The concert hall as a medium of musical culture: the technical mediation of listening in the 19th century

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
Taking the relationship between musical culture, media history, and the philosophy of technology as its starting point, this dissertation situates the concert hall as a musical technology designed to mediate attentive listening. Recognizing that the technical mediation of listening to music is rarely considered by media historians prior to the invention of recorded music, this dissertation draws together elements of the cultural history of eighteenth and nineteenth-century Western musical culture, musical aesthetics, social history, architectural acoustics, and the history of musical venues to explore how listening to music was technically mediated in the nineteenth century. Using Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw (opened in 1888) as a case study, I trace the process by which abstract ideas of romantic music aesthetics shaped the design and meaning of Amsterdam’s concert hall. This requires examining how the ideal of attentive listening was articulated in early nineteenth-century Dutch music criticism. Next, I examine how the Amsterdam bourgeoisie acted upon these ideas and how their patronage led to the funding and organization of the Concertgebouw. Finally, I examine how the design of the Concertgebouw embodied the ideal of attentive listening and the conventions of bourgeois patronage that had inspired its construction.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Feenberg, Andrew
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