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This article is a microhistory of music collecting in eighteenth-century America. It focuses on the life and collection of an elite white woman, Sally Brown, who gathered an amount of music that was unusual for women in the USA at that time. She was able to do so because her family had a successful mercantile business, one that included the slave trade. Sally’s experiences shed light on the gendered history of amateur music-making, which this article posits were connected to other gendered forms of domestic labour in the early American republic. By tracing how Sally acquired music, this article demonstrates the importance both of affective, personal ties and of the anonymized labour of the global trade network, which supplied her and other consumers with music-book materials. This article argues that, in ways with which musicological scholarship has yet to reckon, intimacy and labour contributed to music collecting at both individual and structural levels.
This article compares three French operas from the fin de siècle with regard to their appropriation of Gregorian chant, examining their different ideological and dramaturgical implications. In Alfred Bruneau’s Le rêve (1891), the use of plainchant, more or less in literal quotation and an accurate context, has often been interpreted as naturalistic. By treating sacred music as a world of its own, Bruneau refers to the French idea of Gregorian chant as ‘other’ music. In Vincent d’Indy’s L’étranger (1903), a quotation of Ubi caritas does not serve as an occasional illustration, but becomes essential as part of the leitmotif structure, thus functioning as the focal point of a religious message. Jules Massenet’s Le jongleur de Notre-Dame (1902) provides a third way of using music associated with history and Catholicism. In this collage of styles, plainchant is not quoted literally, but rather alluded to, offering in this ambiguity a mildly anti-clerical satire.
This article proposes that the beginnings of twentieth-century microtonal music and thinking were shaped more by restraint in composers’ thinking than by a full embrace of the principle of ‘progress for progress’s sake’. Pioneering microtonal composers such as Ferruccio Busoni, Julián Carrillo, John Foulds, Alois Hába, Charles Ives and Richard Stein constitute an international group of breakaway modernists, whose music and writings suggest four tropes characterizing this first-generation microtonal music: the rediscovery of a microtonal past, the preservation of tonality, the refinement of tonality and the exercise of restraint. The article traces these tropes of early twentieth-century microtonal experiment in works by Carrillo, Foulds, Hába, Ives and Stein with reference to writings and music by Busoni, Nikolay Kul′bin, Harry Partch, Karol Szymanowski and Ivan Vyschnegradsky. It adds to the growing scholarship about early twentieth-century tonally based aesthetics and techniques, and broadens perspectives on the history of twentieth-century microtonal music.
Cornelius Cardew named his monumental graphic score Treatise after Ludwig Wittgenstein’s early philosophical masterpiece Tractatus logico-philosophicus, and this well-known fact has engendered speculation about whether there might be other connections between Cardew’s composition and Wittgenstein’s book. Previous commentaries have focused on possible allusions to the Tractatus in the visual imagery employed by Cardew, and this article includes further suggestions of this type. However, it concentrates on more general affinities between Treatise, as Cardew conceived of it prior to his involvement with the free improvisation group AMM, and the philosophy adumbrated in the Tractatus. Foremost among these is a striking concordance between Cardew’s initial enthusiasm for an isomorphic mode of interpreting Treatise and Wittgenstein’s picture theory of the proposition. The article also excavates traces of the picture theory in the numerological basis of Volo solo, a more conventionally notated by-product of the Treatise project.
Umkhosi wokukhahlela is an annual ceremony in the KwaBhaca Great Kingdom (Eastern Cape, South Africa) that celebrates virginity among young women and girls. Not regularly practiced for decades, it has recently made a comeback, having been strategically adopted by King Madzikane II as a tool of empowerment in the fight against the HIV pandemic, the rise in teen pregnancies, rape and school dropouts, as well as the abuse of women in general. This article investigates the return of Umkhosi wokukhahlela through Antonio Gramsci’s notion of ‘articulation’. As we shall see, the ritual is a particularly engaging and thoroughgoing example of how local communities intertwine the past with the present to reshape their own identity, borrowing from tradition to articulate specific life lessons germane to the present – and future – of the Bhaca people.
This article takes a site-specific, interactive sound installation called Pleasure Garden as a space for thinking about contemporary forms of musical experience. I develop a relational account of the ‘co-reception’ of Pleasure Garden, not centred on listening subjects, but distributed across audience members, artists, researchers and the more-than-human assemblage of the installation itself. I also discuss the effects of several overlapping cultures of ‘audiencing’ associated with Western art music, sound art and other forms of cultural experience – variously individualistic, distracted and participatory – characteristic of late capitalism. Tracing how Pleasure Garden both responded to and was interrupted by these wider forces, I take this case as suggestive of a deep ambivalence: that musical experience is at once powerfully conditioned and generatively uncertain. Throughout the article, problems of method, interpretation and representation intertwine, raising questions about how to study forms of musical experience that evade conventional ethnographic enquiry.
Michael Gallope’s book Deep Refrains is an in-depth study of the ineffable core of musical experience.4 But it engages ineffability without eliminating the pragmatic material of music’s economic, technological and even ethical mediations; and it posits a synergistic relationship between these realms. Gallope casts equal doubt on the determinism that construes music’s ineffability as wholly absorbed in mediation and on the vitalism that construes it as radically open. Framed by and theoretically grounded in the thinking of four twentieth-century philosophers (Ernst Bloch, Theodor W. Adorno, Vladimir Jankélévitch and Gilles Deleuze), the book deftly steers between the Scylla of music’s irreducible sensuous materiality (and its attendant invitation to decipherment) and the Charybdis of its elusive ineffability (and its attendant vanishing act in the face of decipherment). The book begins by reflecting on the fascinations and prohibitions of the harmoniaia in ancient Greek philosophy. Already here, Gallope revises the standard interpretation of these founding texts, demonstrating the ways in which Socrates, Glaucon, Aristotle and others in fact consider music as at once deeply mysterious and also strictly rule-governed. This conception of music’sperplexing precision is shown to be shared in ‘global’ contexts less available to music history, including (for example) the Ikhwan Al-Safa, an eleventh-century priesthood of Islamic scholars. At the same time, Gallope draws attention to the continuity between simplified taxonomies of the ancients and the instrumentalization of their axioms for contemporary engagements with affect, so rampant in the era of emerging neuromedia. Instead of recoiling from music’s indeterminacy (retreating to silence, say, or insisting on music’s unspeakable mystery), Gallope attempts to unpack the critical potential at the heart of auditory experience. On the other hand, he argues, such potential is not harnessed by marking the movements of music’s conceptual nomenclatures alone. Noting that music ‘never speaks like a language, nor is it entirely nonlinguistic’, Gallope seeks to account for the specificity of its ‘vague impact’.5 In other words, while there is a residue of conceptual mediation at work in all sonic encounter, music’s ‘sensory impact’ cannot be subsumed by that residue.