Paper Session
Nov 20, 2021 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211120T1400 20211120T1450 America/Chicago Sound, Listening, and Early Modern Music AMS 2021
“What Art Thou Pursuing?” Listening and Speculating in the South Sea Bubble of 1720
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 20:50:00 UTC

The South Sea Bubble--a society-wide investment mania stoked by the eponymous joint-stock company--lured, thrilled, and ultimately, ruined many British investors of the eighteenth century. Remembered since as one of the world's first major stock market crashes, the Bubble has continued to attract responses ranging from satire to scholarship. Music's connections to the economic crisis could be (and have been) observed in compositions such as Telemann's "La Bourse" suite, and through biographic details including, most famously, Handel's investment in the scheme. Such discrete case studies have, however, yet to offer a coherent theory of music's role in early financial capitalism; nor have they examined Europe's nascent stock markets' imaginative consequences for music. Drawing on recent historiographical descriptions of the South Sea Bubble as an epistemic event, this paper focuses specifically on how speculation applied to both investing and listening.

In the wake of the Bubble, topical ballads proliferated in the print market of Britain amid a swirl of texts and images chronicling and satirizing the hysteria. Several such ballads by Thomas D'Urfey and Anne Finch were subsequently reproduced in medley prints, where they overlapped visually with illustrations of playing cards and stock scrips. The co-presence of musical and financial ephemera in these printed collectibles, I argue, suggests a mutual generation of monetary and aesthetic interests. These medleys, functioning as a kind of multisensory portfolio, reified the Bubble as a once alluring prospect by inviting the viewer-qua-listener to relive the experience of interpreting the market in a paper economy. In so doing, they reveal the inherently sensuous aspect of a financial bubble and simultaneously encapsulate the impact of the market's media environment on ballads as sonic currencies and commodities. Further to illustrate this continuum between financial and musical speculation, I turn my attention to Handel's circle of patrons and collaborators who personally invested in the South Sea Company. Informed by their investor experiences, I suggest that Handel's music performed and published in and around that heady year of 1720 might also have been understood against the backdrop of a new cultural epistemology configured around financial calculation.

Morton Wan
Cornell University
Hyperreal Authenticity in the Postwar Early Music Recording
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 20:50:00 UTC

Since the 1950s, recordings have served as the most accessible disseminators of "how early music should sound," offering listeners the idea that one can hear the music of Bach, for instance, as he might have played it, on instruments he might have known, in places that would have been familiar to him. Yet recordings have never been considered alongside instrument making and philosophies of performance practice as tools, rather than as products, of the postwar early music revival. This paper suggests that the postwar early music movement has been as dependent on labels, producers, and sound engineers, as on more visible actors like musicians, musicologists, and instrument makers, to gain resounding international commercial success without ever integrating into the mainstream classical market. From Deutsche Harmonia Mundi's partnership with the owners of the Schloss Kirchheim (1960s-1990s), Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt's recording the complete Bach cantatas for Teldec (1970-1990), and Scott Ross's recordings and films in the Château d'Assas for Erato (1970s-1989), to the Netherlands Bach Society's All of Bach project, seminal early music recordings have been defined by not only artists, instruments, and repertoires, but also sounds and spaces.

Regardless of debates among specialists over the last century, the postwar early music recording industry has fully embraced an aesthetic of "hyperreal authenticity," a veneer of authenticity that projects an idealized past derived from historical materials using modernist techniques. Labels and sound engineers have produced soundworlds that have come to represent specific artists, repertoires, and early music as a whole by utilizing historical spaces, places, and acoustics alongside cutting-edge technologies. Sound engineers specifically bring the very sounds of the past that transport listeners from their living rooms to faraway spaces and acoustics. To do so, they turn to technological artifice and virtuosity to make the impossible possible, for historical instruments and spaces resist the conditions that make commercial recordings viable. This paper examines the craftsmanship of the middlemen of early music history-members of the Resistance, women, and immigrants who have collectively contributed to producing the qualities we have grown to seek out in the recordings we consume.

Saraswathi Shukla
UC Berkeley
The Sounds of Siam: Sonic Environments of Seventeenth-Century Franco-Siamese Diplomacy
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 20:50:00 UTC

A series of diplomatic contacts between France and Siam was initiated in the 1660s primarily through missionary efforts and the expansion of France's global trade network. These diplomatic drives and their historical significance have been described by previous commentators in relation to Louis XIV's global ambitions and his efforts at royal image-building, including musicologists who have explored the "Siamese airs" composed by Michel Richard Delalande as well as the attempted transcription of Siamese songs by some members of the French delegations. An aspect of these exchanges that has attracted relatively little commentary is the attention given by the participants and chroniclers to the sonic environment the French travelers experienced in Siam: how the sounds, musical or otherwise, that engaged their attention might have come to function as an aspect of their diplomatic efforts, either impeding or furthering them. Aside from the royal audiences, which held primary documentary importance for those representing the French crown, without question the ceremonial activities that most frequently captured the interest of the French travelers were those that took place on the river. The travelers remarked not only on the magnificent sight of massive river processions, but also on the musical instruments and rhythmic rowing that were key features of the experience of these processions. I will argue that the development of water features at Versailles, and the royal use of the Grand Canal in hosting important visitors, including diplomatic visitors, provided a framework that may have helped the French diplomats to understand and appreciate the Siamese river processions. A second significant element of the Siamese soundscapes for the French was the extraordinary silence that accompanied the Siamese king everywhere he went, a silence that contrasted in the extreme with the soundscape of Louis XIV's Versailles. Within the context of the Louis XIV's attempts to expand France's influence in the world, the sounds and silences described by the French travelers provide additional insight about the diplomatic initiatives, and how they understood, or misunderstood, Siam and its culture.

Presenters Downing Thomas
University Of Iowa
University of Iowa
Cornell University
No attendee has checked-in to this session!
Upcoming Sessions (Local time)