Thursday, March 6, 2014

Instruments and Order: In Search of “Nature Music”

An Illustrated Presentation by

Dr. Emily Dolan, University of Pennsylvania

Lecture at 6:00 PM

Please register here for this free event.

Left: Chladni figures. Chladni, Ernst Florens Friedrich. Traité d’acoustique. Paris: 1809. Collection of the Wagner Free Institute of Science Library.

Right: Ascidiacea. Haeckel, Ernst. Kunstformen der Natur. 1904

What is nature’s voice? Does it understand harmony or know melody? Can nature sing? During the early 19th century, many inventors and acousticians were fascinated by the idea of harnessing natural tones. The idea that music and nature are closely bound is an ancient one that stretches back to the Harmony of the Spheres. The “nature music” of this period, however, was understood not as silent mathematical proportions, but rather as actual sound: beautiful, ethereal tones that were thought to linger from a prelapsarian time. Musicologist Emily I. Dolan explores the attempts to organize and control the voice of nature with new, and often fantastical, instruments.

Emily I. Dolan is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania. She specializes in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century musical culture; in particular she is interested in the intersections between the histories of music, science, and technology. Her first book, The Orchestral Revolution: Haydn and the Technologies of Timbre (Cambridge University Press) was published last year.













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