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Research Seminars

2017-2018

 

Poster
Thomas Irvine
University of Southampton Beyond Discovery: Rethinking the Sino-Western Encounter in Music

 

17 May 2018

4:30 p.m.
7.58 Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus

 

 

This talk reflects on what I have learned from work on my recent monograph, Listening to China: Sound and the Sino-Western Encounter, 1770-1839. One strand of my project was to consider the Sino-Western encounter in music in light of "global intellectual history," the field mapped out in Samuel Moyn and Andrew Sartory's 2015 book of the same name. Drawing on their work, and recent interventions in global history by Jürgen Osterhammel and Sebastian Conrad, I will explore how the Western experiences of Chinese musicking, and the concomitant production of knowledge about Chinese music and its practices, might be understood in ways that depart from traditional notions of encounter - and indeed discovery. In fact, the idea that Chinese musicking somehow required discovery as if it were an intellectual terra nullius (that is an empty space or "no man's land" on the Western map of the world's music) should, I will argue here, make us uncomfortable. This is because the word discovery invites interpretations that too often revolve around (Eurocentric) commonplaces such as "progress" and "modernization." I want to sketch an alternative approach to this problem. Borrowing some key concepts from Actor-Network Theory, I will ask: might the Sino-Western musical experience be related to parallel experiences in science and technology? What can we learn from the way scholars of science and technology map the terrain of their Sino-Western encounters? Can this mapping be done without recourse to what Bruno Latour has called "all-terrain" concepts, such as modernity?

 

Thomas Irvine is Associate Professor and Director of Doctoral Programmes in Music at the University of Southampton. He is an intellectual historian of Western music from 1750 to the present, with special interests in the Enlightenment and twentieth-century Britain. His recent research draws on global perspectives. In 2015 he was awarded a Mid-Career Fellowship of British Academy for his project Listening to China: Sound and the Sino-Western Encounter, 1770-1839, which resulted in a book about Western listening to and in China from the 1770s to the outbreak of the opium wars. In 2015/16 he was a visiting scholar at the Research Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities, National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan.

 

His co-edited book (with the historian Neil Gregor), Dreams of Germany: Music and (Trans)national Imaginaries in the Modern Era, will be published next year by Berghan Books.

 

He has published in journals including Music and Letters, The Journal of Musicology, Current Musicology, Mozart-Jahrbuch, Göttinger Händel-Beiträge and Eighteenth-Century Music and contributed chapters in English and German to edited volumes on global Enlightenment, art and legal theory, British musical modernism, the Prometheus myth, the history of British concert life and Rousseau studies. In recent years he has given invited lectures at Zhejiang University, Hong Kong University, National Taiwan University and National Chiao Tung University (Taiwan), and the universities of Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Konstanz, Mainz, Michigan and Stony Brook.

 

Irvine originally trained as a violist in the United States (he has degrees in viola performance from Rice and Indiana Universities) and spent several years as a professional musician specialising in historical performance in Germany. He then returned to academia to study performance practice and musicology at Cornell University where he received his PhD in musicology in 2005.

 

All are welcome. No registration is required.