The central concern of this book can be summarized as the recuperation of new forms of multi-sensory experience afforded by the technologies of the telescope, peepshow, magic lantern, shadow play, and phantasmagoria at the cusp of the nineteenth century. By bringing the little-known history of these audiovisual cultures to life, Loughridge challenges us to consider aesthetic experiences in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in terms that are both closely familiar to, and profoundly distant from, our present day. In one sense, this is a long history of the various forms of multimedia that permeate our modern world, yet Loughridge does not conceptualize her investigation as prehistory of technologies such as the cinema. Rather, her aim is more ambitious, in that she attempts to consider late eighteenth-century audiovisual listening practices on their own terms: as autonomous cultures at the intersection of discourses in the natural sciences, aesthetics, the arts, and spiritualism. The main thread that runs through this imaginative book is the notion that novel technologies relating to optical instruments generated new forms of listening, and that these in turn had a direct impact on the composition and reception of musical works. Accordingly, each chapter is structured around a different listening attitude and its associated technology. The first chapter focuses on a mode of listening linked with the telescope, which Loughridge terms ‘prosthetic’. Beginning with Haydn’s appeal to muted strings in depicting the lunar characters in Il mondo della Luna (1750), she traces a series of connections between an emerging popular discourse around the telescope and the keyboard fantasia, both of which were described by no less an authority than Kant as affording access to hidden regions of the moon and the mind respectively. Loughridge applies this insight to a reading of Rochlitz’s Der Besuch im Irrenhaus (1804) which emphasizes that the hidden position of his narrator is integral to the construction of the scene; indeed, as she astutely notes, a number of contemporary examples describe analogous situations in which a concealed observer loses access to his subject by altering his position and inadvertently revealing his desire for immediate, rather than prosthetic, access. The culmination of the chapter weaves these insights into a discussion of how the slow movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto situates its audience as ‘an eavesdropper … evok[ing] the conditions of sensory extension’ (p. 57). In the second chapter, Loughridge proposes that the audiovisual culture around itinerant street performers with peepshow boxes left its mark on the practice of listening with the expectation of some kind of visual reward. She maintains that the peepshow setting affords two kinds of encounters with the audiovisual realm: some sounds (the words, cries, and music produced by the showman soliciting his audience to attend to the show) arouse the viewers’ desire to see, while other sounds (predominantly the showman’s speech) instruct them how to look. Following a detailed examination of the staging of this technology in three operettas, she argues that the experience of the peepshow as a technique should be regarded as informing early Romantic accounts of striving to see imaginary images inspired by instrumental music. In the next chapter, ‘Shadow Media’, Loughridge contends that the early nineteenth-century lied’s shift from strophic to through-composed form reflects a close association between changing modes of listening and audiovisual experimentation. Pushing back against Kittler, who saw in poetic works ‘media for the hallucinatory substitution of realms of the senses’, she maintains that poetry inspired various experiments with sound and other forms of media. As a case study, she examines Burger’s ballad Lenore (1781), a poetic text that was adapted to various genres including a shadow play. As Loughridge points out, the latter required some form of audible accompaniment, thereby involving ‘an aesthetic of sound-image synchronization, calculated to produce a compelling audiovisual illusion’ (p. 131). The resultant hybrid works, she argues, proved that narrative meaning could reside not only in the text, but also in sounds or visual images, a shift that she links to the concurrent movement away from strophic settings, in which the same music supports various narrative developments, towards through-composition, which can yield alternative interpretations and psychological commentary. The fourth chapter considers the reception of Haydn’s Creation in the light of contemporary debates around technological spectacle such as magic-lantern shows. Specifically, Loughridge argues that the debates on Haydn’s word painting reveal an analogous anxiety around the status of moving-image entertainments and the modes of listening that they entailed. The creation of the world, she demonstrates, was a frequent trope in magic lantern shows, and this context helps explain why both admirers and detractors of the Creation compared it to experiences afforded by image projection. In the last chapter, ‘Beethoven’s Phantasmagoria’, Loughridge begins by recovering the pre-Marxian meaning of phantasmagoria, not, as she writes, ‘a static illusion of distance but rather a dynamic process of gradual approach’ (p. 201). She demonstrates how optical technologies informed late eighteenth-century anxieties around the sight of ghosts, while also giving rise to popular entertainments that explicitly promised to present ghostly sightings as the result of skill and technique rather than magic. At the same time, an arms race emerged around finding new ways to depict spectral illusions convincingly, primarily by means of an approaching and receding motion enabled by continuously adjusting and refocusing the lens of a magic lantern, often coupled with specific sounds that served to obscure production noises while also enhancing the visual illusion. She then examines E. T. A. Hoffmann’s famous review of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, arguing that it indexes a number of visual tropes associated with this aspect of moving-image technology, which in turn shaped his response to the work in both philosophical and analytical terms. Haydn’s Sunrise, Beethoven’s Shadow develops a number of significant trends in recent scholarship. For one, Loughridge’s theorization of audiovisual culture complicates the prevalent turn to sound studies by arguing that musical experience can possess a culturally determined visuality even if experienced solely before our mind’s eye. Such imaginary sights are tightly linked not only to discourses around optical and sonic technologies, she shows, but also to notions of subjectivity, race, and class, the latter two embodied in the recurring figure of itinerant Savoyard street performers. By focusing on the roles of scientific instruments in both affording and disabusing enchantment, moreover, her project aligns with similar efforts from within the history of science to recover the meaning and history of technologies that bridge the domains of the rational and the magical (such as Jessica Riskin’s recent study of the role of automata in debates on the concept of life). Finally, this book constitutes a welcome corrective to received narratives pertaining to the German Romantics’ dismissal of the visual in favour of recovering a set of vastly different aesthetic experiences that reflected—and constituted—the re-enchanted audiovisual culture of the time. By taking magic lanterns, peepshows, and shadow plays seriously, Loughridge reveals the hitherto unknown extent to which late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century audiences were concerned with multi-sensory experience. One of the many payoffs of this remarkable book is the methodology that emerges from its musical analyses, which expertly illustrate the author’s thesis that both the programmatic and ‘absolute’ music of the early Romantic era reflects specific features of technological mediation. Another is the attention that it calls to different listeners’ physical and social positions vis-à-vis different forms of technologies. Loughridge’s archive also deserves special mention, in that she has assembled an exquisite set of primary-source documents regarding the little-known social practices associated with the peepshow, shadow play, and phantasmagoria. One could perhaps have wished for more statistical details regarding the extent to which this audiovisual culture was consumed, and for additional information about the economics of the various devices discussed, particularly pertaining to how and where they were manufactured and sold. This reader would also have welcomed more clarity regarding the criteria for inclusion of materials from Britain and France in what is otherwise presented primarily as a phenomenon local to certain German social, musical, and literary circles. Finally, the political dimensions of the turn to depictions of the supernatural, which is frequently the subject of these new forms of multimedia, are also left unexamined for the most part. These very minor points notwithstanding, this is an important book that stakes out new ground in music history, media history, sound studies, and the history of science. Meticulously researched and clearly written, Haydn’s Sunrise, Beethoven’s Shadow provides an original and provocative lens through which to reassess early Romantic engagements with sound and spectacle. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Music and Letters – Oxford University Press
Published: May 15, 2018
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