emotions or, in clerical and royal houses, to to intensify the atmosphere of representation. In contrast, woodwind instruments, for example, were described to produce a soft sound, for example, to give the impression of a peaceful arcadia. But beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, some experiments are known which used metal for woodwind instruments, like flutes and saxophones. What reasons can we find in historical publications for these experiments? Which requirements were published and was there a close connection to the changing associations of sounds at this time?
The project focuses on musical instruments as sonic objects and symbols during the nineteenth century. Musical instruments represent social circumstances. Their use and development in close connection with spaces of music, e.g. concert halls and music making in the home, may be embodied in the materials of the instruments. The research will be based on the metaphoric qualities of these materials and substances. How can we understand the material as sign for a cultural history of music? Is it a medium which produces central forms of memory and what do we know about the historical expectations of the sounds? Concerning the science of acoustics around 1800 and later, the project analyzes the invention and development of musical instruments as acoustic experiments. Focusing on experiments with new or extraordinary materials may give further insight about instrument builders and their knowledge of music and acoustics.
Already before the 1919 implementation of a parliamentary Democracy in Germany, a growing number of people had begun to participate in politics and thereby to change the preconditions of policy making in the German Empire. Political parties and movements, as well as Kaiser Wilhelm II and his administration, had already started to use new forms of political mass mobilization at the end of the nineteenth century. The popular character of the campaign for naval armament can be seen as one example of this tendency. As capital and “imperial city,” Berlin played a central role as an arena for these new kinds of mass politics. This project therefore examines the different forms of acoustic mobilization that took place on the streets of Berlin and were part of these new mass politics. These include forms of acoustic communication at parades, demonstrations and rallies. Additionally, special attention is given to the use of public speech on the occasion of election campaigns, political celebrations and holidays. Finally, acoustic mobilization during the First World War will be analyzed separately: How were sounds used to mobilize and lift spirits on the home front? How was the musical life of the capital regulated in order to boost patriotic morale?
From the point of view of the history of knowledge, these forms of acoustic mobilization are interesting because the acoustic order of public space was always tied to an auditory knowledge of the political order. Who was allowed to emit which kinds of sounds in public? Who was granted the right to public speech and who was denied it? At the same time, purposeful acoustic mobilization required knowledge of the mechanisms of auditive perception. It will therefore also be investigated to what degree political actors systematically gathered and implemented knowledge of political rhetoric and the emotional impact of music and communal singing etc. in order to augment the impact of their acoustic mobilization.
While in recent years studies in the areas of cultural studies, the history of science, art history/studies, and media have delved intensively into questions of the status of “scientific images,” there has been little work done in the area of the acoustic dimension of scientific knowledge production. While there are numerous works devoted to the creation and dissemination of the practice of stethoscopy (auscultation) in medicine or the use of Geiger counters in radiation detection, these studies do not thematize the auditory form of the creation and representation of knowledge. This subproject, entitled “The Ear as an Organ of Knowledge: Scientific Auditory Culture and Auditive Rationality,” therefore pursues the question—on the basis of concrete case studies—of how scientific facts are created through hearing and listening practices and acoustic representations. Furthermore, the project asks what kind of significance these may be given in the history of the sciences. Within the framework of the section on scientific auditory knowledge, “Listening in the Laboratory,” the subproject thus thematizes auditory events not as objects, but rather as tools of scientific research.
At the same time, the project’s historical point of departure is the establishment of auditory diagnoses on the basis of the stethoscope. The constellation formed between hearing scientist (doctor), acoustic medium (stethoscope), and auscultated knowledge body (patient) simultaneously represents a model that productively lends itself to latter case studies in other areas of science. Therefore it shall be demonstrated, for example, how the telephone, in the physiology of the late nineteenth century, was introduced as an indicator or gauge of weak electrical currents. The Geiger counter in radiation physics, as well as acoustic representations in brain research starting in the 1920s and seismology starting in the 1950s, serve as further objects of investigation. These historic examples are discussed vis-à-vis the research practices of the “International Community for Auditory Display” (established in 1992), which had as its aim the systematic exploration of the possibilities of an acoustic representation of scientific data, as well as knowledge production by means of hearing. These case studies confirm that the sciences have employed not just optic-visual “phenomeno-technologies” (Bachelard), but also acoustic instruments and media, making measuring signals and data hearable for the purposes of analysis, and, in this way, transforming them into sounds that produce and support knowledge.
This project is guided by the thesis that the production of objective knowledge is not tied to visual access and means of representation. These findings, therefore, are in stark contrast to the aforementioned generally accepted apriori assumptions about the area of auditory senses. Since “hearing” is, in general, bound together with the emotional, intuitive, and irrational, and not with scientific rationality, this project seeks, via an analysis of the history of scientific knowledge production through hearing and listening, to reveal and problematize the historicity of notions and attributions about the senses.
I investigate one particular aspect of the entire aural spectrum: namely sound, as it is designated by the German term Klang. Here, sound is generally understood as the aspect of the aural spectrum that conveys the entire impression of that which is hearable. Sound is not identical with the musically or physically “objective” measures of an individual sound (e.g., volume; the overtones or undertones present in sound; timbre; or the rhythm of a sound sequence). What we understand to be “sound” is the entire impression brought together by all of these measures. In analytical philosophy, this kind of object or phenomenon is designated as a “secondary object.”
I designate a specific sound-image (Klangbild) (e.g., the sound-image that arises from speaking a language) as the expression of a specific cultural formation and, as such, as an expression of a certain knowledge, in line with the understanding of social anthropology, as well as some historians of science (Lorraine Daston). The development of national sound characteristics (Klangrichtungen) in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and even more specifically, of nationally diverse schools of musical instrument construction, offer empirical evidence for the notion that different types of sound actually embody and express specific world views. Following recent trends in the history of science, I argue that these differences must be be taken seriously: we must listen to them and understand them as an expression of a certain culture of knowledge and worldview. It is this argument that I take on vis-à-vis the well-known example of the sound culture known as the "deutsche Klangschule."
A further part of this project is dedicated to the development of a philosophical framework that supports the claim that sound is a form of knowledge. My argument is based on a conception of action that leaves as much room for the inherent inclination of the actor as it does for the self-relation of the actor to “external” causes. This kind of theory of action has also been advanced by John McDowell (Pittsburgh) and Jennifer Hornsby (London). Because the creation of sounds (Klänge) – both in language as well as in (classical) music – is a kind of action, sound can be philosophically conceived of as a consequence, i.e. as a cultural product created through action, which both arises from inner inclination and responds to external causes. When, during this course of action, objects are made auditory – and this can be proven philosophically – this can be thought of as knowledge.
The project approaches the question as to whether the hospitalized patient (i.e. the patient in his/her treatment environment) is acknowledged as a listening subject, and if so, which aspects of listening are included in medical documentations focused more specifically on effects and the different therapeutic uses of music in the general health care system. In the second half of the nineteenth century, magazines on medicine, physiology, psychiatry and the aesthetics of music featured articles that underlined the universal power of music. Also, individual case studies were presented that told singular stories of healing success or temporary health improvement in relation to music. In studies that focus on the different effects of music, patients suffering from mental problems in particular were increasingly seen as unique, individual listeners. Their listening habits and subsequent reactions to the sounds – sometimes but very rarely performed and even more rarely composed by the patients themselves – were observed with increasing frequency by the doctors who listed, described, and interpreted their observations according to the diagnosis, the patient’s gender, and the the nature of the musical input. Even though the mental and physiological effects of music were emphasized, articles based on medical studies in Germany, England and France mainly dealt with different listening situations either in routine medical situations or in the laboratory, and consequently with the mainly receptive function of music in a clinical context. In the second half of the nineteenth century, however (this is the current hypothesis in the present study) a differentiated nomenclature and characterization of different kinds of listeners, a typology of “listening patients” was developed. Cultural, intellectual, gendered, and even pathological differences among the patients were named. The documents that now need to be analyzed further include Eduard Hanslick’s “pathological” listener as well as Aleks Pontvik’s essays that focus on the listening patient in the Swedish music therapy practice of the mid-twentieth century. They enable us to write an audial and cultural history of the healing and hearing environment, beyond the overall mechanisms of the effects of music.
The antique myth of the Sirens stems from two lines of tradition that reflect the two diametrically opposed problems of listening. One tradition traces the overwhelming power of the sirens’ song to conquer the emotions and will of the listener. This tradition also enumerates the different types of technical aids (wax, chains, the lyre) that allowed for the safe passage of the heroes Odysseus and Orpheus past the island of the sirens. The central texts from antiquity in this tradition are Homer’s Odyssey and the story of the Argonauts. On the other hand, the Platonic and Pythagorean line of tradition tells the story of Pythagoras, who, having been given special power by the gods, was able to investigate the harmony of the spheres via the Sirens’ song. In the story of Odysseus, the song of the sirens penetrates the listener, threatening his autonomy. The story of Pythagoras, however, deals with the art of listening to that which lies on the margins of the audible as a condition for receiving new knowledge. The ability to listen to the song of the sirens is perceived, on the one hand, negatively, as a danger to the listener, while on the other hand it is understood positively, as an asset to the listener. If one takes both lines of tradition under consideration, the siren myth of antiquity shows us the condition of listening as it pertains to knowledge – yet it also points to its inherent dangers.
In the last few decades, following the interpretations of Homeric sirens by Adorno/Horkheimer and Maurice Blanchot, important works in literary studies have emerged that deal with the function and meaning of the sirens in literature. Less attention has been paid, however, to the tradition of the Argonauts and there has been only sparse commentary on the notion of the harmony of the spheres. The sirens play an important role not only in literature, but also in modern sciences, in particular in Hermann von Helmholz’ doctrine of Tonempfindungen (1863). The sirens of the Pythagorean tradition are denoted here as technical objects that serve the production of artificial tones. With his “double siren,” Helmholz wanted to solve the “old puzzle [...] that Pythagoras posed to mankind” on the basis of a theory of hearing. This theory itself is based on Helmholtz’ notion of the “grounds of consonance.” Here, the art of listening to that which lies on the margins of the audible plays a central role.
My project pursues the correlation between literary, aesthetic, and scientific knowledge about listening with regard to the two lines of tradition of the Siren myth. My thesis is that the myth of the Sirens is currently undergoing a process of updating in modern European literature, in the realms of both the history of knowledge and media history. In terms of the history of knowledge, this process of updating is taking place via a literary debate with regard to the emergence of new experimental scientific knowledge in the psychology and physiology of hearing. Here, the connection to the Siren episodes in James Joyce’s Ulysses is particularly revealing. In literary texts, furthermore, the Sirens have become figures for reflection on the possibilities and the dangers of different media (e.g., voice, writing, telephone) vis-à-vis the radical changes in media in the first half of the twentieth century. Here, the embodied nature of the voice and its effect on the cognitive functions and emotions of the listener/hearer (as in the Homeric tradition) play an important role, as does the question of the possible differences between noise and sound/tone (Pythagorean tradition).
The project investigates how different forms of listening emerge via the differentiation between different kinds of performances and their discursification. The focus is on the musical styles of the virtuosi in Paris in the 1830s, a moment created by the development of a musical (general) public and the appreciation of music as an art at the beginning of the nineteenth century. On the basis of instrumental schools (e.g., P. Baillot, L’art du violon; K. Guhr, Über Paganinis Kunst die Violine zu spielen), practical auditory knowledge is considered in conjunction with the techniques of the virtuosi. I look at how auditory knowledge manifests itself in the new development and improvement of playing techniques such as flageolet, vibrato, and portamento. In addition, I ask to what extent the compositions of Niccolo Paganini, Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst or Henri Vieuxtemps (Dispositives) reveal a virtuoso rhetoric that aims to have a specific effect on the audience. In what ways do concert programs and performances take this special auditory knowledge into account or seek to evoke it (for example, via the intentional dramaturgy of intensification or the heightened presence of arrangements of text-based works in song or opera fantasias)? How much freedom does the composition offer the virtuoso, and how does the virtuoso use this freedom in his or her performance? How does the virtuoso stage the tension between controlled compositional moments and improvisational performance? Additionally, I analyze reviews, critiques, and musical-literary representations (Heine, Fetis, Block/Brucker, and Berthoud, among others) in order to show how these forms construct the virtuoso as an event, how they discursify the auditory and the effects of music, and how they allow the virtuoso to emerge as a figure somewhere between pleasure and violence, art and commerce.
This project continues my earlier work on the history of listening to music in two ways. First, the project opens up the time period under consideration, expanding it into the first third of the twentieth century. Moreover, alongside research into violence-shaped listening experiences, the project has a focus on the utopian dimension of listening (to music). The point of departure is formed by those texts of music philosophy and criticism, especially literary texts, that chronicle, reflect, or actually establish the corresponding auditory experiences. Nietzsche’s and Wagner’s musical philosophies are considered with regard to their contemporary contexts, followed by literary and philosophical texts of the 1910s-1930s, which are analyzed on the basis of their constructions of violent and utopic auditory experiences.
At the same time, the acoustic dimension of the texts themselves should be considered. The question then becomes twofold: (a) how do the texts as acoustic artifacts hold true to their own claims, and (b) how do they conform to a rhetorical tradition stemming from antiquity, in which the effects of the tonal qualities of speech reflect on the listener? Through a focus on literary criticism, the basic medial (in this case, textual) constitution of historical data having to do with listening and, at the same time, the paradoxical connection of listening to speech, will become manifest. For, in the texts that gauge these dimensions, whether violent or utopian, the effects of tones are often attributed to their apparent immediacy, i.e. to a direct interconnection between sound, body, and emotion, which must not necessarily be first “diverted” by or mediated through cognition. It is exactly this kind of cognitive “diversion” that the texts exemplify, thereby showing this claim to be a linguistic construct of a pre-verbal communication. In other words, the texts act as a kind of barrier between experiencing sound directly via the body and the emotions, on the one hand, and having to somehow first “translate” this experience through the cognitive dimension on the other hand. In this way, the literary texts represent not just valuable sources in the sense of a “literary anthropology”; the texts also offer a privileged space of reflection in which to mediate on the fictional dimension of the history of listening and acoustic experience. In this way, the efficacy of many of these constructions become problematic. Moreover, this project traces the influence of Nietzsche’s early theories vis-a-vis the effects of Wagner’s music on the listening practices of Wagner’s fans.