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Music-Historical Egyptomania, 1650–1950

Music-Historical Egyptomania, 1650–1950 Alexander Rehding Several years after completing his grand Egyptian opera Aida, premiered in 1871, the composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813­1901) reminded his friend Opprandino Arrivabene (1805­1887) of a frustrating visit to the Egyptian museum in Florence.1 The two had ventured there during the preparatory phase of the opera to examine an ancient flute, following the claim by the influential Belgian musicologist Francois-Joseph Fetis (1784­1871) that the ¸ ´ entire system of ancient Egyptian music could be gleaned from this instrument. This ancient musical system, Verdi recalled reading in Fetis's Histoire ´ generale de la musique (1869), was in every way the equal of modern music, ´ ´ ``except for the tonality of the instrument.''2 Verdi visited the museum in high hopes of sophisticated musical inspiration for his Egyptian opera project, but what he found instead was a fragment of a simple ``pipe with four holes, like the ones our shepherds have.''3 In the letter to Arrivabene recounting this incident, Verdi repaid Fetis with some colorful invective, ´ A preliminary version of this article in German, ``Die agyptische Spieldose,'' was given ¨ as a keynote speech to the conference Konstruktivitat von Musikgeschichtsschreibung ¨ (Gottingen, 2012). Original versions of quotations in http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of the History of Ideas University of Pennsylvania Press

Music-Historical Egyptomania, 1650–1950

Journal of the History of Ideas , Volume 75 (4) – Oct 21, 2014

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Publisher
University of Pennsylvania Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 The Journal of the History of Ideas, Inc.
ISSN
1086-3222
Publisher site
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Abstract

Alexander Rehding Several years after completing his grand Egyptian opera Aida, premiered in 1871, the composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813­1901) reminded his friend Opprandino Arrivabene (1805­1887) of a frustrating visit to the Egyptian museum in Florence.1 The two had ventured there during the preparatory phase of the opera to examine an ancient flute, following the claim by the influential Belgian musicologist Francois-Joseph Fetis (1784­1871) that the ¸ ´ entire system of ancient Egyptian music could be gleaned from this instrument. This ancient musical system, Verdi recalled reading in Fetis's Histoire ´ generale de la musique (1869), was in every way the equal of modern music, ´ ´ ``except for the tonality of the instrument.''2 Verdi visited the museum in high hopes of sophisticated musical inspiration for his Egyptian opera project, but what he found instead was a fragment of a simple ``pipe with four holes, like the ones our shepherds have.''3 In the letter to Arrivabene recounting this incident, Verdi repaid Fetis with some colorful invective, ´ A preliminary version of this article in German, ``Die agyptische Spieldose,'' was given ¨ as a keynote speech to the conference Konstruktivitat von Musikgeschichtsschreibung ¨ (Gottingen, 2012). Original versions of quotations in

Journal

Journal of the History of IdeasUniversity of Pennsylvania Press

Published: Oct 21, 2014

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