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Since the 1840s, critics have lambasted Wagner for lacking the ability to compose melody. But for him, melody was fundamental - 'music's only form'. This incongruity testifies to the surprising difficulties during the nineteenth century of conceptualizing melody. Despite its indispensable place in opera, contemporary theorists were unable even to agree on a definition for it.


Wagner's Melodies re-examines Wagner's central aesthetic claims, placing the composer's ideas about melodyin the context of the scientific discourse of his age: from the emergence of the natural sciences and historical linguistics to sources about music's stimulation of the body and inventions for 'automatic' composition. Interweaving a rich variety of material from the history of science, music theory, music criticism, private correspondence and court reports, Trippett uncovers a new and controversial discourse that placed melody at the apex of artistic self-consciousness and generated problems of urgent dimensions for German music aesthetics.


[reviews to date: Gramophone, German Studies Review, Wagnerspectrum Nineteenth-Century Music Review, British Journal of AestheticsBrio, The Wagner Journal, MLA Notes, The Rest is Noise]


Wagner’s Melodies: Aesthetics and Materialism in German Musical Identity (Cambridge University Press 2013), 448pp

other books

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Editor, Wagner in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2024), 450pp

Table of Contents

Few composers embodied wider cultural interests than Wagner or had greater cultural consequences. This is the first collection to examine directly the rich array of intellectual, social and cultural contexts within which Wagner worked. Alongside fresh accounts of historical topics, from spa culture to racial theory, sentient bodies to stage technology, America to Spain, it casts an eye forward to contexts of Wagner’s ongoing reception, from video gaming to sound recording, Israel to Friedrich Kittler, and twenty-first century warfare. The collection brings together an international cast of leading authorities and new voices. Its 42 short chapters offer a reader-friendly way into Wagner studies, with authoritative studies of central topics set alongside emerging new fields. It sheds new light on previously neglected individuals such as Minna Wagner, Theodor Herzl and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, and investigates the global circulation of Wagner’s works, his approach to money, and the controversies that continue to accompany him.

Chapters by: Katharine Ellis, Thomas S. Grey, Chris Walton, Ellen Lockhart, Barry Millington, Sven Friedrich, Leon Botstein, Dieter Borchmeyer, Joanne Cormac, Federico Celestini, Robert Wicks, Anno Mungen, Eva Rieger, John Deathridge, Tim Blanning, Mark Berry, Günter Zöller, Holly Watkins, David Trippett, George Williamson, Anna Stoll Knecht, Kirsten Paige, Martin Knust, Douglas McGetchin, Michael Ewans, Edward Reeve, Patrick McCreless, Barbara Eichner, Charlotte Bentley, Gundula Kreuzer, Patrtick Carnegy, Clemens Risi, Pamela Potter, Udo Bermbach, Victor Nefkens, Alexander Wilfing, Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, Laura Tunbridge, Tim Summers.

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Co-editor, with Nicholas Cook and Monique Ingalls, The Cambridge Companion to Music in Digital Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2019), 346pp

The impact of digital technologies on music has been overwhelming: since the commercialisation of these technologies in the early 1980s, both the practice of music and thinking about it have changed almost beyond all recognition. From the rise of digital music making to digital dissemination, these changes have attracted considerable academic attention across disciplines,within, but also beyond, established areas of academic musical research. Through chapters by scholars at the forefront of research and shorter 'personal takes' from knowledgeable practitioners in the field, this Companion brings the relationship between digital technology and musical culture alive by considering both theory and practice. It provides a comprehensive and balanced introduction to the place of music within digital culture as a whole, with recurring themes and topics that include music and the Internet, social networking and participatory culture, music recommendation systems, virtuality, posthumanism, surveillance, copyright, and new business models for music production.

Chapters by: Nicholas Cook, Martin Scherzinger, K. E. Goldschmitt & Nick Seaver, Stèphan-Eloïse Gras, Sumanth S. Gopinath & Jason Stanyek, Peter McMurray, Monique Ingalls, Paul Sanden, Isabella van Elferen, David Trippett, Shzr Ee Tan.

Personal Takes by: Lee Marshall, Ingrid Monson, Ben Sinclair, Adam Harper, Mariana Lopez, Graham St John, Alan Blackwell & Sam Aaron, Alex McLean, Andrew McPherson, Steve Savage, Julio d'Escrivan, Stephen Baysted, Frances Dyson.

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Co-editor, with Benjamin Walton, Nineteenth-Century Opera and the Scientific Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2019), 396pp

Scientific thinking has long been linked to music theory and instrument making, yet the profound and often surprising intersections between the sciences and opera during the long nineteenth century are here explored for the first time. These touch on a wide variety of topics, including vocal physiology, theories of listening and sensory communication, technologies of theatrical machinery and discourses of biological degeneration. Taken together, the chapters reveal an intertwined cultural history that extends from backstage hydraulics to drawing-room hypnotism,and from laryngoscopy to theatrical aeronautics. Situated at the intersection of opera studies and the history of science, the booktherefore offers a novel and illuminating set of case studies of a kind that will appeal to historians of both science and opera, as well as European culture more generally from the French Revolution to the end of the Victorian period.

Chapters written by: James Q. Davies, Benjamin Steege, Carmel Raz, Céline Frigau Manning, Julia Kursell, David Trippett, James Deaville, Deirdre Loughridge, Benjamin Walton, Ellen Lockhart, Myles Jackson, James Kennaway, Alexander Rehding.

Editor and translator of Carl Stumpf, The Origins of Music (Oxford University Press, 2012), 290pp

The Origins of Music was first published in German in 1911. In this text Carl Stumpf set out a path-breaking hypothesis on the earliest musical sounds in human culture. This book was the culmination of more than 25 years of empirical and theoretical research in the field of music. In the first part, Stumpf discusses the origin and forms of musical activities as well as various existing theories on the origin of music, including those of Darwin, Rousseau, Herder, and Spencer. In the second part of the book, he summarizes his works on the historical development of instruments and music, and studies a putatively global range of music from non-European cultures to demonstrate the psychological principles of tonal organization, as well as providing a range of cross-cultural musical transcriptions and analyses. This became a foundation document for comparative musicology, the elder sibling to modern Ethnomusicology, and the book provides access to the original recordings Stumpf used in this process.

It is a fascinating volume for all those with an interest in the history of psychology and music. It appears here in tandem with Self-Portrait,Stumpf's autobiography of 1924, in which he outlines the rich life experiences behind his research career alongside his own explanation of his scientific and cultural legacy.


[reviews to date: Music Perception, Musicae Scientiae, Psychomusicology, Choice, Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association]

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