In his landmark study Inventing Eastern Europe (1994) the historian Larry Wolff documented the first attempts to partition the continent imaginatively into western and eastern domains. This partitioning, he argues, was undertaken by writers from the hubs of the European Enlightenment, who traveled into Imperial Russia and wrote about their experiences abroad. In their accounts of travel these writers “intellectually combin[ed]” easterly geographies and peoples “into a coherent whole” and compared that whole with westerly spaces, thereby “establishing the developmental division of the continent.” While Wolff's analysis retains a central place in discourse on the Enlightenment, I suggest that its picture of Europe's mapping is limited by its ocularcentric readings of period texts, and that a different picture emerges if we consider what travelers heard alongside what they saw. Focusing on accounts of listening provided by such travelers as Johann Gottfried Herder, the Hebraist Johann Joachim Bellermann, and the grammarian Gotthard Friedrich Stender, I discuss the way in which the aural registers of their experiences alternately enrich and confound ocularcentric accounts of Europe's imaginary partition. Where travelers saw foreign peoples and scenes, they sometimes heard familiar musics; where they saw an undifferentiated mass of individuals, they often heard a diversity of voices. Drawing on work in sound and media studies, anthropology, and ethnomusicology, I suggest that travelers’ habits of listening deeply inflected their ethnographic imaginings, and vice versa—a situation that reveals the inventing of Eastern Europe to have been a more complex and conflicted project than is generally acknowledged today.
Inventing Eastern Europe in the Ear of the Enlightenment
KEVIN C. KARNES is Professor of Music at Emory University. His most recent monograph is Arvo Pärt's Tabula Rasa (Oxford University Press, 2017); current projects include the coauthored 2019 Bard Festival volume Korngold and His World and a study of the 1970s Soviet underground. He also edits OUP's Oxford Keynotes series. His research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Studies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies.
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Kevin C. Karnes; Inventing Eastern Europe in the Ear of the Enlightenment. Journal of the American Musicological Society 1 April 2018; 71 (1): 75–108. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jams.2018.71.1.75
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