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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: April 2020

Sonorous Sublimes: An Introduction


This introduction to the volume provides overviews of theories of the sublime and musicology’s engagement with the sublime, before outlining the fresh perspective brought by this collection. The focus is on historically specific experiences of the sublime: although the centre of gravity is the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, in the well-known centres of intellectual debate on the sublime in Europe, a widened purview considers performers and audiences, as well as composers and works, as agents of power. The authors distinguish between the different aesthetics of production, representation and effect, while understanding these as often mutually reinforcing approaches. A significant cross-temporal finding to emerge from the collection is music’s strength in playing out the sublime as transfer, transport and transmission of power; this is allied to the persistent theme of destruction, deaths and endings. The density of this thematic complex in music is a keynote of the dialogue between the chapters. The volume opens up two avenues for further research, suggested by the adjective ‘sonorous’: a wider spectrum of sounds heard as sublime, and (especially for those outside musicology) a more multifaceted idea of music as a cultural practice that has porous boundaries with other sounding phenomena.