The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw the invention of many new instruments in both music and science. They were sometimes made by the same people, and they were often understood to have the same purpose: to attune individuals to the rhythms, proportions, and harmonies of nature. This seminar draws connections between music, science, politics, ethics and aesthetics between 1750 and 1850, a crucial point in European history. We will examine the role of instruments in conceptions of nature, society, and the individual, traversing the clockwork regularity of the enlightenment, the turbulent longings of Romanticism, and the spooky delirium of the fantastic. The course begins with light refracting through prisms; it ends with the blaring trombones of Berlionz's opium-induced Symphonie Fantatique; along the way we will visit ideas of mimesis, mechanical observation, theories of the passions, global science, demonic virtuosity, phantasmagoria, the uncanny, and the paradoxes of bourgeois selfhood. Students will work with actual instruments, read primary texts, and might meet a 21st century dandy. The class is open to creative undergraduates and graduates from any field who want to explore a range of ideas of what it means to be human in the modern world.
In a two-part post, the Penn Gazette Arts and Culture blog features music listening suggestions from various staff and faculty at the Music Department. Both Part 1 and Part 2 highlight some new and interesting summer listening suggestions.