Along with its wide-ranging discussions of theoretical topics, the 1650 treatise Musurgia universalisby the German Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680) includes what may be the first transcriptions of bird songs.
The illustration gives the nightingale’s song followed by those of the chicken, the cuckoo, the quail, and the parrot; the latter says χαίρε (“hello”). Vox cuculi is notated as the familiar falling minor third heard in cuckoo clocks (see below).
A facsimile edition of the treatise has been issued by Georg Olms (Hildesheim, 1970; reprinted 2006).
During his tenure at the museum Sachs wrote and published “La signification, la tache et la technique museographique des collections d’instruments de musique” (Mouseion xxvii–xxviii , 153–84), a manifesto for instrument museums and restoration deontology that established basic music museological principles. He argued for the primacy of the exhibition over the collection, and built a theory of the musical object that has never required updating. Many of Sachs’s propositions far exceeded the aesthetic concepts of Western music, reflecting the concerns of a universalist musicologist well before the codification of ethnomusicology.
This according to “Curt Sachs as a theorist for music museology” by Florence Gétreau, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history.
In Macunaíma, o herói sem nenhum caráter (Macunaíma, the hero without character) by the Brazilian musicologist, ethnomusicologist, poet, and cultural activist Mário de Andrade (1893–1945), the title character leaves his home deep in the jungle for a mystical quest to São Paulo to retrieve the muiraquitã, an amulet said to embody all of the history and traditions of his culture. Macunaíma succeeds in his mission, but in the process he undergoes a series of dramatic transformations; finally, he is changed into a constellation. He leaves for the firmament with a cryptic remark: He was not brought into the world to be a stone.
The story can be read as a metaphor for the cultural developments that Andrade helped to shape: He advocated bringing the jungle to the city to create the modernist aesthetic of brasilidade that informed the growth of the Brazilian creative arts and the parallel development of musicology and ethnomusicology there. Like Macunaíma, Brazilian modernism did not come into the world to be a stone, with all its implications of rigidity, contour, and well-defined boundaries—rather, brasilidade relishes improvisation, exploration, and fluid boundaries that can be perpetually transformed.
This according to “Macunaíma out of the woods: The intersection of musicology and ethnomusicology in Brazil” by James Melo, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history.
Although the pedagogue and author Wilhelm Heinrich von Riehl (1823–97) was not formally trained in music, he wrote extensively about the social significance of music making, and he argued for an approach that treated music history as cultural history. He criticized music histories centered on great composers, and advocated a more inclusive cultural approach that appreciated the unsung heroes and everyday life of the past.
Riehl was even more critical of his own time, lamenting the costs of transforming Germany into a modern industrial society; while he called for a more encompassing definition of Germany’s musical heritage, he rejected all of the art music of the day, and particularly railed against the works of Wagner. Riehl, therefore, is an ambiguous figure: He championed the idea of music as culture, but he explicitly rejected a future for music as art.
In his 1882 unpublished essay Die Eigenthümlichkeiten der magyarischen Volksmusik, Franjo Ksaver Kuhač (1834–1911) used and explained the term musicology. Since the Vierteljahrsschrift für Musikwissenschaft appeared three years later with Guido Adler’s definition of the term, Kuhač assumed—and he died with this conviction—that he was the first to have coined it.
Kuhač was also an early visionary in comparative musicology, a stream that fed into the beginnings of ethnomusicology. As he saw it, the discipline’s task was to determine the laws of any given nation’s traditional music so these could be used as the basis for a national style in art music; his overarching goal was to create an awareness of Croatian national music and to establish its place in the context of Central European culture.
In the second quarter of the sixteenth century Nuremberg was the epicenter of the so-called German Josquin Renaissance; the music of Josquin des Prez and his contemporaries formed the core of the repertoire taught in schools, sung by amateur choral societies, and included in the published anthologies that served those markets. As a music theorist and rector of one of the city’s principal schools, Sebald Heyden was confronted, perhaps for the first time in Western music history, with urgent problems regarding historical performance practice.
Although the music was only 40 to 50 years old, its mensuration and proportion signs were already obsolete and no longer understood. Heyden approached the task of recovering their meanings from a historian’s perspective; by reading old treatises, studying old music in a local private collection, and analyzing his observations with abstract reasoning, he created a theory that enabled singers to produce what he believed to be authentic performances of music of the past. He read conflicting opinions on his topic, felt free to declare some authorities right and others wrong, and drew clear and consistent conclusions about problematic issues. His influence on later scholars was incalculable.
Conference reports illuminate intellectual history with a window on a particular moment. Since conference papers present the most current scholarship, a collection from a single conference provides a glimpse of the state of research on many topics at that time.
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