How not to listen to music': factual knowledge narration in 19th-century music guides

01 November 2017 → 31 October 2020
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Curatorial and related studies
    • History
    • Other history and archaeology
    • Art studies and sciences
    • Artistic design
    • Audiovisual art and digital media
    • Heritage
    • Music
    • Theatre and performance
    • Visual arts
    • Other arts
    • Product development
    • Study of regions
19th-century music guides
Project description

By the end of the 19th-century, music had grown increasingly complex. Audiences lacked a viable explanation of the new structures and musical language that composers had overwhelmed them with. Music guides filled that gap: they offered new ways of talking about music (e.g. the leitmotiv)
and radically altered the discursive strategies we use to process and relate music. Long seen as a stronghold of amateurism in comparison to the scientific treatment of music, music guides have rarely been turned into the object of sustained academic attention. My project will look at music guides from a literary perspective. I shall examine the new textual strategies that
authors employ to explain music to a layman audience. Music guides, I argue, inflate a personal experience into a reliable source of knowledge. They are prime instances of factual narration in that they are designed conceal the personal foundation of the information they convey. On the
one hand, the genre pursued didactic ambitions: authors imparted knowledge and talked about music in a factual sense. On the other hand, they shunned an all too technical way of talking about music. Instead, music guides relied on empathy to immerse the reader in the listening experience.
A time in which notions of 'fake news' and ‘post-truth’ have become commonplace, requires an analytic apparatus that allows us to understand how texts convey facts and information. My project about music guides aims to provide such a theoretical framework.