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