Notes on Sound: Studies in Nineteenth-Century Acoustics and Aesthetics


ACLS Fellowship Program




The relationship between nineteenth- century thinking about sound (in the sciences) and about music (in philosophy and the arts) was often marked by mutual misunderstanding. Yet, the encounter of acoustics and aesthetics was more productive than is often thought. Certain key concepts shared by acousticians and musicians provide points of entry for a critical reconsideration of the cross-fertilization between these two distinct spheres of thought. In detailed inquiries into the concept of Klang (sonority), the study of physiological aesthetics, technological innovations , and the eventual overcoming of certain, idealist convictions, this study reconnects both sides in this dialogue between the sciences and the arts. The wider aim is both methodological and current: in the twenty-first century, at a time when the gulf between the sciences and the arts seems wider than ever, and when—paradoxically—the scientific study attracts a lot of attention, this example from history holds valuable lessons for us.