This article reassesses the “mechanical” style of playing featured in Carl Czerny's pedagogical works and keyboard arrangements—specifically, the Complete Theoretical and Practical Piano Forte School, op. 500 (1839), its supplementary text Letters to a Young Lady (ca. 1840), and the four-hand transcription of Beethoven's Symphony no. 9 in D Minor, op. 125 (the “Choral”). The first part of the article situates opus 500 within the larger pedagogical milieu of Biedermeier music culture and Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi's progressivist educational reforms, exploring the way it tasked predominantly women amateurs with assembling basic finger sensations in an exercise-by-exercise—“progressive”—fashion. I propose that this cumulative logic reflects an early-century epistemic norm—what Friedrich Kittler dubs a “mechanical program” of assembly and augmentation. The second part considers Czerny's transcription of the finale of Beethoven's Ninth from the perspective of ludo-musicology and cultural techniques media analysis, outlining the reductive and replicative—“reproductive”—techniques by which Czerny accommodated his former teacher's work to the hands he shaped in the private sphere. I argue that his pedagogies and transcriptions were recursively interrelated. Czerny was simultaneously a mechanic of the hand pedagogically and a mechanical reproducer of symphonies transcriptively, creating a multivalent corpus that forces us to rethink the media-theoretical concept of “mechanical reproduction” vis-à-vis “Discourse Network 1800.”
Carl Czerny's Mechanical Reproductions
JORDAN MUSSER is a PhD candidate in Musicology at Cornell University, where he is completing a dissertation on avant-gardism, popular culture, and political life in 1970s–'80s Britain. A recipient of the Don M. Randel Teaching Fellowship, he has presented his research at numerous conferences, and his articles and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Twentieth-Century Music, Metal Music Studies, Sounding Out, and the Newsletter of the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies.
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Jordan Musser; Carl Czerny's Mechanical Reproductions. Journal of the American Musicological Society 1 August 2019; 72 (2): 363–429. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jams.2019.72.2.363
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