European Science Foundation

Musical Life in Europe, 1600-1900 – Circulation, Institutions, Representation

Summary of the Project

The programme will give detailed consideration to musical life in Europe during the period 1600-1900, understood as the whole of the processes of production, distribution, communication (mediation) and reception of musical works as well as of their frorms of transmission and circulation. Three overarching themes will provide the points of departure for our research on this period: first, the extensive migration of musicians and the circulation of music throughout Europe; second, the concept, character and functioning of European musical institutions; and finally, the representational aspects associated with these and other facts of European musical life.

Initial Hypotheses

As a starting point we suggest

  1. that there is a strong link between musical institutions and the migration (or by contrast the sedentariness) of musicians and the circulation of musical works, whereby institutions may be understood as multipliers of or obstacles to migration;
  2. that musical institutions reflect not only certain socio-political conditions, but also a set of cultural images and representations; and
  3. that the relationship between musical institutions and the migration (or non-migration) of musicians on the one hand and cultural representation on the other was interactive in nature, that is, that the collective or individual movements of musicians result from, and at the same time resulted in, the phenomenons of cultural representations.

Implementation of the Programme

These five subjects are to be treated:

  1. Italian Opera in Central Europe, 1614 - ca. 1780. The spread of Italian opera coincided with the emergence of a network of institutions that are relief not only upon the circulation of musicians, but also of acclaimed works and styles of performance. For this reason, Italian opera emerged as a privileged field of cultural exchange, crystallising supra-national ideas and images of power.
  2. Opera Orchestras in 18th- and 19th-Century Europe. Opera orchestras played a considerable part in the production and diffusion of European opera in the 18th and 19th centuries. Their institutional stability created privileged bases to which musical personnel were attracted from all over Europe. The study of these "international" places enables us to measure, in paradigmatic manner, the influence of institutions on the circulation of musical works and practices.
  3. The Concert and Its Public in Europe, 1700-1900. As an institution, the concert is a structure representative of cultural and social life. To study it implies a priori an investigation of the diffusion and circulation of works as well as the formation and transfer of repertoires. The 19th-century concert provides a particularly favourable vantage point from which to observe the trans-social circulation of music.
  4. The Circulation of Music. The proliferation of music publishing and copying workshops from the 18th century onwards reflects as well as promotes the "Europeanisation" and commercialisation of music. Studying the diffusion of printed and manuscript music elucidates not only the relationship between the composer and his oublic but also the cultural transfer of music, both geographically and socially.
  5. National Representations of Music, ca. 1770-1900. The activity of the conservatoires and the proliferation of texts about music (reviews, historical works, treatises etc.) crystallise theoretical and mystical representations from the end of the Ancien régime onwards. This enables us to study the emergence of collective representations, including national images, which were a point of departure for the network of musical exchange in 19th-century Europe.

Among the themes common to all the working groups are the following:

For more details, visit the referring part of the ESF-Homepage.


Prof. Dr. Christoph-Hellmut Mahling Dr. Christian Meyer
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz 3, rue des Bourreuils
Institut für Kunstgeschichte und Musikwissenschaft
Abteilung Musikwissenschaft
F-67100 Strasbourg
Welderweg 18  
D-55099 Mainz Phone/fax: +33-3-88442588


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