Sacred Harmonies: Music and Religion in Berlin, 1760-1840


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Berlin in the period around 1800 is often considered to be the cradle of modern theology, as well as the center of modern musical aesthetics and music institutions. Without taking these coeval changes for granted, this project addresses the ways music and religion became related categories of modern knowledge, arguing for their simultaneous and mutually-dependent emergence. It does so by tracing what “church music” meant and how it was practiced in Prussia’s capital: “Kirchenmusik” long existed in discrete civic locales for corporate worship. By the nineteenth century, its repertory entered the informal, scattered sites of Protestant domestic devotion, thus disrupting church music’s attendant pedagogical methods, musical genres, and liturgical functions. Romantic witnesses to these transformations mounted new critiques upon church music in Berlin. The political and pedagogical interventions prescribed by their critiques subjected music and religion to new scientific modes of inquiry, culminating in their co-establishment as fields of study in the liberal modern university.