The Enlightenment in Concert: The Concert Spirituel and Religious Music in Secular Spaces, 1725-1790


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This project explores the intersection between religion and the Enlightenment by studying several early concert series in the eighteenth century. For the first time, spectators could buy tickets to hear music outside of the court, church, or opera. It focuses on the Concert Spirituel, a series founded in Paris in 1725 and imitated in Berlin, Leipzig, and Port-au-Prince. Comparing the concerts in these different cities, the dissertation shows that the public concert, often seen as an institution of Enlightenment sociability, was deeply influenced by earlier religious mentalities, especially debates about the propriety of ‘operatic’ music in churches. By comparing this to the display of religious paintings in secular spaces, the study tells a broader history of inadvertent secularization over the course of the century.