Karen Kupperman, Professor of History at New York University, will give the inaugural presentation for the JCB/Brown British Atlantic Seminar in the MacMillan Reading Room. She will speak on "“Music and Language in the Early Modern Atlantic.”
Music, a branch of mathematics, was a central study for scholars in the early modern period. Music offered a way to understanding the structure of the universe, and to solution of central conundrums in the physical sciences. Musical knowledge and some facility in playing a stringed instrument were marks of gentility. As Europeans began to travel widely, singing and playing instruments, often accompanied by dancing, were the principal mode of communication in encounters, and self-presentation through music appeared to be a universal impulse. Some argued that music had preceded language, and music appeared to offer an avenue to creation of a universal language which could make the whole world intelligible.