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Rousseau on Music, Redux

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Friday, February 01, 2019
9:30 am - 11:00 am
Jacqueline Waeber

Join the Franklin Humanities Institute for its new Friday morning series, tgiFHI! tgiFHI gives Duke faculty in the humanities, interpretative social sciences and arts the opportunity to present on their current research to interlocutors in their fields. A light breakfast will be served at 9am.

Music was Jean-Jacques Rousseau's lifelong passion: his output triggered inflammatory polemics caused by his indiscriminated praise of Italian music and his hatred of French music. Rousseau denied the French the possibility of having their own music, since their language is devoid of musical accent, contrarily to Italian-a linguistic argument that culminated in his Essay on the Origin of Languages.

Two centuries of scholarship have fetishized Rousseau's binary French vs. Italian, despite its many paradoxes. I argue instead that this binary should be read as a metaphor for the debate on Nature vs. Nurture and as the symptom of a paradigmatic moment in Western art music: one that saw during the first half of the eighteenth century the demise of late Baroque practices favoring semi-improvisatory performance, and the emergence of a modern practice, encouraged by the rise of the Classical era, that reifies the score as the only authoritative source.

About the presenter: Jacqueline Waeber is Associate Professor of Music, with research interests in Melodrama and related genres, from opera to film; theatrical practices and visual cultures; French musical aesthetics, Rousseau.

Contact: Sarah Rogers