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Helmholtz and the Modern Listener by Benjamin Steege

By Benjamin Steege

The musical writings of scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894) have lengthy been thought of epoch-making within the histories of either technology and aesthetics. generally considered as having promised an authoritative clinical beginning for harmonic perform, Helmholtz is additionally learn as posing a chain of chronic demanding situations to our knowing of the musical listener. Helmholtz was once on the vanguard of sweeping adjustments in discourse approximately human belief. His interrogation of the body structure of listening to threw notions of the self-possessed listener into doubt and conjured a feeling of vulnerability to mechanistic forces and fragmentary adventure. but this new picture of the listener was once at the same time stuck up in wider initiatives of self-discipline, schooling and liberal reform. studying Helmholtz along side quite a number his highbrow resources and heirs, from Goethe to Max Weber to George Bernard Shaw, Steege explores the importance of Helmholtz's listener as a logo of a broader cultural modernity.

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Gesinntsein zusammenstösst, so dürfen sie sich billig des Gesprächs freuen. Möchte ein solches Colloquium ein günstiges Vorzeichen für das Gelingen der Allianz sein, deren Abschluss diejenige Generation erleben wird, welche sich eines freieren Staats- u. ” Though Haym was the founder of the Preussische Jahrbücher, the journal is probably best known for the editorship (1866–89) of the historian Heinrich von Treitschke, another prominent nationalist liberal who was later closely associated with Helmholtz in Berlin.

Intermittent excitations of the nerves. 43 Of course, the narrative of a radical transformation from “curiosity” to generative seed of harmony activated a strategic presentational mode of Helmholtz’s own devising; and it should go without saying that we need to read it critically. In fact, the disregard for these marginal acoustic phenomena he claims prevailed before his work appeared is undoubtedly exaggerated. At least since Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Nouveau système de musique théorique (1726), it had been obligatory to begin a treatise on harmony with at least a nod to the acoustic principles of tone production, and particularly to the presence of certain harmonic upper partials which could be grouped 43 Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music, 2nd edn.

17 Despite the suggestion here that Helmholtz’s initial prose style or presentation made his work inaccessible, Helmholtz had in fact conceived Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen as a popularization of more specialized work from the beginning. 18 The publication of the Tonempfindungen in 1863, then, was meant as a transformation in his mode of address. In 1860, Helmholtz wrote to a colleague, 17 18 Bagge, “Zur Theorie der Musik,” p. 165. “Bei der aber beiden bis auf einen gewissen Grad gemeinschaftlichen Eigenschaft des Abstracten, wird man sich nicht wundern, wenn von Verehrern und Kunst- oder Wissenschaftsgenossen der Versuch gemacht wird, die Lehren ihrer Meister zu popularisiren, sie durch Befreiung von der Wucht der Zahlen oder Rechnungen einerseits, und von der Schwierigkeit der Begriffsformeln andererseits Jenen zugänglicher zu machen, die sich von diesen Dingen abgeschreckt fühlen.

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