Music Now is an informal forum series for Brown’s community of composers and music scholars. These talks are free and open to the public.
About this Talk, “Beneath Exoticism: Hidden Hybridities in Early Modern European Music”
The study of musical exoticism in early modern European music has focused largely on the critical analysis of forms of representation found within canonic works. Yet this overwhelming focus on cultural representation and its attendant discourses has arguably diverted attention away from asking how deeper degrees of global interconnections, European economic hegemony, and historiographic discourse shaped and influenced the making of Western art music. There are examples of hidden hybridities – performance practices, instruments, music theory – that were so thoroughly naturalized and normalized within European practice that their exotic origins were forgotten, or reinvented. Meanwhile, reflexive processes of oppositional self-definition that emerged in European music discourse as a result of global comparative ethnographies fostered new European philosophical and aesthetic perspectives on music that made people who self-identified as Europeans feel increasingly distanced from their ethnic others. In this context, a close reading of certain early modern music texts reveals a tendency to systematically erase or denigrate Jewish and Islamic influence on the musics of Europe, while some writers articulated either implicitly or explicitly a sense of a cultural incommensurability with musics of other societies, with this sense of difference and superiority reinforced by the broader patterns of taxonomic thinking. There is, however, a disconnect between the incipient subtexts of a monolithic “European” essentialism and exceptionalism in early modern historiographic discourse, on the one hand, and evidence of the diversity and non-normativity of actual performance practices, on the other. The latter suggests that there was greater continuity between European and non-European practices than is reflected in the treatises and historiographies of the time. This colloquium critiques examples of hidden hybridities in early modern European music through a subversive reading of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century texts, proposing an approach that could offer a useful paradigm to current work in the global history of music.
About David R. M. Irving
ICREA & Institució Milà i Fontanals–CSIC
David R. M. Irving studied violin and musicology at Griffith University and the University of Queensland, and undertook his doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge. He was a Junior Research Fellow at Christ’s College, Cambridge; held a post-doctoral position at King’s College London; then taught at the University of Nottingham, the Australian National University, and the University of Melbourne. He became an ICREA Research Professor in 2019 and is based at the Institució Milà i Fontanals-CSIC (Barcelona). His research spans from music in early modern intercultural exchange to early modern global history and historical performance practice. He is co-general editor of the forthcoming Cultural History of Music series from Bloomsbury, and co-editor of the Cambridge University Press journal Eighteenth-Century Music. His awards include the Jerome Roche Prize from the Royal Musical Association and the McCredie Musicological Award from the Australian Academy of the Humanities. [More Info]