Sound and Sense in Britain, 1770-1840

General Programming

  • ERC ‘Music in London’ Project (KCL), dir. Roger Parker
  • James Grande
  • Carmel Raz
  • Free and open to the public
  • First come, first seated
  • Image Credit/Caption: The ArtsMusic, 1935,0522.7.253, AN1594614001 CONFERENCE BLOG HERE

Understandings of the senses underwent a radical reimagining toward the last few decades of the eighteenth century in Britain, a shift evident in the domains of philosophy, physiology, politics, and the arts. Sound played a pivotal role in many of these engagements with post-Lockean empiricism, as vibration and sympathy became widespread metaphors for mental activity, shared sentiments, and aesthetic experiences. If sound was central to the debates of the Scottish and English Enlightenment, it was equally important to the popular culture of religious revival. In the volatile and heady decades after the American and French revolutions, sound became freighted with new ideological meaning, informing modes of political activity. At the same time, nascent industrialization was frequently experienced in terms of sonic excess, as the clamour of factories and rapidly growing cities brought on new awareness of the potential power of sound to disturb social order.

In recent years, British culture between 1770-1840 has been extensively read through visual tropes such as spectacle and theatricality, and new technologies of visual entertainment (the panorama, diorama, eidophusikon…). However, the sounds of this period, in contrast to the Victorian soundscape, have received far less attention from historians of British culture. This interdisciplinary conference brings together musicologists, literary scholars, and historians under the framework of sound studies to consider the changing understandings of sound, including music and noise, in Britain at the cusp of the nineteenth century. On Saturday we will be holding a workshop for conference participants to discuss draft papers. We encourage interested scholars from Columbia and the New York area to join the conversation. Pre-registration is required (further details to come).

Friday, May 12: Talks

1:30-3:45: Globalization, Colonisation, Revolution

David Kennerley, ‘A great moral and social revolution’: The Lancashire and
Cheshire Working Men’s Singing Classes and the sounds of Chartism
Maria Semi, Sound and Senses Going Global in C18 Britain
Josephine McDonagh, John Galt and the Sounds of Colonisation

3:45-4:15: Reception

4:15-6:30: Sound, Science, Spectacle

Kathy Fry, Mary Somerville’s Sound Accomplishments ca. 1834
Melissa Dickson, Tuning In with the Stethoscope in the 19th C.
Oskar Cox Jensen, Of Sight and Sound, or, Realising The Enraged Musician

Saturday, May 13: Workshop

10:00-12:30: Power, Interest, Liberty

James Chandler, ‘Prophetic Harmony’: Wordsworth and the Sound of Power
Rowan Boyson, Pleasure, Pollution and the Prosodic Turn
Nicholas Mathew, Haydn, Interest, and the Commercial Streetscape in 1790s London

1:30-2:15 Ecomusicologies

Ellen Lockhart, Lupus tonalis
Jonathan Hicks, Aurality, Mobility, and Fingal’s Cave

3:15-4:45: Speaking and Listening

James Grande, On Tongues and Ears: Divine Voices in the Modern Metropolis
Carmel Raz, ‘To ‘Fill Up, Completely the Whole Capacity of the Mind’: Listening and Attention in Late Eighteenth-Century Scotland

5:00-6:00 Discussion

  • Emily Bloom Lecturer, Department of English and Comparative Literature Columbia University
  • Rowan Boyson Senior Lecturer in English Literature King's College London
  • James Chandler Barbara E. & Richard J. Franke Distinguished Service Professor University of Chicago
  • Oskar Cox-Jensen Research Fellow: Music in London 1800-1851 King's College London
  • Melissa Dickson Postdoctoral Research Assistant St Anne's College University of Oxford
  • Kathy Fry Postdoctoral Research Associate King's College London
  • Eileen Gillooly Executive Director Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • James Grande Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture King's College London
  • Jonathan Hicks Research Fellow: Music in London 1800-1851 King's College London
  • David Kennerley Postdoctoral Research Associate King's College London
  • Ellen Lockhart Assistant Professor: Musicology University of Toronto
  • Nicholas Mathew Associate Professor, Music History University of California, Berkeley
  • Josephine McDonagh Professor of Nineteenth-century Literature King's College London
  • Carmel Raz Lecturer in Music Columbia University
  • Maria Semi Fellow University of GöttingenLichtenberg-Kolleg / Historic Observatory
  • Benjamin Steege Assistant Professor of Music Columbia University
  • Dustin D. Stewart Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature Columbia University
  • Sejal Sutaria Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow King's College London