Romantic Anatomies of Performance

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Romantic Anatomies of Performance

James Davies
Berkeley Book Chats
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall

Professor of Music James Q. Davies is a historian of nineteenth-century musical training and performance. In his book, Romantic Anatomies of Performance (University of California Press, 2014), he explores immersive modes of knowing and being with music.

Romantic Anatomies of Performance addresses the very matter of musical experience: the hands and voices of virtuosic musicians. Rubini, Chopin, Nourrit, Liszt, Donzelli, Thalberg, Velluti, Sontag, and Malibran were prominent celebrity pianists and singers who plied their trade between London and Paris, the most dynamic musical centers of nineteenth century Europe. In their day, performers such as these provoked an avalanche of commentary and analysis, inspiring debates over the nature of mind and body, emotion and materiality, spirituality and mechanism, artistry and skill. Davies revisits these debates, examining how audiences and musicians themselves made sense of extraordinary musical and physical abilities. This is a history told as much from scientific and medical writings as traditionally musicological ones. Davies describes competing notions of vocal and pianistic health, contrasts techniques of training, and explores the ways in which music acts in the cultivation of bodies.

After an introduction by Thomas Laqueur (History), Davies will speak briefly about his work and then open the floor for discussion.

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