“European Music” as an Emerging Concept in Western-European Thought, 1680s–1820s

Thursday, March 24, 2022, 11:00am

Thursday, March 24 at 11:00AM

“European Music” as an Emerging Concept in Western-European Thought,1680s–1820s

Mason Gross School of the Arts presents this lecture with noted musicologist David R. M. Irving titled "'European Music' as an Emerging Concept in Western-European Thought, 1680s-1820s." Irving is a leader in the field of global music history, which seeks to destabilize the idea of a "Western" or "European canon," elucidating instead the great extent to which European music history is intimately linked to global exchanges of knowledge, practices, and cultures.

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David R. M. Irving
ICREA & Institució Milà i Fontanals de Recerca en Humanitats-CSIC

National styles in music were potent symbols of collective cultural identity in early modern Europe, but for much of the period there was no notion of a supranational pan-continental music. It was not until the long eighteenth century that the compound term “European music” (with the adjective and noun used contiguously, in whichever order) began to appear in the writings of western Europeans. Significantly, it appeared almost exclusively in the contexts of comparison with cultures beyond Europe. This seminar offers a critical overview of the conceptual history of “European music” in western-European thought from the 1680s to 1820s, through a range of case studies. I suggest that the origins of the term and concept stem predominantly from reflexive self-fashioning in contexts of intercultural comparison with extra-European musics, rather than from dialectical resolution of aesthetic disputes within the continent (although the latter undoubtedly played a role). I also ask whether the term risks anachronism if applied without careful qualification to certain musics before or during the long eighteenth century, since such a label has the potential to imply degrees of homogeneity and essentialism that cannot be retrospectively projected.

David R. M. Irving is an ICREA Research Professor in Musicology at the Institució Milà i Fontanals de Recerca en Humanitats-CSIC, Barcelona, a Corresponding Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and an Honorary Senior Fellow at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, the University of Melbourne. He undertook his doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge and has taught at the University of Nottingham, the Australian National University, and the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Colonial Counterpoint: Music in Early Modern Manila (Oxford University Press, 2010), co-editor of the journal Eighteenth-Century Music, and co-general editor of the forthcoming Cultural History of Western Music series from Bloomsbury (2023). His awards include the Jerome Roche Prize from the Royal Musical Association and the McCredie Musicological Award from the Australian Academy of the Humanities.