This article examines the idea of interest and the interesting in the late eighteenth century through Haydn's London experiences of the 1790s. It argues that several of Haydn's London compositions, together with the surviving records of his English trips, bear the traces of a metropolitan mediascape and urban commercial environment in which attention and desire were newly conceivable in terms of the psychic “investments” of interest—a concept that notably oscillates between what we would nowadays consider separate economic and aesthetic meanings. Looking again at Haydn's late encounter with England's burgeoning commercial society might prompt musicologists to rethink the nature of their own scholarly interests, as well as the deeper histories of currently popular methodological paradigms that aim to resolve musicology's objects of study into networks of people and things gathered together by entangled interests and “concerns.”
Note down what you can see. Anything worthy of note going on. Do you know how to see what's worthy of note? … Force yourself to write down what is of no interest.
Georges Perec, Espèces d'espaces (1974)1
Throughout his two extended stays in London—from January 1791 until July 1792, and from February 1794 until August 1795—Joseph Haydn recorded many of his thoughts and experiences in four small notebooks. These English-made books, roughly six inches by four inches in size, were designed to slide into a gentleman's pocket, and Haydn evidently carried them around the city with him at times, writing things down in a haphazard way, in both ink and pencil. The resulting books are situated generically somewhere between the discontinuous diary and the poorly organized commonplace book (a sort of scrapbook of quotable extracts from other texts). They gather together personal encounters and concert programs, street scenes and public rituals, curious facts and superlative measurements, classical epigrams, smutty stories, and earnest theological tenets. The raw material they contain might seem well suited to current disciplinary predilections: the materialist turn to objects and things, and dispersed, networky sociological paradigms, not to mention the longer-established New Historicist claims on behalf of the radical potential of the anecdote and the local detail.2 Haydn's London notebooks are, from these related perspectives, a treasure trove of marginalia, each entry a synecdoche standing in for an ungraspable whole, pointing the scholar down new side streets of microhistorical description, toward the elaborate reanimation of past relationships. The second book begins with the recipe for Prince of Wales Punch (main ingredients: a bottle of champagne and a bottle of burgundy) and within a few lines describes, with the anthropological fascination of a Catholic, how a Quaker behaves at court (he “pays the door-keeper to take off his hat for him,” apparently) and, with the wide-eyed admiration of the Austrian landlubber, how to “preserve cream or milk for a long time” according to the prescription of an English sea captain.3 If, as Joel Fineman once argued, the value of the anecdote is that it disrupts formal historical narrative and “lets history happen” with its lack of closure,4 then Haydn frequently redoubles this force by leaving even his anecdotes incomplete: “Anecdote about the foot under her petticoat,” he writes, leaving much to the imagination; “Mr. Fox's trousers. Story of a sedan-chair-bearer,” runs another gnomic torso; and only a blank space follows the announcement of the “little story of an errand boy who ate cow dung.”5
While the empty spaces that pockmark the London notebooks may be evidence of history happening in all its open-endedness, their ellipses and narrative blind alleys also remind the historian of the precariousness of this kind of data: Haydn jotted down what interested him; he noted only what he deemed noteworthy. The notebooks parade a medley of resonant historical things, but provide, above all else, a record of Haydn's interests, how his interest was directed and commanded. One might even conceive of them as Haydn's “extended mind”—a claim that would be implausible were it not so widespread in eighteenth-century conceptions of the commonplace book: “a Book of this sort is in the Nature of a Supplemental Memory,” wrote Jonathan Swift in his 1721 Letter of Advice to a Young Poet, “or a Record of what occurs remarkable in every Day's Reading or Conversation.”6 John Locke, who published the century's most widely cited and reprinted essay on the technique of organizing commonplace books, had conceived of consciousness itself as the process by which experience was noted onto the blank page of the psyche—“white Paper, void of all Characters, without any Ideas.”7 The epigrammatic, the anecdotal, and the curious seem to have claimed the attention of eighteenth-century keepers of commonplace books,8 yet such books themselves—like the published anthologies that proliferated during this period—created and reproduced what counted as remarkable in the very act of remarking upon things.9 As Sianne Ngai has shown in her discussion of the interesting as an aesthetic category, the interesting thing is, in part, performatively generated—is brought into being in the moment in which it is observed and made available for discussion.10 In the gesture with which Haydn's notes produced the noteworthy detail, then, he also produced materials for the historian—something that the present-day researcher understands all too well when faced with anecdotes that conspicuously lack punch lines. In fact, to record the spontaneous materials of a more formal history might have been part of Haydn's intention in keeping these notebooks, especially given that they were produced during his rapid rise to celebrity status: in the early nineteenth century, he showed them to his earliest biographers, Georg August Griesinger and Albert Christoph Dies. Nowadays, the original fourth London notebook no longer exists as a physical artifact, but has been patchily reconstructed from citations that were preserved by these men, a notebook that is thus more about the noting than the book: a notional object made out of a historical succession of overlapping interests—Haydn's, his biographers’, and ours.11
I begin with these thoughts on Haydn's London notebooks because it seems to me that the content, form, and rhetorical mode of these books have much to tell us about the ways in which the idea of interest and the practice of taking note of things have structured our musical knowledge and experience. The claim that this article will elaborate is that Haydn's London experiences led him to compose music that both responded to and helped to produce, in musical terms, a new vision of interest and interestedness: a conception of what one might call the psychic economy, which became thinkable only in and through the vibrant material economies of the modern city, and the techniques and technologies of discrimination that flourished there—not least the urgent note-taking that constituted the newly abundant commentary and reportage surrounding Haydn's music.12 Moreover, we will see that the story of musical interest in the late eighteenth-century metropolis may hold valuable lessons for methodologies within music studies that are premised on the heterogeneous densities of material culture or the all-inclusive sonic realms known as soundscapes.
The London notebooks demonstrate that interest has always been bound up with economies of language: the interesting detail, as Ngai has shown, is not only produced by discourse but serves to generate more of it.13 To judge something as interesting is to invite ramification, an explanation of why this should be so. To point out an interesting thing is thus to provide the premise for talk, to goad the discursive sense-making of criticism, history, and aesthetics. The scholarly eye has roved variously over the notebooks since they were passed to Dies and Griesinger, attesting to changing interests and methodologies—from the secure dating of compositions and performances to the compilation and analysis of Haydn's numerous Latin aphorisms, staples of the eighteenth-century commonplace book.14 These days, music historians might be equally attracted to the more blatantly quotidian, bodily, or appetitive moments, and to the “reality effect” of entries that appear alluringly incomplete and inscrutable.15 That every pattern of scholarly concern, however professedly “material” in focus, has depended on Haydn's inaugural act of noting down could thus seem ample demonstration of the once notorious Derridean dictum that there is nothing outside of the text.16 And yet the related meanings of the word “noting”—that is, having to do with attentiveness on the one hand and writing on the other—serve less to undo the fallacies of logocentrism than to demonstrate that no materials are raw. To adopt Bruno Latour's terms, every “matter of fact” can be unraveled into a “matter of concern”: a copiously mediated gathering of interests.17
Harold Innis, one of the progenitors of today's media studies, once described his intellectual program as an extended response to the question “Why do we attend to the things to which we attend?”—a challenge that he answered with recourse to the various techniques and technologies of human communication.18 With Innis's question in mind, one might hazard the claim that noting down has been, for centuries, one of the core technologies of interest, which is in large part about discrimination, or what one chooses to note. One of the great eighteenth-century note-takers, Johann Gottfried Herder, maintained that language was what allowed humans to make distinctions among the “mass of perceptions flooding” them—an operation that, in the psychological discourse inaugurated a century later by William James, became foundational to human experience itself: “Millions of items of the outward order are present to my senses which never properly enter into my experience. Why? Because they have no interest for me. My experience is what I agree to attend to.”19 Eighteenth-century readers had regularly testified to the ways in which the taking of notes, by sealing this experiential agreement, transformed and even produced attention itself. In his Loose Hints upon Education, first published in 1781, Lord Kames contrasted the reader who allowed ideas merely to “glide through the mind” with the more assiduous note-takers: “But let a common-place book be in view: attention is on the stretch to find matter, and impressions are made that the memory retains.”20 Taking note thus became coextensive with taking notes.21
Though Haydn's London notebooks appear to promise a kind of material immersion—a compendium of cityscapes and soundscapes, and all the other “scapes,” alive with things and activities, that have preoccupied scholars of late22—the very business of noting could be construed as a way of keeping the sensuous abundance and disorder of the world in abeyance. This is no plainer than where Haydn notes, and notates, his encounters with music making—something of a disappointment if, with the sonically inclusive spaces of sound studies in mind, one is searching for continuities, rather than freshly inscribed boundaries, between musical objects and the less structured sonic environments that they inhabited. As it is, these notes only redouble the sense of separation between what one could call, in sound studies nomenclature, London “soundmarks” (or even “sound icons”) and the sonic spaces from which they obtrude.23 “No music ever moved me so deeply in my whole life,” wrote Haydn of a chant by John Jones, which he had heard sung by several thousand orphans in St. Paul's. He was understandably moved to extract and preserve the tune with—and as—notation.24 But Haydn also gave notational form to things that were closer to ambient noise: “A gang of rowdy fellows sang this song with all their might,” he noted, presumably from within his apartments on Great Pulteney Street, providing an earnestly precise musical transcription, a jotting that may have represented the moment at which he acknowledged that resistance against so penetrating a distraction was futile: “They yelled so loudly that you could hear them 1000 paces away from the street” (see Figure 1).25 Upon arriving in London, Haydn had observed in a letter to Marianne von Genzinger that he needed “more quiet in which to work, for the noise that the common people make as they sell their wares in the street is intolerable”—a situation that was apparently not improved by the offer of a work room in John Broadwood's music shop, just across the road.26
This confrontation of music and noise, musician and soundscape—dramatized most famously in this period by William Hogarth's 1741 etching The Enraged Musician, in which a violinist is surrounded by street hawkers in St. Martin's Lane—had long been an image through which Londoners commented on and made sense of their sometimes cacophonous environment.27 In 1711 it was the subject of a widely circulated bagatelle in The Spectator by Joseph Addison, who noted that “[t]here is nothing which more astonishes a Foreigner, and frights a Country Squire, than the Cries of London.” Addison had accordingly dreamed up the correspondence of one “Ralph Crotchett,” who nominated himself “Comptroller general of the London Cries,” listing among his qualifications “great Insight into all the Branches of our British Trades and Manufactures” and “competent Skill in Musick.” In this deadpan comic vision, the sonic maelstrom of the city became more harmonious, the cries of street vendors made musical by the attention of a man of taste: “nor can I forbear being inspired with a most agreeable Melancholy when I hear that sad and solemn Air with which the Publick is very often asked, if they have any Chairs to mend.”28
Distinguishing the various London criers and their cries within their otherwise dense metropolitan habitats, and elevating them into something altogether more picturesque, had a long history, especially in the visual arts. John Thomas Smith's compendious Vagabondiana of 1817—a late contribution to the genre of “Cries of London” portraits—traced its own encyclopedic project to Giuseppe Maria Mitelli's etchings of Bologna criers from the previous century.29 Yet engravings of the London criers and their cries had been popular subjects since at least Paul Sandby's Cries of London from the 1760s.30 Only two years before Haydn arrived in London, George Colman's theatrical version of The Enraged Musician had been presented to acclaim at the King's Theatre in the Haymarket.31 And throughout Haydn's London years, Francis Wheatley was to exhibit his sentimental Cries of London at the Royal Academy—a series of mildly titillating pictures that circulated widely as a set of prints (and remain among the most frequently reproduced depictions of eighteenth-century street life; see Figure 2).32 Songs that praised and incorporated the best-known London cries were also regularly served up to metropolitan audiences at this time. In 1792—the year that Haydn recorded his first visit to the pleasure gardens at Vauxhall—Anna Maria Leary, “The Siren of Vauxhall” (who had lately married and become Mrs. Franklin), presented James Hook's “Two Bunches a Penny Primroses” (also the name of Wheatley's contemporaneous picture): “How sweet to hear in London streets / what's cry'd both up and down,” ran the refrain (see Figure 3). And in 1795 the young chorister Thomas Welsh performed Hook's “Ripe Cherries,” a song composed on much the same principle.33 Both songs framed a moment of direct quotation, emphasizing the naturalism of the street cries in question by changing the meter and tempo following whimsical fermatas. Thus repackaging the sounds of the commercial streetscape for the more exclusive commercial arenas of pleasure garden performance and the print market, these songs represent one of the stylized ways in which Londoners aestheticized (and eroticized) urban experience—by discriminating, extracting, and refining those sonic dimensions of London's street life that lent themselves to tasteful citation.
Haydn's habit of noting and notating the city around him lay on a continuum with such popular songs, I would argue. No less than in the picturesque performances at Vauxhall—or even in the absurdist comic vision of The Spectator—he recast the inextricable confusions of sound as the more precise discriminations of music. The socialite Charlotte Papendiek, whose husband was a court musician during the 1790s, claimed some decades later that the symphony with which Haydn opened the 1791 season contained a movement that “was to imitate the London cries,” and even recalled that the cry in question was “Live cod.” This story is unreliable at best, and it remains unclear which symphony Papendiek was dimly remembering, but it is surely telling that Haydn's music should have been associated so directly with the citation of the urban commercial streetscape.34
Though newly immersed in London's hyperstimulating environment, then, one could say that Haydn also encountered, and carried around the city, the techniques and technologies of abstraction—the social practices and material things that permitted him to draw out and “attend to things” in particular ways. James Boswell, who came south to London from Edinburgh in the early 1760s, had described his arrival in terms of the bewildering proliferation of stimuli: “The noise, the crowd, the glare of shops and signs agreeably confused me.”35 Haydn wrote to von Genzinger in a similar vein, of the “endlessly huge city of London, whose various beauties and marvels quite astonished me.”36 For all that, both dazzled newcomers were equipped with a sense of place mediated in large part by the written word, which circulated in unprecedented abundance within the city. “I was full of rich imagination of London,” remarked Boswell, recalling his earliest stroll around town, “ideas suggested by the Spectator.”37 Haydn reported to von Genzinger that, amid the social calls and formal luncheons that marked his arrival, “I went the round of all the newspapers for 3 successive days.”38 To be in London was not only to live in its densely packed streets, but to be written up, discriminated, and noted.
In the pages of the London notebooks, the impulse to abstraction also takes on a markedly computational character. “Every canal-lock costs £10,000,” reported Haydn, in a characteristically terse entry.39 With a distinctly mercantile eye, he continually noted these weights, measurements, and prices. Frequently they were the astonishing numbers—giant calculations that invisibly spanned city and nation—that were so often recorded in eighteenth-century commonplace books.40 “The City of London consumes 8 times one hundred thousand cartloads of coal each year,” wrote Haydn in the first notebook, “each cart holds 13 sacks, each sack holds 2 dry measures: most of the coal comes from Newcastle. Often 200 loaded ships arrive at once. A cartload costs £2½.” Beneath a draft of a canon that he regularly presented as a memento to friends and acquaintances, Haydn noted, “During the last 31 years, 38,000 houses were built in London.” The second notebook continued in these superlative terms: “The City of London keeps 4,000 carts for cleaning the streets, and 2,000 of these work every day.”41 One of the earliest entries, about money, is perhaps the most fanciful: “The national debt of England is estimated to be over two hundred millions. Recently it was calculated that if they had to make up a convoy to pay this sum in silver, the waggons, end on end, would reach from London to Yorck, that is, 200 miles, presuming that each waggon could not carry more than £6000.”42 Haydn's fascination with man-made vastness surely registers what Anne Janowitz has called the “artifactual sublime”—a distinctively metropolitan slant on early Romantic aesthetics in which overwhelming immensity is “linked to the material excess of the production of goods.”43
Yet Haydn's urban experience consisted of an assault of everyday material pleasures as much as these extravagantly supersensible notions. The earliest London notebook opens with a list of requests from friends back home, mostly for the superior metal products of the Birmingham and Sheffield steel industries: “Knitting needle[s], scissors and a little knife,” it begins. Below is a list of prices: shirts, a gold watch, a new watch chain, and so on. It seems that Haydn managed to acquire most of these items, since a table in the second notebook lists, with eccentric English spellings, “Stel Buttons,” “a steel girdl,” “a steel chain,” “2 Secissars,” and “7 Penn Knifes.”44 “A roasting chicken cost 7 shillings, a turkey 9 shillings, a dozen larks 1 crown,” he scrupulously noted in 1792.45 Sociologists of the city have long regarded the coexistence of an unending variety of appeals to the senses and the universalizing principles of equivalence—the principles that enable circulation and exchange—as one of the defining characteristics of modern urban life. Georg Simmel's 1903 account of the psychic impress of metropolitan existence was founded on the contrast between the “swift and continuous shift of external and internal stimuli” and “the reduction of qualitative values to quantitative terms”—a contrast that could equally describe Haydn's London notebooks.46 The city, in other words, is the dwelling place—perhaps even the birthplace—of the commodity, that object insidiously divided, in the Marxian analysis, between the appeal of its sensuous surface and the calculable logic of its social life, a core existence characterized by the seriality of mechanical reproduction.
Haydn's compulsive pricing of the world around him reminds us that the concept of interest shuttles between what we nowadays consider the distinct and even mutually hostile discourses of aesthetics and economics, and hence between the realms of the psychic and the monetary. As early as Samuel Johnson's dictionary of 1755, the meanings of the noun “interest” ranged from “concern” to “money paid for use” and “any surplus of advantage,” while the verb “to interest” denoted “move” and “touch with passion.”47 Perhaps most disquieting to Romantic sensibilities is the way in which Haydn totted up the cost of even the most picturesque scenes he surveyed: “The castle chapel at Windsor is a very old but splendid building; the high altar cost 50,000 fl.” Visiting the fashionable estate of the Duke of York at Oatlands in late 1791, he noted, “Among its many beauties is a most remarkable grotto which cost £25,000 Sterling.”48 In these oddly computational moments, Haydn appears to illustrate David Hume's explanation of “Our Esteem for the Rich and Powerful” in his Treatise of Human Nature, according to which the faculty of sympathy allowed the viewer of fine objects to experience a reflected version of an owner's less mediated pleasure.49 “We enter into his interest by the force of imagination, and feel the same satisfaction, that the objects naturally occasion in him,” wrote Hume: “the pleasure, which a rich man receives from his possessions” is thus “thrown upon the beholder.”50 Or, as Boswell was to put it, contemplating the glories of the London cityscape, “a person of imagination and feeling, such as the Spectator finely describes, can have the most lively enjoyment from the sight of external objects without regard to property at all.” As in Hume's analysis, Boswell's interest sympathetically borrowed the enjoyment of owners, taking imaginative possession of their property.51 The psychic and the monetary are hopelessly entangled in this conception of interest, and Hume's well-known inventory of riches suitable for sympathetic contemplation in the Treatise draws no distinction between practical tools and luxury items: “tables, chairs, scritoires, chimneys, coaches, sadles [sic], ploughs, and indeed … every work of art”—everything passes by the reader in a typically urban muddle.52
The prices that Haydn recorded thus measured his interest in things. One might claim to witness in his relentless aesthetic-economic calculations—thinking along lines articulated by critics such as Jean-Joseph Goux and Marc Shell—the shared origin of the modern monetary form and modern conceptions of the psychic economy.53 From this perspective, interest becomes a kind of speculation with the coinage of one's mind, and describes the return or profit that one's attention might yield. Attention is something we pay. “If we think of attention as a resource, or even a kind of currency,” writes Tim Wu, describing the attentional models of advertisers from early nineteenth-century newspapermen to the designers of Facebook, “we must allow that it is always, necessarily, being ‘spent.’”54 By noting the price of picturesque grottoes, canal locks, or high altars, Haydn was conceiving of his psychic investments in part via monetary ones.
Beyond the obvious fact of their predominantly urban-oriented content, then, Haydn's London notebooks seem to bear the traces of his new metropolitan experience. The capricious organization of his notes, in which one runic entry follows another without connection, is reminiscent of Michel de Certeau's oft-cited account of walking in the city—the “rhetoric” of urban pedestrianism, which, Certeau claims, is characterized by the tropes of synecdoche (part standing for whole) and asyndeton (the omission of usual syntactical links).55 The extended mind that Haydn bequeathed to his biographers might accordingly be regarded as a quintessentially psychogeographical text, confounding mind and world, parsing the cityscape via dislocated points of interest. Each act of noting stands in for an urban whole that cannot be synoptically grasped, rather as the anecdote might be conceived as a synecdoche for distant historical circumstance. Moreover, though Haydn captured his metropolitan experience in the profusion of things that he noted, he discriminated these things at once in sensuous isolation and according to abstract principles of equivalence, primarily market price. In the expanding spaces of urban commerce, art objects and market objects, as well as the psychic and monetary forms of investment in them, were jumbled together, just as they were in liberal empiricist theories of interest, before the discourses of aesthetics and political economy went their separate ways.56
Disinterest and Boredom
In the eighteenth century, the concept of interest acquired what might seem to be a pair of antonyms, whose relationships to interest nonetheless turn out to be more complex than straightforward antitheses. First is the term that became notorious as a motif of Kantian aesthetics: “disinterest” (the “interesselos,” as in “interesseloses Wohlgefallen” or disinterested pleasure).57 This concept came to mark the very distinction between art and craft, purposiveness and purpose, aesthetic value and market value,58 that appears to have had barely any presence in Haydn's London (the publication of Kant's third Critique in 1790 notwithstanding).59 During the eighteenth century, “disinterest” came to denote not lack of attention, but rather a lack of investment, an absence or virtuous subtraction of personal drives or monetary stakes—“no possession, no enjoyment or reward,” as Shaftesbury had put it in his Characteristics.60 The resulting problem would trouble theories of art and moral philosophy for generations: while theoretically desirable as an ethical stance, perhaps, one cannot arouse disinterest. To be sure, being interested might appear to be a low-intensity feeling.61 Albert Otto Hirschman's The Passions and the Interests once claimed that the concept of interest gained currency in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries precisely as a staid corrective to older conceptions of the volatile passions—a foundational transformation that shored up the “political arguments for capitalism before its triumph,” as Hirschman's subtitle ran.62 Still, however attenuated, interest, unlike disinterest, was about arousal. As the entry “Interessant” in Johann Georg Sulzer's Allgemeine Theorie der schönen Künste explained, the interesting is “whatever is a concern for us and to a degree compels us to exert our capacity to desire”: to be interesting is to inspire a basic dynamic of attraction.63 No wonder that the word should have cropped up, in block capitals, in the series of ardent letters written to Haydn by the widow Rebecca Schroeter in 1792: “every circumstance concerning you my beloved hdn is interesting to me.”64 The sentiment interested Haydn enough that he transcribed all of Schroeter's letters into the back of the second London notebook. “She was … a beautiful and amiable woman whom I might very easily have married if I had been free then,” he confessed to Dies.65
Interest's second apparent opposite, boredom, has a less elevated intellectual history. Boredom is about disinvestment through inattention.66 The cast of mind that tended to become bored was central in Simmel's analysis of urban experience, the corollary of constant and varied stimulation: “There is perhaps no psychic phenomenon which is so unconditionally reserved to the city as the blasé outlook,” he argued.67 Over the eighteenth century, as Patricia Spacks has shown, published discussions of boredom in England gradually turned from long-standing theological concerns over the corrosive spiritual consequences of ennui to address a condition now considered endemic among overstimulated urban consumers.68 The invention and commercialization of “leisure time” during this period in turn produced the idea of “diversion,” whose purpose was to forestall the ever-present risk of boredom.69 “So few of the hours of life are filled up with objects adequate to the mind of man,” moaned Samuel Johnson in The Rambler, “and so frequently are we in want of present pleasure or employment.”70
At the beginning of his Enquiry into Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, Edmund Burke argued that “restlessness and anxiety” inevitably attended the basic state of “curiosity.”71 The notion of curiosity had its own distinctive history, which, even more plainly than interest, reveals the oscillation between subject and object set in motion by such theories of mental arousal, as in the “curiosities” (which aroused curiosity) displayed by eighteenth-century antiquarians, or shared by members of the Royal Society.72 In any case, to Burke, curiosity was simply “whatever desire we have for, or whatever pleasure we take in novelty”—an impulse that nonetheless “soon exhausts the variety which is commonly to be met with in nature.”73 As Simon McVeigh has shown, novelty was one of the recurring claims among London's concert organizers in this period.74 “Something New,” a song performed at Vauxhall Gardens by Elizabeth Addison in 1791—self-consciously new, as well as wholly generic in form and style—satirized and celebrated the caprice of London's beau monde, and addressed the matter straightforwardly: “each Change of the Fashion you fondly pursue / You'll own that it pleases because it is New” (meaningful fermatas accompanied the word “New”).75 In this novelty-driven landscape, packed with curiosities, boredom was not only a constant threat but could even become a sign of distinction and discrimination, as the many mild diversions of the interesting threatened to dwindle into precisely the opposite.76 “Among the higher classes, whether in the wealthy, or the fashionable world, who is unacquainted with ennui?,” asked the noble protagonist of Maria Edgeworth's story “Ennui”; “unless roused by external stimulus, I sunk into [a] kind of apathy, and vacancy of ideas.”77
While it had been a commonplace of early eighteenth-century thought to censure the “vacancy of ideas” promoted by instrumental music, later in the century Adam Smith was only one of many prominent thinkers to marvel that music, even when it was not obviously imitative, should be “so agreeable, so great, so various, and so interesting” that it could occupy the mind completely.78 Still, in the years before Haydn appeared in London as the latest diversion, his main London contact, the violinist and impresario Johann Peter Salomon, had experienced some excruciating failures as a result of unexpected audience disinvestment. In early May 1789 he directed an evening of music in which the opening “act” contained the usual mix of genres: a Haydn symphony, a quartet by Ignaz Pleyel, a concerto, and several songs and choruses. The second act, however, was taken up entirely by a cantata by Vincenzo Federici, an associate of the Italian Opera in London. This turned out to be a poor programming decision. Susan Burney, who attended with several acquaintances and, inevitably, ran into her father there, reported on the musical part of the evening in her diary: “The Second Act consisted of a Cantata the Music very good by Federici, tho’ rather monotonous & lugubre, wch being sung only by Mr Harrison & Mrs Ambrose, was tedious & heavy beyond most things I have heard.” The result was a major embarrassment for Salomon: “before it was concluded, almost every body had been driven from the Room—I was sorry for poor Salomon—He spoke a few words to me at the end of the Concert, in evident vexation & low spirits.”79 Ian Woodfield has surmised that this disaster may have prompted Salomon to purchase Haydn's Arianna a Naxos—possibly the “New Cantata” performed by Anna Storace in the third of Salomon's concerts in 1791.80
Music historians have frequently considered the attention-seeking devices scattered across the twelve London symphonies—the stark contrasts, imagistic passages, and unexpected narrative twists—to be audible traces of Haydn's exposure to London's competitive concert-giving business.81 Not that these were by any means unprecedented in his music, which had long been noted for such curiosities. Rather, one might say that London's musical life appears to have encouraged Haydn to pursue this tendency with a new consistency, and even a new blatancy. Aside from the six symphonies that he produced as a lucrative commission from the concert society of the masonic Loge Olympique in Paris, the London symphonies were the only works in this genre that Haydn expressly directed at audiences beyond his court bases in Esterháza and Eisenstadt and their wider Viennese networks. While he never traveled to the French capital to witness the reception of his Paris symphonies, in London he was in the thick of things. In 1792 his former pupil Pleyel arrived to pile on the pressure, providing orchestral music for Salomon's rivals, the Professional Concerts, and precipitating what Haydn rather histrionically called a “bloody harmonious war,” waged in the press as much as in the concert room: “the newspapers are all full of it,” he reported to von Genzinger, surely proud to be at the center of such a widely noted imbroglio.82
The consequence was a series of compositions by Haydn that aimed to be—to quote the correspondent of the Morning Herald who reported on the premiere of Symphony no. 93 in February 1792—“distinguished above all common competition”; symphonies that were, as the Herald noted of the D major, “original, various, and interesting.”83 It is surely no accident that, almost as soon as they had been performed, two of the London symphonies came to be known by their most interesting features (the “Military” and the “Surprise”), while two more (the “Drumroll” and the “Clock”) acquired nicknames early in the nineteenth century.84 These were the distinguishing marks, even trademarks, of the symphonies—explicit bids to generate and sustain audience investment. As such, they share something of the “synecdochal esthetic” that Leah Price sees in many eighteenth-century literary works—the formal principle that seems to anticipate a reception consisting of intermittent attention, critical citation, and excerpting.85 The interesting features of Haydn's London symphonies were designed to be talked about, to be written up in newspaper reports and commentaries. The nicknames accordingly turned each point of interest into a synecdoche for the symphony as a whole, conveying a noteworthy musical feature through a metropolitan landscape clamorous with attention-seeking things.
Making Musical Interest
Amid this clamor, the celebrated “surprise” chord (the unexpected drum stroke and orchestral tutti) in the theme of the Andante variation movement of the “Surprise” Symphony is something of a synecdoche of these synecdoches: a symbol of Haydn's impulse to command the attention through a notable musical device—a reductio ad absurdum, even, inasmuch as it consists of parameters as elementary as contrast, loudness, suddenness, and textural repleteness, all compressed into a split second. From one perspective, Haydn's surprise is barely more than an abstract template for what makes something interesting at all, since its identity is almost entirely dependent on the background of seriality from which it stands out—the successive iterations of what would rapidly become one of his most reiterated tunes. When the opening variation begins with an orchestral tutti of similar suddenness, it is as though the bang of the surprise chord has been relocated to a new corner of this recursive musical landscape, and one might imagine the attention roving around, kept busy by noting a moving musical target.86
One could regard the repetitions that make up this piece—even the principle of repetition in Haydn's music itself, which Elaine Sisman has analyzed with such acuity87—as continuous with the many repetitions of the tune that reverberated beyond the formal limits of the Andante: in the print market, on concert programs, and in the fashionable parlors of London and other European capitals (several piano reductions, solo and duet, were published soon after the symphony was performed by Salomon; see Figure 4).88 According to Dies, the Andante followed Haydn to an inn in Wiesbaden on his return journey to London in 1794, echoing through the wall as it was pounded out on the piano by an unsuspecting group of Prussian soldiers.89 And Haydn even repeated the tune himself, in a joke precisely about its ubiquity, in his 1801 oratorio The Seasons, in which the orchestra quotes the Andante to imitate the merry whistle of a ploughman. In 1790 Ernst Ludwig Gerber concluded that Haydn had a knack of writing music that appeared “bekannt,” or already known.90 In the case of the Andante, it surely helped that the tune was itself constructed from precirculated musical materials, the basis of its curiously fungible character. Foursquare trips up and down tonic and dominant triads conclude with calculatedly formulaic cadential approaches, while the dominant pedal following the double bar consists of a standard disposition of parts that the eighteenth-century theorist Joseph Riepel might have called a Ponte (see Figure 5; the passage would work in the most elementary form of this schema, with dominant sevenths and 6-4 chords alternating).91
Aside from its one calculated gestural imperfection, the tune seems to aspire to a proportionality bordering on blankness—the kind of typicality that Deidre Lynch associates with the worthy gentleman protagonist of the early novel, which “authorized him to oversee the social world's diversity”: a pure standard, around and through whom the distinctive and distorted “characters” of the lower orders or exotic outsiders became legible.92 This was the comparative neutrality of the eighteenth-century beautiful, the blankly universal background against which locally interesting characters became distinctive: the ultimate specimen of beauty, argued Adam Smith, was at once “the rarest of all things” and “the most common,” because “all the deviations from it resemble it more than they resemble one another.”93 (Not coincidentally, this is an adequate description of the formal principle of many eighteenth-century variation sets.) Character consists of “a small deviation from general Proportions,” explained a 1775 advertisement for a print of Hogarth's Characters and Caricaturas.94 And, to be sure, the musical recursions in Haydn's Andante unfold as a parade of interesting “characterizations,” each refocusing the attention: an opening Grazioso with delicately curtseying embellishments; a turbulent and stormy contrast, beginning in the minor mode; a pastoral variation presided over by the flute; and an expanded closing variation that swings back and forth between a public martial register and an interior sentimental style. This is surely characteristic music, less in the recent musicological sense, perhaps—that is, a historically sensitive way of describing music that refers to things or tells stories through a heightened iconicity95—than in the sense of popular eighteenth-century “characteristic” engravings and writings: picaresque depictions of human diversity, typically in urban locales, that scholars nowadays tend to regard as part of the early history of the novel.96
The interplay of recursiveness and unpredictability, of blankness and characterfulness, in this Andante doubtless contributes to the impression of “expressive ambivalence” that W. Dean Sutcliffe derives from several of Haydn's earlier symphonic slow movements. The “unusual gestures or oddly timed events” in these pieces generally do not disturb “an equanimity of tone and a polished style of delivery,” writes Sutcliffe; rather, they call attention to the techniques by which the attention is called.97 “The focus is less on expression and more on discourse, on the mechanisms that underpin what we believe to be natural or touching or melancholy in expression. Haydn seems above all interested in perception—in what it means to sit and listen.”98 In other words, he is interested in interest.
Perhaps one cannot even give an adequate description of the surprise of the “Surprise”—or even of the drumroll of the “Drumroll”—exclusively in terms of musical materials, so obviously are these gestures implicated in an audience's interest in them. Ciphers, conduits for attention, they exist only to be noted, much as the curiosity embodies our curiosity. “I christened it the Surprise when I announced it for my Benefit Concert at the opera Room, the year it was composed for Salomon's concerts at Hanover Square & my valued friend Haydn thank'd me for giving it such an appropriate Name”: thus jotted the flutist Andrew Ashe on an 1803 concert program, on which the “Surprise” was the opener (by this time routinely called by its synecdochal nickname).99 The stories that circulated early on about the surprise chord—that it was Haydn's bid to startle sleeping concertgoers or to scare inattentive ladies—may have been fictitious, but they show that it was understood to be fundamentally “about” attention.100 Haydn's tamer but nonetheless revealing version of the story was reported by Griesinger:
I was interested in surprising the public with something new, and in making a brilliant debut, so that my student Pleyel, who was at that time engaged by an orchestra in London (in 1792) and whose concerts had opened a week before mine, should not outdo me. The first Allegro of my symphony had already met with countless Bravos, but the enthusiasm reached its highest peak at the Andante with the Drum Stroke. Encore! Encore! sounded in every throat, and Pleyel himself complimented me on my idea.101
For all that, a vivid report of the premiere of the “Surprise,” in The Oracle on March 24, 1792, barely mentioned the audience reaction at all, instead describing the Andante as a depiction of surprise itself, a portrayal rather than cause of shock: “The surprise might not be unaptly likened to the situation of a beautiful Shepherdess who, lulled to slumber by the murmer [sic] of a distant Waterfall, starts alarmed by the unexpected firing of a fowling-piece.”102 As Raymond Williams once observed of late eighteenth-century urban poetics, the new pushes and pulls of city life are here representable as a kind of rhetoric that distorts the inherited vocabularies of the pastoral—and one might say the same of the Andante's self-consciously “pure” musical register, upon which the surprise encroaches (a register easily adapted to the ploughman in The Seasons).103 The nervous, abrasive musical stimuli typical of the metropolitan landscape here seem to intrude upon and disrupt a clichéd pastoral scene. The image of the alarmed shepherdess teaches us what attention is, and turns Haydn's surprise from a real-time shock into a musical reification of attention itself.
One might say something similar of the opening drumroll of the Symphony no. 103: an attention-grabbing audiovisual device emanating from the back of the orchestra that alerts the listening public to its own attentiveness, or distraction—though the Morning Chronicle reported that “the Introduction excited the deepest attention.”104 Rhetorically lying outside the “space” of any exposition—to use James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy's metaphor of choice105—and arguably of any introduction too, the opening drumroll is a timbral moment unconducive to Haydn's usual kinds of musical elaboration: like the surprise chord, it seems to reify the focusing of attention itself, and in this case sets up the ominous unfolding of the Adagio introduction. Its return near the end of the Allegro seems to function as an uncanny “refocusing” moment before the last measures of the coda—a glimpse of the fundamental state of interestedness that lies behind one's experience of the diverse elements of the piece, perhaps. A clever, attention-seeking trademark accordingly sets in train the rhetorical move, proceeding “gradually from dark confusion to clarity and reason,” that Marshall Brown once exalted as the analogue of the “infolded, temporal self-consciousness” posited by Kantian critical philosophy.106 Thus does marketing become metaphysics.
Reporting on the ninth concert of the 1794 season in Hanover Square, the Morning Chronicle, by way of defending the music of Giovanni Battista Viotti (another of the season's attractions), complained of the “quirks and quackery, in which modern music is so apt to indulge”—an ambiguous comment, to say the least, when the newest music by Haydn (which the reporter made sure to praise) was the greatest draw of the evening.107 On this occasion, the main attraction was a repeat performance of the Symphony no. 100, whose second-movement Allegretto, with its military-themed quirks, had been a sensation: “the middle movement was again received with absolute shouts of applause: Encore! encore! encore! resounded from every seat.”108 When Haydn decided to repeat the symphony once more in his own benefit concert on May 2, 1794, it was trailed in the press as “the Grand Overture … with the Militaire Movement,” the Allegretto already moving to center stage.109 And by the time the symphony was reprised yet again during his last season in London—in the third of the Opera Concerts at the King's Theatre on February 23, 1795—the piece had become the “Military Overture.” The Allegretto, now a synecdoche for the whole piece, was encored, as it had been on its previous outings. “Of all the instrumental pieces haydn'sMilitary Overture was the most conspicuous,” concluded the short newspaper report.110
The Allegretto of the “Military” was certainly designed to be conspicuous. Like the Andante of the “Surprise,” it presents its interesting features against a background of seriality: recursions within recursions of an entirely foursquare tune, not as blatantly featureless as the earlier Andante, perhaps, but simple and singable nonetheless, and constructed from similarly commonplace musical materials (including a four-measure Ponte before the concluding eight-measure phrase of the main tune). Haydn produced the bulk of the Allegretto from a measure-for-measure reorchestration of the naive second-movement romance from his concerto for two lire organizzate (composed in 1786–87 at the behest of King Ferdinand IV of Naples). As Emily Dolan has shown, within a fundamentally recursive formal scheme, the Allegretto creates interest primarily through timbral variation.111 In the opening section of the movement, the tune is divided into repeating chunks, each one presented by strings and flute then echoed by a wind ensemble: the opening eight measures, the subsequent eight-measure answer, the connecting Ponte, and the concluding eight-measure phrase. Even the ensuing dramatic minor-mode episode—which, partly because it barely deviates from the even phrase structure of the main theme, seems as much like a minore variation as a contrasting middle section—derives a large part of its interest from the incursion of janissary percussion instruments: cymbals, bass drum, and triangle. In Dolan's account of the piece, the repeat of the main theme—just pizzicato strings and wind to begin with—eventually “absorbs” these sonic intruders, creating the opportunity for still more timbral variety. The added percussion results not only in a strident, martial character, but also the delicate, music-box timbres into which the tune dissolves.112 While there is every reason to consider the Allegretto a ternary form, the principle by which it unfolds is nonetheless comparable to the variations of the Andante of the “Surprise”: a simple tune is subjected to a series of interesting timbral “characterizations,” although in this case the movement ultimately describes a more decisive process of change, whereby the unadorned romance fully takes on the military character by which the symphony became known. Even so, the Allegretto ultimately compresses this overarching principle into a synecdochal moment almost as sudden as the chord in the “Surprise.” At the end, Haydn deviated from the scheme of his earlier romance and added something especially for London: the most overtly characteristic gesture in the piece, a bugle call for solo trumpet, as much an uncanny incursion into the surrounding musical discourse as the reprised drumroll in Symphony no. 103 (see Figure 6).113 And, here too, a drumroll follows the bugle call—a steep crescendo to an orchestral tutti on an abrasive, unexpected chord; this was surely the “climax of horrid sublimity” described by the commentator of the Morning Chronicle.114 (The chord soon turns into a harmless augmented sixth, and so introduces a series of cadences and the closing fanfare, reminiscent of the C major tattoos that punctuate the opening movement of the Symphony no. 97.) More than the synecdochal moments of the “Surprise” or the “Drumroll,” the bugle call of the “Military” operates according to an existing conception of attention, and what it means to capture it. It is a reminder that “attention” was (and remains) a key concept in the parade-ground drill as well as in the consumption of music. One could even say that the bugle call hailed and interpellated its audience, wittily adapting long-standing musical technologies of military discipline to the purposes of capturing the interest of London consumers.115
Well might Haydn's former pupil Pleyel have congratulated his teacher on such winning ruses. For there are similar attention-seeking strategies in the three Pleyel symphonies that it seems—according to research by Arthur Searle—were composed newly for the London season.116 In the second movement of a symphony in B-flat, an Andante Grazioso in 6/8, the progress of a delicate siciliano-like melody is upset by several fortissimo surprises, which are given added force by a trombone (see Figure 7). Particularly disconcerting for those invested in questions of priority and precedent, Pleyel also produced a grand symphony in E-flat for the 1792 season in which the imposing horn chords that begin the slow introduction to the opening movement make a surprise return before the coda; this was more than two years before Haydn dramatically brought back the drumroll and slow introduction in the opening movement of his own E-flat symphony.117 These were the weapons in the “bloody harmonious war” of the 1792 season, waged for possession of the audience's interest.
Granted, especially with The Oracle's picture of the alarmed shepherdess in mind, one might justly wonder whether Haydn's symphonic surprises are truly examples of the typically low-intensity arousal of the interesting. Is a surprise not more instantaneous and startling than that? Annette Richards has argued that the Andante of the “Surprise” is best understood as an instance of the musical picturesque—that aesthetic of artful detour and carefully modulated imbalance—and that the surprise chord is too physically comic and imagistic to be the kind of thunderbolt associated with the eighteenth-century sublime.118 Yet one can also easily overlook the fact that a surprise can be literally surprising only once. “Time poisons perception,” writes Michael Clune, in a slightly disheartening neurological reading of Romantic poetry (among other things). “The more we see something, the duller and feebler our experience of it becomes.” Or, as Burke wrote, sounding for all the world like one of Simmel's blasé metropolitan consumers, “the same things make frequent returns, and they return with less and less of an agreeable effect.”119 Be that as it may, Haydn's surprises compensate by becoming rhetorically “surprising,” as much formal functions as phenomenal experiences. The name with which Ashe claimed to have christened the “Surprise” Symphony required no accompanying spoiler alert: we remain surprised by Haydn's chord in much the way that we are still “surprised” by the last-minute rescue in Beethoven's Fidelio, or by Janet Leigh's premature exit from the movie Psycho. The many piano transcriptions of the “Surprise” that circulated in the years following the symphony's premiere not only allowed for the “surprise” to be revisited time after time, but invariably announced the surprise on the frontispiece (see Figure 8): what could be less surprising? Likewise, the early years of the “Military” were marked by constant repetition—in the immediate encores, in successive concerts, in published remediations and critical commentaries, all of which capitalized on the already harvested attention of London consumers in order to sell more newspapers, more piano transcriptions, and more concert tickets. Salomon wasted no time in printing a piano trio version of the “Grand-Military Symphony,” which, as announced on the title page, was “printed for Mr. Salomon the Proprietor and to be had of him at the Hanover Square-Rooms.”120
Pace Karl Heinz Bohrer, for whom “suddenness” is the foundation of all aesthetic experience,121 it seems, then, that recursiveness—the ways in which something can be revisited, remediated, and rethought, especially within critical discourse—is the very principle of art's continuing social existence. The image of the alarmed shepherdess in The Oracle implies that all surprises creep up upon us unawares. Yet this image was in itself a whimsical invention of critical discourse—was, that is, a way of pleasurably revisiting and more precisely discriminating a favorite musical moment in print. Haydn's surprises thus come closer to the open-endedness of the interesting than they may appear: though instantaneous, they compel another look, another consideration. First they produce alarm, then they produce talk; what starts out as surprising ends up as interesting.
This temporal trajectory becomes especially clear when listening to the 2010 live recording of the “Surprise” Symphony by Marc Minkowski and the period instrument orchestra Les Musiciens du Louvre, which boldly replaces the surprise chord, first with an unexpected silence, then, in the course of an additional repeat, with a piercing scream from the entire orchestra, which audibly alarms the Viennese audience, who subsequently dissolve into self-conscious laughter at their own surprise.122 (This moment can be heard in Audio Example 1.) It is tempting to describe this substitution in terms of Peter Kivy's rather crudely subject-object-congealing distinction between “sonic” and “sensible” authenticity: that is, as an attempt to recreate the way in which something might have been heard rather than the noise it might have made.123 But, of course, even this refurbished surprise wears off after an initial listen, and by the time you read about it here has long since transformed from something that instigates astonished laughter into something that prompts musicological theorizing. One might even say that to replace the chord with a scream is a vain attempt to forestall this transformation, which in the process endorses the impression that Haydn's surprise consists of a dynamic of audience investment before any particular materials, and as such is liable to become hackneyed before long. One can hardly imagine a period instrument orchestra substituting the errant C♯ of the Eroica for the frisson of a more dissonant pitch. As Dolan has argued, musicians and musicologists have tended to understate the importance of the surprise chord within the movement—as “an aural promise of the orchestra's potential,” in her reading—because it is primarily a timbral device, less amenable to the pitch orientation of most formal analyses, where it tends to emerge as “a mere special effect.”124 The Musiciens du Louvre's substitution of the surprise chord implies a degree of anxiety, over not only the inevitable transition from the surprising to the interesting but, even more, the ever-present risk that the interesting will turn into the boring.
Certainly, generations of analysts have lined up to profess their lack of interest in the surprise chord—a musical device widely considered so banal and populist that Donald C. Johns was moved to call his 1963 article on the “Surprise” Symphony, which dwells on every part of the piece other than the one by which it is known, “In Defence of Haydn.”125 Long before, Tovey had set the tone by calling the surprise chord “the most unimportant feature in all Haydn's mature works,” thus ritualistically abjuring the attractions of those musical features that try most openly to arouse our interest in order to achieve the disinterestedness required of the more serious contemplator of art.126 The chord has “no special relevance to the unfolding of the movement,” writes A. Peter Brown, in much the same spirit.127 It is surely no coincidence that Johns's disinterested perspective on Haydn's Andante consists of a map of the piece as opposed to any more capricious pedestrian journey through it (see Figure 9)—a synoptic vision of formal proportions rather than Certeau's street-level metropolitan immersion, with its synecdochal relation to passing items of musical interest. Accordingly, the seriality of variation procedure itself—more recently theorized with more nuance as parataxis by Sisman—is a cause of concern for Johns, who aims to demonstrate that the “Surprise” variations are not “merely” strophic.128 He thus reinscribes the interesting detail at the level of musical form, promoting an acute sensitivity to Haydn's deviations from proportional correspondence between theme and variations (in the second, minor-mode variation and the coda). It hardly needs saying that Johns's analysis is best understood when following the progress of the Andante closely with a score, a view of the music that no audience member in Hanover Square would have adopted. By and large, Haydn's London symphonies address an audience of pedestrians.129 And yet it would be wrongheaded merely to privilege a notional street-level perspective over the supposedly up-in-the-air abstractions of analytical close reading—or, for that matter, to lionize the “free” play of a musical surface over some questionable metaphysics of depth.130 For, even equipped with a synoptic map, Johns produces interesting details just as they have always been produced: he notes them into existence. In the end, his map supplements the many technologies of discrimination, and such technologies, as we have seen, have always lived in the street. Though some analysts might wish a diagram to be a distancing tool of scholarly disinterest, interest always resurfaces, attesting to the dynamic of attraction that necessarily underwrites any form of attention at all.
Besides, the kind of close reading that Johns pursued had its origin in the very forums of critical discussion that were starting to appear during Haydn's lifetime, and with which his later music was closely linked. Like the emerging notion of “round character” in eighteenth-century literature, which Lynch traces in part to the new Shakespeare criticism of the 1780s, some musically interesting features are only fully apprehended via critical rumination, which elaborates upon and magnifies the smallest textual clues and mildest sensuous experiences: “The beauties of Shakespeare … are not forward nor obtrusive,” wrote William Richardson in 1783; “They do not demand although they claim attention.”131 Not long before this, Carl Ludwig Junker had praised Haydn's adagios for their “serious, interesting whimsy,” which he compared to “the tragic sentiments of a Shakespeare.”132 Junker thus deployed a relatively new critical vocabulary that would eventually be elevated into art theory by Friedrich Schlegel in his 1797 essay On the Study of Greek Poetry, which associated the modern age with what he called “interesting poetry” (“interessante Poesie”). In Schlegel's view, interesting art, with its cultivated open-endedness and perpetual invitations to be read, became more or less continuous with the explanatory discourse that it eagerly solicited; it was partly directed, that is, at the unceasing debates of a rapidly expanding critical sphere.133 Schlegel's “interessante Poesie,” as Ngai notes, “seems to mark a convergence of art with conceptual discourse about art,” and with this in mind, one could say that Haydn provides ample musical evidence that his were among the earliest instrumental compositions to be so widely written up.134 Focusing “less on expression and more on discourse” (to quote Sutcliffe again), Haydn's music, as critics have noted for some time, frequently takes on the character of discourse itself. The Andante from the “Surprise,” the opening movement of the “Drumroll,” and the Allegretto of the “Military” might even be said to blur the distinction between musical discourses and the critical discourses that impinge upon them, so overtly do they thematize their own interesting features.
The Fate of Interest
This article has concerned itself, at least in part, with late eighteenth-century urban soundscapes and material culture—those wide, discipline-traversing spaces that have recently allowed musicologists to assemble networks of people, practices, and things in new and illuminating configurations.135 But the idea of interest has complicated matters. For, absent such an idea, these capacious conceptual spaces can sometimes appear too passive or inert to sustain the acts of discrimination that produce our objects of attention to begin with—acts that, as we have seen, Haydn's London music frequently thematizes, and even models. However thickly textured our historical accounts, all description works through synecdoche; however ostensibly material our focus, all networks are held together by the selectivity of our interests, and the interests that we inherit. In the inevitably partial historical data that we invoke, in the necessarily curtailed musical excerpts that we repeatedly discuss in our classrooms, synecdoche goes all the way down.136 One might even risk the assertion that synecdoche is the ubiquitous trope of interestedness, the rhetorical expression of our changing techniques and technologies of discrimination, whether they take the form of a popular nickname, a critical practice, a composer's notebook, or a music analyst's diagram. These mediators create hierarchies, establish salience, generate and pluck out discrete objects of knowledge to be shared, construct and condition how and why “we attend to the things to which we attend,” to recall Innis's formulation. Synecdoche reveals the speciously level landscape of mere facts as an arena of variegated concerns.
And yet, heeding Latour's energizing call to rethink “matters of fact” as “matters of concern” is surely only possible if scholars are equipped with a clearly formulated idea of what “concern” is—and, especially, of the places and historical periods in which it became newly viable to conceive of one's relationship to the world in terms of this special kind of interestedness. As Isabelle Stengers has noted, in Latin-derived languages “interesse” is, etymologically, “situated between”—is apparently nothing but the empty dynamic of subjects binding themselves to their subjects.137 How have people conceived of and naturalized this in-between stuff, this force that supposedly glues people and things together? Thinking about Haydn's London compositions and the market in which they were produced helps us to formulate a distinctively musical answer to this question. It has frequently been observed that, in the London of the 1790s, Haydn was introduced to a new “patron,” with whom he had never worked so closely—the largely anonymous general public.138 One of the few ways in which he, or any of his colleagues, could conceive of the wishes of this radically distributed patron, whose desires were revealed in many atomized acts of purchasing and exchanging the steep half-guinea tickets, was via the concept of interest, a concept that, as we have seen, appears curiously divided nowadays between distinct aesthetic and economic valences, but that, in the eighteenth century, denoted a form of individual investment that was necessarily both psychic and monetary. Now that, in several areas of music studies at least, the relational network of people and things is one of the main methodological paradigms, and even, to some, one of the privileged social ontologies, it is easy to forget that this idea has a historical point of origin.139 “Selves and their interests are historically conditioned ideas,” observes Jean-Christophe Agnew.140 Indeed, the notion that the social body is a “vast, heterogeneous, intricate Mass of Interests,” as Burke once conceived of the distant inhabitants of Bengal,141 originates precisely in Haydn's metropolitan world: in early liberal philosophies of taste and civil society; in the eighteenth-century imaginative prose that explicated and celebrated the vibrancy of social circulation; and, of course, in the incipiently capitalist systems that these writings sought at once to theorize and produce.142 Haydn's London music, as I have argued, encourages us to conceive of our attention in terms of the psychic economy of interest, and in the process teaches us to be interested in music in particular ways, which is perhaps why it has rarely sat comfortably with later aspirations to disinterested contemplation.
In 1795 Haydn returned home, to a city that was never to match London's commercial intensity. It would be some time before Vienna hosted a concert series on the scale of the Opera Concerts or those in Hanover Square, although the number of music publishers and piano workshops, as well as the circulation of advertisements and music criticism, expanded rapidly in the years around 1800.143 Yet the most momentous changes that Haydn witnessed in the city were brought about by the wars with France, which prompted the Austrian state to promote a bellicose public ambience, through increased sponsorship of newspapers and other publications, and a new emphasis on civic ceremony and collective celebration.144 As Thomas Tolley has argued, the kinds of audience engagement and musical attention-seeking that Haydn had cultivated in London thus proved useful in his late Vienna years, now that music was regularly called upon to speak to and shape collective sentiment.145 In wartime Vienna, cultivating interest became a fraught political matter.
Given that these years witnessed the convergence of Haydn's interesting music, market interests, and the ideological interests of wartime administrators, it may seem paradoxical that intellectual historians should have so often associated the years around 1800 with the ascendancy of the philosophical ideal of disinterested contemplation.146 To be sure, the critical reception of the canonical symphonies of Beethoven, produced during Haydn's last decade, might sometimes imply that these works are better suited to this ideal than the London symphonies.147 Yet, as critics have long observed, Beethoven's music, especially in its exhortative Napoleonic vein, trades in many of the same strategies of interest arousal as Haydn's. One hardly need list all the formal swerves and uncanny incursions in a composition such as the Symphony no. 5, quirks that have been consistently interesting across generations of reviews and critical exegeses: the horn calls and pleading oboe solo of the opening Allegro; the dark-to-light transition into the finale; the added “surprise” of the scherzo's ghostly return before the concluding recapitulation.148 With these interesting details in mind, it is hard to avoid the idea that the forms of contemplation promoted by some Beethovenians were (and still are) made possible only by repressing and sublimating the many forms of arousal that inevitably underpin them, much as Tovey disdained the interest in Haydn's surprise. And, as we have seen, the apparent opposition between interestedness and disinterestedness is the psychic analogue of the Romantic distinction between “market value” and that new nineteenth-century thing called “aesthetic value”—codependent notions that, as the literary scholar John Guillory has shown, share an intellectual origin, even as they now appear antithetical.149 In Beethoven's famous utopian fantasy of a “Magazin der Kunst” (a storehouse, or market, of art), tellingly articulated in the course of negotiations with the publisher Hoffmeister, the realm of art and the realm of money are at once mutually hostile and mutually dependent: “I wish things were different in the world. There ought to be in the world a storehouse of art to which the artist would only bring his artworks in order to take what he needed; as it is, one must be half businessman, and how can one be reconciled to that!”150 Haydn's London symphonies were composed before—just before, one might say—the Romantic artist was internally divided in this sense.151 As such, they reveal not only the market origins of many of the vaunted musical strategies and high-minded aesthetic values that came to prominence in the nineteenth century, but also the institutional changes, technological developments, and conceptual contortions that made Beethoven's now familiar position viable.
It is not my intention to conclude this article with a predictably triumphalist material turn, however, yet again unmasking the unworldly fantasies of bad old Romantic idealism as thoroughly and inescapably worldly. Indeed, now that many music scholars are turning to materialist approaches of various kinds, the very implicatedness of Haydn's London music with listeners’ growing conceptions of their own interest should steer us away from the ontological extremes of some of the newer materialisms, whether those of a broadly Heideggerian bent, in which the artwork is a special instance of that inscrutable Thing, oblivious to human intentions and purposes,152 or those that would disperse musical subjects and objects into the supposedly liberating, supposedly more fundamental, materials of sound or vibration—“unencumbered by humans,” as Nina Eidsheim puts it.153 All description is “a directed, interested simulacrum,” as Roland Barthes once said of structuralist analytical methods.154 To imagine that one can simply assign to music (or sound, or vibration) a position amid an array of implacable things “out there” is, under the guise of a virtuous rejection of anthropocentrism, to indulge the fantasy that one can intimate a view from nowhere, a view accomplished with no hard-won techniques, no particular interests. This is a distinctly (neo)liberal vision: an autotelic network of material relationships, mysteriously divested of—indeed, wondrously liberated from—our own concerns.155 It amounts to a post-human version of the tendency that Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak once cautioned against in postcolonial studies—that of the intellectual “masquerading as the absent nonrepresenter who lets the oppressed speak for themselves.”156 Haydn's London music forecloses this politically dubious fantasy, I would argue, because, produced before the triumph of the Beethovenian belief that artist and businessman were irreconcilable, it revels in the fact that art—no less than Haydn's London notebooks—makes, and is made by, our interests. Just as coinage reifies and teaches a particular understanding of desire by giving our as yet undirected drives a material form, so one could say that Haydn's music gave sonic shape to the psychic reorientations of interested attention. In the eighteenth-century urban environments in which the concept of interest acquired its modern meanings, Haydn made interest itself audible.