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.”
“Girling,” as Judith Butler has theorized it, refers to a two-way process of social performance. On the one hand, it denotes the shaping of girls’ individual tastes and values in accordance with the gender norms of the society they live in. On the other, it denotes the enactment of girlhood in such a way as to satisfy girls’ own desires, in order either to “resist [familial and social] demands or to reassure themselves about their own capacity to fulfill them.”1 Attending to “both sides of this cultural thoroughfare,” Ruth Solie has recently reapplied Butler's concept in an attempt to theorize the emotional labors demanded of adolescent daughters seated at the bourgeois parlor piano in nineteenth-century Europe and the United States. As evidenced by etiquette and child-rearing manuals, iconography in pedagogical texts, popular publications targeting young women, and girls’ own interpretations of piano playing in memoirs, letters, and diary entries, the domestic piano, Solie shows, served as a key site for the interpellation of middle-class selves. From the German context, Solie cites composer-pedagogue Carl Czerny's Letters to a Young Lady, on the Art of Playing the Pianoforte (ca. 1840) and a published commentary by music critic Louis Ehlert as two representative examples of this function. In line with a contemporary vogue for piano music published with inscriptions such as “to the ladies,” “to the fair sex,” and to “Vienna's beauties,” Czerny's epistolary treatise addresses the budding learner herself, a fictional pupil he names “Cecilia.” Throughout, Czerny exhorts Cecilia “to attend to her posture and to her appearance at the keyboard, he reminds her of her duty as a good daughter to play for the pleasure of her family and their friends, and he reinforces the point that piano playing, while of course suitable for everyone, is ‘yet more particularly one of the most charming and honorable accomplishments for young ladies, and, indeed, for the female sex in general.’”2 Ehlert, for his part, is concerned with piano teaching as opposed to piano playing. In his view, keyboard instruction requires “two qualities that are more feminine in their nature than masculine—patience and love.”3 Yet in either case, Solie stresses, the activities of both playing and teaching the piano were emphatically marked as women's work, one feeding into the other, as daughterly piano students might, eventually, mature into maternal piano teachers, as many mothers were also piano instructors. Girling, we might say, performed its own recursive cycle.4
In detailing this argument, and almost as an aside, Solie makes an intriguing proposition. Glossing the emerging discourse of the Romantic Mother-figure—both the myth of this figure in Germanic literature and philosophy, and actual mothers, themselves formerly “girled” subjects—Solie suggests that Ehlert's commentary “invites an analysis like [media theorist] Friedrich Kittler's parallel observation that mothers’ responsibility for teaching literacy at the same time silenced them in the wider world of literature and language.”5 Without further elaboration of this paradoxical process, however, Solie leaves open a question: If mothers in the German lands taught both literacy and piano playing, and also learned these skills from their own mothers, then in what ways—beyond mere contiguity—might these two regimes, the language arts and pianism, be related?
Focusing on Czerny, this article accepts Ehlert's implied—and Solie's explicit—invitation. In what follows, I situate Czerny's Letters and the text to which it served as a supplement, the Complete Theoretical and Practical Piano Forte School: From the First Rudiments of Playing to the Highest and Most Refined State of Cultivation, op. 500 (1839), in the wider context of educational philosophy, language-learning techniques, and keyboard-based reproductive media.6 In doing so, I aim to complement Solie's history by means of a media-analytical approach, following a recent trend in music studies that foregrounds the methods, logics, procedures, symbols, formats, and technologies—in short, the material-cognitive technics—by which subjectivation is convened.7 Delving into the texts themselves, the first part of the article, “Carl Czerny, Pedagogue,” unpacks the epistemic foundations of opus 500 and the Letters, illustrating how early-century keyboard method books transposed contemporaneous ideas in pedagogical theory and European epistemology, specifically Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi's progressivist educational philosophy. Opus 500, I propose, enscripts this philosophy into musical notation, codifying into discrete exercises what Pestalozzi would have regarded as a hands-on, step-by-step—“progressive”—accumulation of musical skill. Pestalozzi's predominantly language-based methods, I assert, witnessed a pianistic counterpart. Registered at the level of the fingers, Czerny's mechanical exercises encoded the performative instructions and behavioral expectations according to which adolescent daughters would theoretically have negotiated their emotional labors. Both a musical text and discursively a mechanical “code of conduct,” opus 500 thus offers a prime locus for excavating girling's embodied-sensational variables.
Departing from Solie's historical-archival focus, then, my task is of an archaeological bent: that is, following Roger Moseley, I aim to demonstrate how, by way of the device of the mechanical exercise, opus 500 and the Letters posited a distinct set of discursive and material parameters for musical “play.”8 Throughout, I treat these method books as “Foucauldian palimpsests that at once enable, regulate, and erase the inscriptions of bodies,” forming a simultaneously disciplinary and self-inventive “framework within which a range of possible outcomes becomes imaginable and simulable.”9 Taking both Solie's and Moseley's studies as its cue, my approach is equally informed by Kittler's concept of the discourse network, “the network of technologies and institutions that allow a given culture to select, store, and process relevant data,” a kind of large-scale information machine governing what Moseley might call the epistemic “rules of the game”—rules that are both reflected in and emergent through technically mediated cultural practices, or “cultural techniques.”10 Girling at the parlor piano represents precisely such a cultural technique.11 With Kittler's aid, and by narrowing the gap between educational, epistemological, and musical discourses, I seek to conceptualize girling's “rules.”12
The second part of the article, “Carl Czerny, Transcriber,” transitions from Czerny's work as a pedagogue toward his corpus of transcriptions of other composers’ works, contributing to a recent movement initiated by David Gramit that endeavors to rectify musicological neglect of Czerny's multifaceted career.13 By this stage, then, it will have become clear that the article is about far more than girling per se, and as much about Czerny himself. If, through opus 500 and the Letters, Czerny acted as a “mechanic” of the musical hand, I argue that he also sought to prepare young pianists to play his own “mechanically” reproduced transcriptions. This is not merely a play on words. Like girling itself, Czerny, I suggest, established himself as a a one-person recursive loop.14
To elucidate this process, I examine Czerny's four-hand piano transcription of the final, “Ode to Joy” movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.15 The purpose of this case study is twofold. First and foremost, it offers a preliminary overview of Czerny's idiosyncratic transcriptive strategies, adding to a scholarly discourse on four-hand piano transcriptions that has commented on but has yet to offer a detailed account of Czerny's contributions to this craft.16 Second, it considers how Czerny's piano transcriptions registered—or rather, remediated—a system of technics that was itself analogous to the one underlying opus 500. This opens up new implications for the commonplace observation that transcriptions constituted the nineteenth century's preferred format for “mechanical” musical reproduction: the very thematic and formal structures of Beethoven's symphonies, I conjecture, played out similarly to those of the technics undergirding the mechanical exercises in opus 500. As we will see, the logic suffusing both texts operated according to processes of formal assembly, augmentation, and (Pestalozzi-like) progressive development—what Kittler would call a “mechanical program.” At the site of girling, and in stitching together a wide sweep of techniques, from language learning to music pedagogy to transcriptions, Czerny brought several “mechanical” systems of this kind into contact.
Why single out a symphony by Beethoven among Czerny's myriad transcriptions?17 As Ingrid Fuchs has argued, Czerny saw himself as one of Beethoven's chief “posthumous ambassadors,” having written a laudatory article about his former teacher in the Allgemeine Wiener Musik-Zeitung, composed a collection of “Reminiscences” about Beethoven's performances, and produced pedagogical material specifying the proper performance of Beethoven's piano works. By way of the Ninth transcription, we can glimpse the ways in which Czerny served as Beethoven's “domestic” ambassador, so to speak: how he funneled Beethovenian aesthetics into domestic spaces, thereby also rechanneling the Biedermeier variant of Romanticism more generally.18 Ultimately, I hope to show that at the heart of this dynamic lay Kittler's “mechanical program” in multiple manifestations. The “mechanical program” fortified the “Discourse Network 1800” in numerous ways, evincing a culturally normative set of epistemic “rules” that shaped the movements of hands and fingers, the directions of compositional goals, the making of transcriptions, and the transmission of Beethovenian aesthetics—indeed, of the idea of a Great Composer tout court—alike.19 Such elements constitute what I call Carl Czerny's “mechanical reproductions.”
To be sure, my study is of a speculative nature, and should be read as such. I seek to explain the conditions of possibility for the coincidence of these reproductive processes rather than claiming outright that they in fact coincided (although I contend that this could certainly have been the case). To put a point on it: I wish to demonstrate how Czerny operated as a switchboard, a Kittlerian toggle, whereby the polyglot recruited contiguous cultural technologies—namely pedagogical methods and the four-hand transcription—that transformed the domestic piano into a nexus where fingers could be trained, subjectivities negotiated, gendered assumptions reproduced, symphonic sound converted into keyboard sound, and even abstract notions of canonicity consolidated.
Carl Czerny, Pedagogue
Sensation, Association, and the Pestalozzian ABC Book
In one of the few texts to discuss piano pedagogy and European epistemology in tandem, Leslie Blasius has argued that a range of early- and mid-century pedagogical works—Louis Adam's standard conservatory method Méthode de piano du Conservatoire (1805), Johann Nepomuk Hummel's ubiquitous Ausführliche theoretisch-practische Anweisung zum Piano-Forte-Spiel (1828), and Karl Tausig's Tägliche Übungen (ca. 1870), to name a few—sought to transfer otherwise abstract and abstruse philosophical principles into the mundane and accessible domain of everyday music making.20 In the face of studies of European epistemologies that pit eighteenth-century notions of sensation, taxonomic classification, and objectivity against later conceptions of intuition and subjectivity, however, Blasius demonstrates how such works effectively merged elements from both of these alleged paradigms, how they produced an overlapping set of frameworks that he refers to as “sensationalism” and a certain “associative agenda.” So, whereas the “sensationalism” of Étienne Bonnot de Condillac's Traité des sensations (1754), for instance, treated sense perception as the origin of knowledge, imagination, and reason, and the “associative agenda” of Archibald Alison's Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste (1790) underscored the grammar-like concatenation of the passions, Blasius argues that many nineteenth-century piano pedagogies blended these principles into a distinctly musical knowledge whereby discrete sensations (regarded as “objects”) would be built up by way of syntactical operations, which would in turn yield emotional wholes (“the beautiful,” “the sublime,” and so on, that are experienced by the “subject”). In this view, “sensationalism” (a mechanics of the passions) and what might be labeled “associationism” (comparable to the functionalism of rhetoric) coalesce in the mind: the fount of Romanticism in its Hoffmannian vein.21
Crucially, and as Blasius shows, Adam, Hummel, and Tausig—among other pedagogues of their generation, including Friedrich Kalkbrenner, Johann Baptist Cramer, Muzio Clementi, and Ignaz Moscheles—devised a certain “mechanics of fingering” through which to enact this conciliation.22 And they did so with the aid of a newly important device: the manual, or “mechanical” exercise. Prioritizing the feeling of playing the keyboard over and above musical hearing, mechanical exercises presented the student with a reified and holistic model of musical experience; in a step-by-step manner, they broke down an imagined Pianist and virtually reconstructed her, fragment by fragment, piece by piece, finger movement by finger movement, thus disassembling Musical Experience into discrete actions to be built back up—associatively. As Blasius summarizes this program, “Music in the early nineteenth-century [piano] method is apprehended first through the body, at a level of sensation anterior to introspection or ideation or even composition. The performer learns technique through the decomposition of bodily sensations and their reconstruction in increasingly complex (and increasingly associative) combinations.”23 Exercises encompassing hand and body position, the fingering of scales and arpeggios, elements of touch and articulation, ornamentation and embellishments, pedaling, and dynamics served as the mainstays of this early-century approach.24 It was an approach so pervasive it might be termed hegemonic, as even those pedagogues omitted from Blasius's study—Jean-Baptiste Duvernoy and Johann Friedrich Franz Burgmüller come to mind—applied something similar.25
Although likewise absent from Blasius's study, Czerny's multivolume opus 500 fully exemplifies this sensational-associationist and (de)constructive procedure. Organized as a sequence of “lessons,” Volume 1, for instance, begins with elementary instruction in hand and body position before proceeding to the introduction of transposable primary finger exercises. These reappear throughout the text, but in a range of different guises; rather than simply writing them out as exercises per se, however, Czerny embeds them within longer and more complex exercise passages and “practical pieces” (instructional miniatures).26 Thus, in Lesson 3, “Names of the Notes,” Czerny reintroduces basic finger exercises presented in Lesson 1, and intercalates them into a practical piece designed to help the student memorize treble clef note names. From there, he introduces a host of new technical skills that are then associatively recombined with one another; these include five-finger patterns outlining triads (all transposable) in varied hand and fingering positions, Alberti and other accompanying patterns, single-finger and thirds-based repetitions, and other fragmentary exercises (see Figure 1). Lesson 5, which focuses on the “Names of the Bass Notes,” adopts a similarly “digital” approach and emphasis on embodied skill.27 Throughout the entire volume, an advanced, manually dexterous playing ability is taken as the basis for developing reading skills (matters of “ideation” or “conception”) that are by comparison disproportionately rudimentary in nature. Accordingly, Lesson 5 teaches bass note names (theoretically easy) by way of prolonged scalar and Alberti patterns composed beneath strenuous leaping parallel sixths in the right hand (manually difficult); likewise, the lesson's practical pieces employ grueling cascades of Allegro thirds and a host of root-position triads, chords that would have demanded a great deal from and helped to train a young learner's forearm strength (see Figure 2). Rote before note, sensation before theoretical conception, and even physical strength before ideation, such lessons bundle these skills into associative clusters, which become increasingly challenging as the volumes progress.
The efficacy of this method aside (and one could certainly question it), Czerny's approach in Lessons 3, 5, and elsewhere speaks not solely to the combination of sensationalist and associationist frameworks, but also to larger pedagogical developments that both integrated and pivoted away from such epistemological foundations. In both regards, Pestalozzi's progressivist educational philosophy, flagged above, was germinal. Enshrined in post-Enlightenment legislation following Napoleon's German campaigns, the Swiss pedagogue's hands-on, experiential teaching methods came to prominence amid Gottfried van Swieten's universal democratic education reforms, when public schooling became compulsory and Bildung-inflected individualism was proffered as a core feature of curricula.28 Influential on modern educational methods ranging from Johann Friedrich Herbart's social psychologism to still current pedagogies such as Shin'ichi Suzuki's “mother tongue” method (aptly named, as we will see), Pestalozzi's theories were novel in placing a heavy stress on the progressive cultivation of sensation—in an associative manner. As Arthur Efland clarifies, Pestalozzi's teachings entailed the following criteria: first, the bringing together of “all things essentially related to each other”; next, the systematic and sequential development of sense impressions (which the pedagogue understood to be universally shared); third, an effort “to make the simple perfect before going on to the complex”; and finally, the arrangement of “knowledge in graduated steps so that differences in new ideas shall be small and almost imperceptible.”29 Underlining the work's status as a bona fide gradus ad Parnassum, the subtitle of opus 500, “from the First Rudiments of Playing to the Highest and Most Refined State of Cultivation,” captures the essence of this philosophy, while the text itself charts the paths through which such cultivation is to transpire. Herein, then, lies opus 500's “progressivist” underpinnings: as the lessons progress in difficulty, the learner's theoretical acumen progresses accordingly. Both sensationally and associatively, cognitive and conceptual know-how are conveyed and internalized in an acutely embodied fashion. Yet, again, note the direction of this dynamic: theoretical knowledge follows from sensational and associative interactions, not vice versa.
Even the most cursory survey of early nineteenth-century music pedagogies, keyboard-based and otherwise, will indicate the prevalence of Pestalozzi's ideas. Hans Georg Nägeli and Michael Traugott Pfeiffer's Gesangbildungslehre nach Pestalozzischen Grundsätzen (1810), just one of the duo's extremely influential singing curricula, can be taken as a representative example. As Gramit has discussed, Nägeli and Pfeiffer's text drew explicitly from Pestalozzi's understanding of “Nature,” which “prescribed that all knowledge (Erkenntnis) derived from three fundamental human faculties: the power to generate sound, which made speech possible; an ability to conceive in indeterminate, purely sensual images, which provided a basis for the knowledge of form; and a determinate, ‘no longer purely sensual’ conceptual ability, on which quantitative knowledge was based.”30 Accordingly, the Gesangbildungslehre begins by acquainting the student with basic phonic sensation before showing her how to develop this skill in a technical and subsequently conceptual fashion. Students progress from an education in tone quality, rhythmic ability, and the singing of melodies (in that order) before finally learning how to combine these skills, and to connect them with dynamics and expression. In a sense, then, opus 500 can be read as a pianistic manifestation of the same logic that underlies the Gesangbildungslehre.
Likewise, the progressivist logic that animates opus 500 parallels a smorgasbord of early nineteenth-century harmony and compositional treatises. In works by pedagogues such as Jérôme-Joseph de Momigny and Anton Reicha, for example, the student begins her study by learning atomistic elements of pitch, followed by scales, then intervals, before moving on to chords and simple progressions; eventually, she combines these elements with formal features like phrases, sentences, periods, and so on. It is unclear whether Momigny or Reicha consciously applied Pestalozzi's theories, as Nägeli and Pfeiffer had. But A. B. Marx certainly did. In his Die Lehre von der musikalischen Komposition (1837), Marx transposed Pestalozzi's ideas concerning essential and inborn sensation into that of the “Gang” and “Satz,” melody-based structures that the student is tasked with developing piece by piece along a progressivist trajectory entailing a sequence of composing melodic lines, fleshing them out contrapuntally and texturally, then situating them in musical forms. Glossing Pestalozzi's well-known pedagogy the “ABC of Anschauung,” Michael Spitzer suggests that, in this sense, “Marx can be said to complete the project which Nägeli began: the translation of Pestalozzi's ‘ABC of Anschauung’ from vision to sound” (more on alphabetics shortly).31
Given that Czerny's text is “mainly founded on the study of the scales,”32 opus 500's Lesson 8, “Practice of the Scales in All the Major Keys,” offers a particularly vivid example of Czerny's own contribution to the Pestalozzian musical climate of his time. Having mastered a basic knowledge of the notes, finger exercises, and elementary reading skills, the student is tasked in this chapter with acquainting herself with the tonal key areas sensationally, through exercises focused on manual dexterity. The process consists of two stages. The first comprises the following steps: memorize the scale and its associated fingering in the right hand; play multi-octave arpeggios of the tonic triad; play the scale starting on the third and fifth scale degrees; garnish these scales with provided grace figures; and finish by playing a chromatic scale. The second stage is simply a repetition of the first, but with both hands (and without the ornament, as with both hands “it very seldom occurs in practice”)33; from here, the process is repeated ad nauseam by way of traversing the major-key circle of fifths. Throughout, and importantly, this circuitous journey doubles as a way of teaching both manual technique and knowledge about modulation and transposition—in, again, a thoroughly embodied manner. Not once in the process does Czerny state a rationale for shifting from C to F major, or from F to B-flat, and so on; instead, shifts in fingering enact the segue. From C to F, modulation is made to make sense (pun intended) by dint of the left hand moving its thumb to B♭, thereby creating a dominant seventh arpeggio by which to descend smoothly into the new F tonic area; similarly, when shifting to B-flat, the thumb slides down to E♭, in B-flat to A♭, in E-flat to D♭, in A-flat to G♭, and so on. Upon arriving at G-flat major, Czerny prepares a modulation to B major by rewriting the home key in its enharmonic equivalent, F-sharp major—again, without providing any theoretical explanation for the orthographic change (see Figure 3). Pedagogically, the reformulation is puzzling. Without some kind of theoretical clarification, how is the student supposed to reconcile this flat-to-sharp change on the page with the experience of simply adding an extra flat—as one does when playing the flat keys in order—at the level of the fingers? All the same—and again, leaving the question of efficacy aside—what I wish to underline is that Lesson 8 puts the Pestalozzian, sensational cart well before the explicatory horse. Indeed, it is not until Volume 1's final lesson, “On the 24 Keys or Scales,” that theory rounds out playing and Czerny explains the whys and wherefores of Lesson 8's organization. The progressivist “end” of the volume elucidates the mechanics of sensation and association that have led to its attainment.
In broader cultural terms, what might Czerny's sequencing have signified? Kittler, I think, provides an answer. In his magisterial Discourse Networks, 1800/1900, Kittler explores how the basic protocols of Pestalozzian language-learning media laid the psychosocial basis for far more extensive changes in German society, variously civic, philosophical, military, and familial. Specifically, he argues that the newly invented technology of the ABC book—examples of which include Johann Gottfried von Herder's Von der Ausbildung der Rede und Sprache in Kindern und Jünglingen (1796), Carl Friedrich Splittegarb's Neues Bilder-ABC, oder Deutsches Lesebuch für die Jugend (1787), and Heinrich Stephani's Ausführliche Beschreibung meiner einfachen Lesemethode (1807)—catalyzed two seismic changes in elementary acculturation methods. First, short-circuiting official channels, such texts conferred educational authority on the mother; used primarily in the home, like piano methods, they thereby transferred elements of primary education from public institutions to the space of the nuclear family.34 In doing so, and through a transformation that Kittler calls “alphabetization,” they reconceptualized speech as writing's progenitor—crucially, not the other way around.35 Thus, opposing itself to Biedermeier society's anterior cultural system (what Kittler dubs the “Republic of Scholars”), this new regime's emphasis on orality replaced textualist learning techniques with approaches focused on the mutation of syllables, words, and sentences by the movement of the mouth.36 Bit by bit, syllable by syllable, word by word, the effect of this change was that language was treated “for the first time as a totality of [discrete] phonetic elements.”37 Furthermore, the somatic parameters of speech/speaking were seen as an index of language's supposedly natural condition, voicing seemingly inexpressible meanings that lay dormant in the depths of such literary notions as Ossian's “cries,” Schiller's “dull ‘ach!’” or a primordial “oh!”38 For Kittler, the immensity of this change cannot be overstated, for it summoned nothing less than the paradigm shift known as Romanticism, literary and otherwise. As a cultural technique, Pestalozzian language teaching helped to effect self-reflexive, humanist subjects, who would be endowed via Mothers with Geist.39 Paradoxically, Kittler argues, the ABC book constructed Nature, and equally the Mother—Romanticism's metaphysical and actual vehicle—“as the source of discourse,” through discourse.40 Nature, itself a “dark and unarticulated discourse,” stood to syllabic fragments like “ach!” as both their origin and their signified, at once mocking and impelling the new literacy's conceits, measuring the “space of [their] difference under the title ‘Language.’”41
Without going so far as to posit a one-to-one commensurability between Romantic speech and Romantic music, I would nonetheless propose that the technics that animated the Pestalozzian ABC book not only resembled but suggest a mirror image of those that underpinned early-century finger-centric keyboard training. In turn, such mundane media as both language-learning texts and keyboard methods helped to furnish Romantic subjectivities in a Hoffmannian vein.
For Kittler, the driving principle of early-century German discourse networks was what he called a “mechanical program” of “assembly and augmentation,” a two-part epistemic framework reliant above all on the discretization of syllabic utterance (much like piano methods’ treatment of sensation).42 As he demonstrates through dozens of examples, ABC books advanced a reified, holistic ideal of the speaking German subject (as in Blasius's many examples), in relation to which words were broken down into syllables, a set of experiential fragments that would be pieced together to form a coherent fabric of utterances (as in progressivist musical methods). Composites (sentences) comprised composites (words), which comprised syllables—“minimal signifieds,” in Kittler's parlance (see Figure 4). Startlingly, Discourse Networks, 1800/1900 explains this process in precisely the manner in which Czerny outlines opus 500: indeed, sensationally, associatively, and progressively, with the end product amounting to an ideal Romantic speaker. Consider the following passage, in which Kittler uses musical metaphors to illuminate the ABC book's—and hence Romanticism's—combinatorial dynamic:
Just as ach was contained in Sprache, so Sprache, theoretically and literally, proceeded from ach. Augmentation led from meaning to meaning; it came into play where minimal signifieds grow into meanings and so conformed to the organic model in which elements not fortuitously named roots grow whole words.
Assembly and augmentation as historically different manipulations of language stand to one another as do fugue and sonata, contrapuntal line and thematic-motivic work. The fugue contained no continual expansion and acceleration of its themes, only the whole-number amplification and diminution of note values. Furthermore, its technique of construction took into account the column and the series to which each tone belonged. Finally, the rules for the formation of crab motion, retrograde, and mirror crab were textbook examples of mathematical combinatories. By contrast, the themes of the classical-romantic sonatas consisted of motifs that were at once minimal musical materiality and elementary meaning. In the opening motif of his C Minor Symphony, Beethoven, whose notebooks demonstrate an obsession with the smallest possible motifs, exemplified how a maximum of meaning can be drawn from a minimum of note value. Finally, thematic-motivic work proceeds by extensions and variations according to the combinatory rules of continual augmentation. Out of minimal meanings grew symphonies that culminate in the brotherly embrace of humanity.43
Hand position exercises flowing into fingering études, scales regimens following upon arpeggios, ornamentation lessons scattered throughout five-finger patterns, pedaling techniques paired with exercises in expression and dynamics: assembly proceeding to augmentation, combination to development, “minimal meanings” growing into symphonies—does not Kittler's mechanical-cum-organicist assessment recall opus 500's progressivist teleology?44
The remainder of this article rethinks Czerny's oeuvre in such Kittlerian terms. The following two subsections center on Kittler's commentary vis-à-vis the bourgeois domestic setting, offering a new perspective on opus 500 and the Letters in relation to the specific kind of Romantic subjectivity they purported to furnish. In the second part of the article, I argue that the “mechanics” of language and keyboard learning represent counterparts to another “mechanically” based cultural technology—keyboard transcriptions, specifically transcriptions of symphonic compositions. Ultimately, I will suggest that Romanticism's “brotherly embrace of humanity” represents a partial outcome of the convergence of these multiply “mechanical” media in domestic scenarios.
Cecilia and the “Mechanical Program”
Kittler was not unaware of Czerny's pedagogies. In fact, albeit in passing, Kittler observes in Discourse Networks, 1800/1900 that Czerny's Letters was published at a moment “not accidentally contemporaneous” with the panoply of ABC books that he discusses.45 To wit, I would argue that, much like opus 500's structural similarities with Nägeli and Pfeiffer's pedagogy, the Letters reflects an essentially musical remodeling of the ABC books’ pedagogical gaze, aiming in turn to produce a distinctly Romantic subject—and in this case, a distinctly “girled” Romantic subject.
For example, although written down, the Letters attempts to simulate the piano teacher's voice—that is, the Mother's voice. As Czerny writes in the preface, “The Publishers of my Pianoforte School have expressed to me a wish that I would explain, under the epistolary form, and in a concise, clear, and familiar manner, the peculiar mode of proceeding in the instruction of my pupils, and of leading them forwards step by step. … And I have done so the more willingly, because the form of Letters approximates the nearest to verbal instruction.”46 Accordingly, Czerny employs evocative prose to pique the student's imagination and to create a “friendly, and cheerful” atmosphere for piano practice, instructing her to curve her hand like a “cat's back,” or to play her scales like “musical rows of pearls,” among other similes.47 In doing so, and as Solie insists, Czerny overtly elides education and parlor entertainment. “To what purpose do we learn,” after all, “but to give pleasure, not only to ourselves, but also to our beloved parents and our worthy friends?” For “assuredly,” he continues, “there is no higher satisfaction than in being able to distinguish oneself before a large company, and in receiving an honorable acknowledgment of one's diligence and talent.”48
Granted, the ABC book and Czerny's Letters differ in important ways. Whereas the ABC book addresses itself to the Mother, who then teaches her children, the Letters is addressed to the child and the teacher, interpellating both as complementary partners in the production of Hausmusik, the Biedermeier “sonic hearth.”49 “Short rondos, pretty airs with variations, melodies from operas, nay, even dance-tunes, waltzes, quadrilles, marches, &c. &c. are perfectly suitable” for this task, as is a “little prelude [to] precede any musical composition.”50 Still, and in addition to their shared desire to produce a vocal presence, it is clear that the Letters and the ABC book have a similar, Pestalozzian set of goals: namely, the engendering of the progressivist Self—and in the case of the Letters, the daughterly Self.
Indeed, the progressivism of the Letters is manifold. First, and most obviously, it is technical and musical in nature, unfolding from basic scales to the intricacies of thorough bass and counterpoint, with roughly “eight or ten weeks” dedicated to each concept;51 paralleling the overall contour of opus 500, the Letters thus begins with a letter (analogous to a “Lesson”) on the “First Rudiments of the Piano,” before proceeding to “Time, Subdivision of the Notes, and Fingering,” the “Formation of Chords,” and, in the final letter, “Extemporaneous Performance.” At the same time, however, progress is measured by musical output—that is, pieces to showcase to “beloved parents” and “worthy friends”; as Cecilia's skills improve, so her repertoire becomes increasingly sophisticated. The sixth letter, titled “On the Selection of Compositions Most Suitable for Each Pianist,” makes this plain. In it, Czerny describes playing styles suitable to specific composers and the technical skills needed to realize them. “Hummel's compositions require an extraordinary pearl-like mode of execution,” for example, while “in Beethoven's works this style will seldom be suitable; as, in them, great characteristic energy, deep feeling, often capricious humor, and a sometimes very legato, and at others a very marked and emphatic style of playing are requisite.”52 In any event, “in the course of the ensuing year,” Cecilia should master them all, progress far enough to study “the difficult works of the present as well as of past times; such as those of Chopin, Thalberg, Liszt, Field, &c. as also the Concertos of Hummel, Kalkbrenner, and Moscheles; and, lastly, the best compositions of Mozart, Clementi, Beethoven, Cramer, Dussek, Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, &c.”53 These are difficult works indeed, not least for the amateur pianist. For this reason, Deanna C. Davis has labeled Czerny's daughter-ideal a “distinguished amateur”: “one who, although maintaining her amateur status, possessed skills nearly equal to the professional artist's” while remaining largely excluded from public forums.54 The distinguished amateur signified the peak of Czerny's progressivist vision; in turn, this figure “not accidentally,” perhaps, helped to reinforce the humanist conceits detailed by Kittler.
If the Letters testifies to Czerny as quasi-literary Romantic ideologue, along the lines of Herder, Stephani, and so on, then opus 500, I would suggest, brings what we might call “the mechanical” as evoked by the Beethoven example more clearly to the fore. To be sure, Kittler's understanding of this category is somewhat unorthodox. Whereas Kittler conceives of the mechanical program in terms of assembly, augmentation, and teleological growth, musicologists have tended to deploy the word “mechanical” to describe nearly the opposite, as a foil for rather than a precondition of organicism. More artificial than natural, more autonomic than expressive, “the mechanical” has also stood in as a symbol for the piano's industrial mass production, and a synecdoche for the styles of playing that this instrument made possible. As James Parakilas writes,
The piano is a machine. Already when it was invented at the beginning of the eighteenth century, it embodied a more complex mechanism than any earlier stringed keyboard instrument. But it was not until the nineteenth century (which was called the Machine Age even at the time) that the ideal of the machine was extended to the way the piano was played—or more precisely, to the way people were taught to play it.55
From the School of Virtuosity, op. 365, to the Art of Finger Dexterity, op. 740, Czerny's oeuvre, not least opus 500, emblematized this trend. Promoting notions such as a “correct position of the body” (of a sort exemplified in Figure 5), his texts aimed to fashion the “Universal Hand,” as James Q. Davies calls it, “a hand of perfect rationality, democratized fingers, and uniform tranquility.”56 With its emphasis on idiomatic repetition, opus 500's “Fordist chords” (in Adrian Daub's words) and its conflation of “finger dexterity and the industrial work ideology” (in Grete Wehmeyer's) recall Karl Marx's workers on the assembly line, shaping adolescent players into cogs, simultaneously “playing a machine, [and] being a machine” (Parakilas again).57 For many musicologists, in short, the mechanical denotes mechanization, a disciplinary regime—the application of discursive power to an “art of the human body” at the granular level of “the economy, the efficiency of movements, [and] their internal organization.”58
And yet, I would contend that opus 500 and the Letters evince a rapprochement between these musicological perspectives and Kittler's: in tandem, Czerny's texts afforded active if ambivalent modes of self-making in the way Solie recounts. In this regard, consider Volume 2 of opus 500, “On Fingering,” a text that on the face of it would seem to exemplify prevailing musicological views. Devoted exclusively to fingering regimens, the text entirely omits practical pieces in favor of compiling all known technical difficulties. These include the fingering of diatonic and chromatic scales; passages in fourths, sixths, and octaves; passages involving hand crossing; how to strike keys with two fingers; the arpeggiation of chords with varying numbers of black keys; single and double shakes; and more. With this compendium-like approach, Czerny advances an ideal of effortless and complete control over the keys, in part to resolve the following problematic, posed at the volume's outset:
The Pianist has at his command only five fingers on each hand; and yet with these he must be in a condition to execute the most rapid runs, the most intricate passages, consisting often of numberless notes, the boldest skips, the most delicate and complicated embellishments, and that with the same perfect quality, connection, and volubility, as if nature had bestowed upon him at least fifty fingers. In what way is this piece of magic to be effected? It is by the art of fingering, and the flexibility of the nerves of the fingers conjointly; by which the limited number of our fingers is multiplied ad infinitum, and by which the Player attains that dominion and certainty over the entire key-board, before which all difficulties ultimately vanish. The doctrine of fingering must keep equal pace with the development of mechanical dexterity; for the former would be to no purpose without the latter, and the latter without the former would be wholly impossible.59
The final chapter of the Letters, on improvisation, doubles down on this ideal. Again extolling an “art of fingering,” Czerny stresses that, when improvising, “we must leave nearly every thing to the fingers and to chance.” “You should attempt, sometimes when alone, sometimes in the presence of your teacher, to connect together easy chords, short melodies, passages, scales, arpeggioed [sic] chords; or, which is much better, leave it to your fingers to effect this connection, according to their will and pleasure.”60
Not merely autonomic, however, Czerny's “finger doctrine” intends to serve as a precondition for an expressive and beautiful—that is, non-deterministic—playing style. Just as the ABC book posited syllables as building blocks for producing meaningful expression, Czerny proffered the mechanical development of finger dexterity (and thus finger sensations, too) as a way of fostering expressive playing—and in order to reach a level of “distinction.”
Witness Volume 3 of opus 500, “On Playing with Expression.” In it, Czerny states that “expression belong[s] mainly to the intellectual powers of the player.” This capability, though, “depend[s] so much on mechanical, or material means, that even in great masters and with highly gifted players, both qualities flow into one another, and hence one seems, as it were, only the natural consequence of the other.”61 Forget the arms, shoulders, and torso: what drives this dynamic is the “internal action of the nerves [of the fingers], and … a greater degree of weight, which the hand receives therefrom.”62 The volume proceeds to enumerate a range of issues that are to underpin the player's “intellectual powers,” including correctness in keeping time, fingering, observance of expression marks, and a general “purity and precision” in playing. And yet, somewhat paradoxically, it in the same stroke accentuates the ancillary nature of these abilities. Czerny deploys a thoroughly Kittlerian lexicon of “spirit,” “soul,” and “feeling” as a way of evoking this mechanical/expressive dialectic. “All these properties [of mechanical volubility],” he says, “are to be considered only as means towards the real end of the art, which consists in infusing spirit and soul into the performance, and by so doing operating on the feelings and the understanding of the hearer.”63 If “minimal signifieds” based on essential meaning constituted the basic ingredients of the Pestalozzian playbook—“ach,” “oh,” and so on—then mechanistically developed sensations suggest a musical variant for refining an analogous technics of eloquence.64 As Wolfgang Scherer might put it, in his own Kittlerian language, Czerny's pedagogies afforded “psycho-techniques,” rationally and bodily driven prompts that both enforced and enlivened humanist ideologies.65 For Czerny, bodily, spiritual, and cultural techniques went (literally) hand in hand.66
On the matter of expressivity, however, Czerny takes the logic of assembly and augmentation a step further—beyond the domain of finger sensation as such. At times, in fact, he applies this basic logic to instruction of the proper ways in which to convey affectivity altogether (in the contemporary sense of the word, as in “Affekt” and “figurae”).67 The volume's third chapter, “On Occasional Changes in the Time or Degree of Movement,” offers a case in point. Czerny fuses the art of fingering with the art of performance in this chapter, exhorting the student—by now in possession of a “highly cultivated taste”—to interpret a piece of music not totally on her own, but by way of a preordained taxonomy of affect, the contents of which, Czerny asserts, lie dormant in the musical score. Again dialectically, the student is tasked both with deciphering these reified qualities from the music—with observing the “will of the Composer,” in Czerny's words—and with projecting them onto it, both with reading from the score and with reading into it.68 From there, by associating each affect with discrete musical passages, the student is challenged to link and concatenate, synthesize and reorder: to assemble affects into musical and emotional wholes—creatively and independently. Clearly, Cecilia “plays” in Moseley's sense, advancing performative interpretations that are both constrained and enabled from the start, according to the “rules” set out by opus 500's “ludo-musical” game. Like the ABC book, Czerny adopts a discourse of expressivity through which, paradoxically, Cecilia might devise a “spirited,” “feelingful,” “soulful” rendition that is uniquely her own. This is Kittler's Romanticism to a tee. Czerny details the highly particularized affects involved in this procedure as follows:
Not only each musical piece considered as a whole, but even each single passage expresses some definite passion or emotion; or at least it will admit of some such feeling being infused into it, by the style in which it may be played:
Such general emotions or feelings may be:
A slight degree of doubt, or wavering hesitation;
Transition from a state of excitement to a more tranquil one.
Refusal on reflection.
Sighing and grief,
Whispering a secret,
Taking leave, and innumerable other sentiments of this sort.
Players, who are no longer impeded by the mechanical difficulties of a musical piece, will easily discover those passages, (often consisting only of a few single notes), in which any such feelings are contained by the will of the Composer, or at least, where they may be conveniently expressed. …
Other passages, on the contrary indicate:
Hasty or curious interrogations,
Fixed and powerful resolution,
Pride and ill temper,
Transition from a state of tranquility to one of excitement, &c.69
Nestled in opus 500's third and final volume, this simultaneously fingerly, conceptual, and indeed “spiritual” set of abilities represents the apex of Czerny's progressivist universe: a manifold epistemological space in which both parsings of the mechanical come together, both creating and issuing from skills that are at once autonomically disciplined (in the dominant musicological view) and associatively (self-)inventive (in the Kittlerian one). Like the improviser at the end of the Letters, Cecilia is not simply—or not only—a cog in Czerny's notational and the piano's technological machinery. Rather, the multiply mechanical ethos bequeathed by opus 500 operates as progressivism's engine, whereby a “highly cultivated taste” and interpretive abilities are attained through parallel procedures of assembly-based synthesis. Ludo-musical technics, here, work in tandem, at the level of the fingers and at the level of reified affects, engendering a “distinguished amateur,” in Davis's terms, or, as Scherer might put it, a “child Self.”70
The Imagination, through Czerny, Hoffmann, and Schumann
Perhaps as a measure of Czerny's ubiquity, numerous mid-century piano methods aimed to distinguish themselves from the pedagogue's corpus by treating piano learning as a mindful and imaginative rather than primarily embodied activity. A noteworthy example is Robert Schumann's Musikalische Haus- und Lebensregeln (1854), a text that, like the Letters, sought to replicate the format of the etiquette manual.71 “Practice frequently the scale and other finger exercises,” Schumann instructs. “Hours of daily mechanical labour,” however, will be “about the same, as if we tried every day to pronounce the alphabet with greater volubility.” Speak in words, not syllables, he implies—in associative wholes alone. Further, practice in the company of others, not for the sake of entertaining them, as Czerny routinely admonishes, but because doing so develops assured performance, “a flowing and elevated style of playing, and self-possession.” Mind over matter, “the fingers must do what the head desires; not the contrary.”72 Pace Czerny's finger doctrine or “intellectual powers,” then, what matters for Schumann is the “musical intellect,” a quasi-Kantian concept that the composer saw as integrally linked to the faculty of the “imagination.” Combining a certain Romantic judiciousness with a Sturm und Drang aesthetic of solitude and absorption, he states,
If Heaven has bestowed on you a fine imagination, you will often be seated at your piano in solitary hours, as if attached to it; you will desire to express the feelings of your heart in harmony, and the more clouded the sphere of harmony may perhaps be to you, the more mysteriously you will feel as if drawn into magic circles. … Beware, however, of abandoning yourself too often to the influence of a talent that induces you to lavish powers and time, as it were, upon phantoms.
Instead, the “perfect musician”—a negative image of the distinguished amateur, we might say—“must be able to see, in his mind's eye, any new, and even complicated, piece of orchestral music as if in full score lying before him! This is indeed the greatest triumph of musical intellect that can be imagined.”73
Now, to bisect nineteenth-century piano instruction into Czernian and Schumannesque methodological tenets—the “art of fingering” versus the “mind's eye,” as it were—would undoubtedly be an oversimplification of the day's rich and well-populated pedagogical milieu. Indeed, in some ways, the vivid differences between Czerny and Schumann obscure certain ideals that I would argue they nonetheless shared. To this end, Schumann's enthusiasm for the imagination—specifically, the orchestral imagination—helps us to cross-fade what, on the face of things, might seem a clear-cut division.
As is well known, Schumann customarily treated music as a counterpart to literary and philosophical matters.74 One might therefore readily interpret the valorization of the imagination in the Musikalische Haus- und Lebensregeln through the lens of the elite aesthetic discourses in which the term frequently appeared—as a sort of children's book version of Johann Georg Sulzer's “fantasy,” Christian Friedrich Michaelis's musical redefinition of Kant's sublime, Hoffmann's tales and music criticism, and so on.75 To wit, far from being restricted to pedagogical concerns, the concept of the imagination proved foundational to the functioning of an array of musical practices in the early part of the century. Take, for instance, the playing of piano transcriptions. Pre-echoing Schumann's sequestered practice routine, Hoffmann writes of transcriptions as follows: “It cannot be denied that the solitary enjoyment in one's own room of a masterpiece one has heard played by the full orchestra often excites the imagination in the same way as before and conjures forth the same impressions in the mind.” Enlisted as a memory aid for previous visits to the symphony hall, “the piano reproduces a great work as a sketch reproduces a great painting, and the imagination brings it to life with the colours of the original.”76 For Hoffmann, in short, the symphony's performative recreation, its transcriptive reduction, and the user's imagination figure as entangled processes, component parts of what we might regard as the same cultural technique—transcriptive piano playing.
Notably, for our purposes, in addition to producing pedagogies, Czerny was one of the most prolific transcribers of symphonic music of his generation. Indeed, as Thomas Christensen has noted, by the 1840s, Czerny's transcriptions, more than those of any other arranger, utterly dominated “Adolph Hofmeister's indispensable catalogs of published music, which appeared regularly throughout the nineteenth century.”77 Bearing this in mind, I now shift focus from the figure of Czerny as pedagogue to that of Czerny as transcriber, to consider some of the ways in which the polyglot ignited precisely the sort of domestic imagination described by Hoffmann (and, later, by Schumann). In what follows, I depict Czerny as both a “mechanic of the hand” and a “mechanical reproducer,” one whose pedagogies shaped the embodied-sensational parameters to which he would then accommodate and market his transcriptive reproductions. I attempt to show how transcriptive piano playing reflects an arena in which the gendered discourses surrounding pianism, “the mechanical,” and the Romantic imagination could be made to converge performatively: a domain of articulation wherein distinct processes recursively come together to at once animate and singularize a cultural technique.78 This section of the article centers on the novelty of Czerny's transcriptive strategies through a case study of his transcription of the finale of Beethoven's Ninth. The article's conclusion, meanwhile, suggests that the sociotechnical meeting ground of pedagogy and transcription enables us to rethink the media-theoretical concept of “reproduction” in a new and particularly Czernian light.
Carl Czerny, Transcriber
Transcriptive Piano Playing and Beethoven's Ninth
As both Daub and Christensen have extensively documented, the proliferation of early-century piano transcriptions coincided with the emergence of a mass bourgeois reading public, a newly mercantilist milieu of book and music publishing, and the standardization of the upright piano (or “pianino”)—in short, with industrial mass production and the commodity capital that defined the machine age.79 Offering a new supply to a burgeoning demand for Hausmusik, Kammermusik, and Salonmusik, the transcription laid claim to miniaturizing the orchestra, revoicing opera, and consolidating the oratorio, becoming in the process “one of the defining musical objects of the long nineteenth century.”80 As Christensen observes, Hofmeister's catalog of 1844 indicates that no fewer than nine thousand individual publications of four-hand music had been produced in Germany and neighboring areas by this date; these included waltzes, marches, fantasies, potpourris on opera tunes, and the like, alongside concert repertoire such as overtures, symphonies, string quartets, and other chamber music. Beethoven alone had roughly 150 entries listed under his name in the catalog (“second only to Czerny”).81 More feasibly accommodating large instrumental forces than the solo transcription, four-hand transcriptions were “the primary means by which a literate musical public could come to know this music,” especially those living outside a metropolitan center or having limited financial resources.82 In addition to serving as memory aids, they could be used pedagogically to teach ensemble playing, or for repertoire study, or to prepare for concert attendance. What is more, they could broaden the reach of “canonic values,”83 or alternately, as Walter Benjamin might put it, excise aura and democratize art by emancipating it from its dependence on ritual.84 In this respect, transcriptions anticipated the long-playing record and turntable. But, like piano playing generally, they did so in a predominantly “feminine”-coded way. “The pianoforte,” as Christensen notes, occupied “a status that remained heavily gendered in the popular imagination throughout the [nineteenth] century, particularly as concerned duet music.”85 To this end, and as Daub underscores, it should come as no surprise that paintings from the period “of young women in particular, practicing with their piano teacher or in a duet (whether the two people are playing a piano together or a piano and a violin)[,] were so numerous in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that they essentially constituted a genre unto themselves.”86
Some critics adamantly distrusted the transcription's supposedly “democratizing” or “emancipatory” potential, however. To borrow a phrase from Christensen, transcriptions were sometimes perceived as “derangements” rather than “arrangements” per se.87 An affront to the structuralist tenets surrounding the blossoming work-concept, the transcription's “aesthetics of the copy” seemed to lose in translation the representational power of the putative original.88 Such preeminent critics as Gustav Heuser and Louis Köhler would therefore chastise arrangers for making changes to melodic lines, for placing undue emphases on inner harmonic voices, for transposing passages into awkward registers, and, as if to censure the pianoforte itself rather than the work's transcriber, for flattening out the orchestra's timbral variety into a monochromatic soundscape of percussive hammers and strings. (I return to Köhler's view on such matters shortly.)
In brief, by reducing rather than replicating its referent, the early-century piano transcription behaved as a “cold medium,” a term developed by Marshall McLuhan in his classic text Understanding Media (1964). For McLuhan, cold media are open-ended, and low on precise informational content. Like a hand-drawn cartoon, as opposed to, say, the indexical realism that characterizes some naturalistic photography, the transcription offered a rough sketch of the work it displaced, leaving it to the “receiver” to fill in supplementary details through traditionally anchored meanings or topical associations.89 Since they make no strong claims on the real, cold media enlist the user's imagination to compensate for lossy compression, for the gaps effected in the process of reducing the work to its essential signals; transcriptions thus solicited distinct “audile techniques.”90 Dana Gooley has argued that McLuhan's analytic offers an instructive foil for conceptualizing Franz Liszt's “hot” transcriptions, which exploited piano manufacturer Sébastien Érard's technological innovations in the name of orchestra-like “high definition” and information density.91 Cold (early-century) and hot (mid- to late-century) transcriptions, Gooley contends, negotiated the “noisiness of pianistic mediation”—“the intractable attacks and decays that inhibit fluid legato, the gaps in registral coverage resulting from the limited span of two hands,” and the weird transference of “chords executed by orchestral strings in repeated-note tremolo[s]”—in different ways.92 While Liszt retooled the transcription for the purpose of orchestral realism, earlier examples called upon the domestic imagination to make up for what it erased.
Gooley's application of McLuhan helps us to begin to conceptualize the multivalent mediatic functions performed by Czerny's transcriptions. On the one hand, while remediating the “work itself” (faithfully or otherwise), Czerny's transcriptions captured the “public” music of the symphony hall and opera house and funneled it into private spaces, contributing by means of the commodity function to the “structural transformation of the public sphere,” as Jürgen Habermas has characterized this interpenetration.93 By contrast with the Lisztian model, though, the coldly reenactive character of this dynamic throws the actively performative dimension of domestic consumption into relief—even if, as we will see, Czerny routinely exploited mediatic “noise” as an expressive resource, just not in the name of mimetic realism. As McLuhan writes, “hot media are … low in participation, and cool media are high in participation or completion by the audience.”94 The “audience,” in this case, is the performer, who also plays for an audience of listeners in the more traditional sense of the word; participation undergirds reproduction, as both parties suspend belief in order to imagine, much in the way evoked by Hoffmann.
And yet, there is even more involved in this oft-noted Habermasian collapse, at least in Czerny's case.95 If we grant that the manifold Cecilias of the Biedermeier parlor learned how to play the piano according to methods outlined in Czerny's opus 500 and Letters to a Young Lady, then we may also safely conclude that they brought these skills to bear on the repertoire they played—and not just the works of Chopin, Thalberg, Prince Louis Ferdinand, and so on, but transcriptions too. In the process, distinguished amateurs would have actively produced and indeed “imagined” in a self-inventive fashion; young players like Cecilia were not simply record players avant la lettre (as Christensen and Daub sometimes imply),96 but rather creatively re-presented musics of the public sphere in a thoroughly participatory manner, as in the “spirited,” “feelingful,” and “soulful” negotiation of affects glossed above. Strikingly, for my purposes, the mechanical profile of assembly and augmentation that underpinned this skill set at the subjective and manual levels—and that would also have necessarily underpinned a McLuhanesque mode of “participation”—mirrored the structural anatomy of the very repertoire that some of Czerny's most widely circulated transcriptions remediated Beethoven's developmental music. Recall Kittler: “thematic-motivic work proceeds by extensions and variations according to the combinatory rules of continual augmentation. Out of minimal meanings grew symphonies that culminate in the brotherly embrace of humanity.”97 Engendering what media theorist Joseph Vogl might call a scene of “coming together,” the symphonic transcription—played at the parlor piano, by Czernian “young ladies”—enabled an interface to form between two cultural practices, pedagogy and symphonic composition, that operated according to similar epistemic principles: those of the Kittlerian mechanical.98
A good example of transcribed music based on the mechanical model that then interfaced with mechanically shaped hands is Czerny's transcription of Beethoven's Symphony no. 9 in D Minor, op. 125, in particular the final “Ode to Joy” movement—the paragon of “brotherly embrace.”99 Consider the famous opening passage. The movement begins not by stating the main theme—the so-called “Joy” theme—but by reviewing the symphony's previous three movements. Following the opening “Schreckensfanfare” (as Richard Wagner called it), the composer truncates each movement into two-, four-, and eight-measure sound bites presented in alternation with a strings-based recitative (see Example 1).100 In measures 17–25, a second burst of the fanfare swells upward to an F major seventh chord, after which a brief passage of recitative links to the first movement's opening scaffold of fourths and fifths; the recitative resumes, but is soon interrupted by the second movement's Vivace bustling, which, after another snatch of recitative, segues into a two-measure sample of the third movement's Adagio cantabile, thus completing the patchwork retrospective. The passage functions as a summary; but this concatenation also doubles as a prelude to the choral movement proper. Beethoven “assembles” these reminiscences both to anticipate and to bring about a single musical theme, the “Joy” theme, which immediately follows.101 Thenceforth, the theme is subjected to a range of manipulations, including fugal treatment, recombination and reassembly with other themes, and myriad formal variations. If, as Nicholas Cook has argued, “the best way to understand the movement is probably to chart the way in which it is built up from the ‘Joy’ theme,”102 then it is probably also fair to say that the entirety of the movement—roughly, a hybrid of sonata-allegro and theme and variations forms—represents a series of augmentations in Kittler's sense, which, from the start, derive from and unravel a product of assembly: “Joy.”
That Beethoven's “mechanical” composition exhibits Kittlerian development is clear enough.103 But rather than continuing to speculate on Kittler's quip—that is, whether Beethoven had consciously (or not) applied a mechanical program while composing—we should perhaps investigate certain more pressing issues. In what ways did Czerny transmit such processes into domestic spaces, the day's prime loci for consuming transcriptive media? In his capacity as transcriber, how did he bring such “public” works as the Ninth into contact with the audile and performative techniques of the parlor imagination, as described by Hoffmann and Schumann and as explicated by Gooley? In short, by what reductive and replicative strategies did Czerny “mechanically reproduce” musical works that were then recursively played by the hands he “mechanically” shaped?
Let us begin with the consensus view of Czerny's efforts in this arena, usefully exemplified by the jeremiads of Köhler, which gloss Czerny's transcriptions of Beethoven's orchestral music specifically. Somewhat ironically, Köhler often considered Czerny's reductive strategies to result in insufficient pruning. He writes,
Czerny packed both hands full, so that very often the possibility of making single tones and voices prominent ceases; indeed in the light-winged scherzos he frequently leads on a dance of leaping hands full of chords, in a manner that is absolutely impracticable; for even with the correct execution of a master's hand, the inward and essential character of the music is not always presentable. … Moreover, Czerny always brings in play the entire surface of the keyboard, from the lowest to the highest tones; hence there is an end to all alternation of coloring; a continual screaming discant tortures the nerve of hearing, besides falsely representing the orchestral effect. For Beethoven does not continually employ the high violin registers nor half a dozen of never resting piccolos.104
Czerny's Ninth transcription would seem to vindicate Köhler's comments. Consider, again, the Schreckensfanfare. The passage begins comfortably enough, with the secondo part playing tremolos and the primo unisons and octaves. But at the finale's breakneck Presto tempo the primo part, especially, turns cumbersome, as Czerny fills in the octaves with a swath of chord tones, such that the player is tasked with executing a densely packed, fully diminished seventh chord amid dashing eighth-note runs (see Example 2).105 Similarly “impracticable” passages appear elsewhere. For example, following the instrumental portion of the Ninth's famous “Turkish March” section, Czerny packs the primo part to bursting. The four hands together do indeed span “the entire surface of the keyboard.” The March begins softly, with octaves and unisons alone, but it grows perpetually, accruing transcribed instrumental part after transcribed instrumental part until—by the time the transcribed chorus enters at full throttle—both players, hands full, are called on to create a wall of sound (see Example 3). Through sheer volume, Czerny compromises the “inward and essential character of the music.” To boot, much of the passage is transposed up the octave, which results in a “continual screaming,” a piercing, tinny quality that is shared by the upper register of the Schreckensfanfare.
Köhler was not the only critic to spurn Czerny's transcriptions. Marx, too, upbraided Czerny's tendency to overburden the digits. On the one hand, and as Marx recognized, Czerny's efforts on this front were motivated by a desire to stay true to the spirit of Beethoven's compositions, which in the critic's words had been transcribed with great attentiveness, “ingenuity,” and “care.” On the other, and by the same token, it was precisely this desire for fidelity that Marx thought “sacrifice[d] the orchestral quality of the original.” For “we cannot approve of the fact that [Czerny], in order to make room for figures and fullness of parts … , changes and transposes registers and loses himself in the highest octaves … to the extent that the player may well receive an entirely wrong impression of the original work.”106 Czerny's efforts sometimes worked against themselves, it seems. In McLuhan's terms, Czerny aspired to “heat,” but left Marx cold.
Yet if Czerny struggled in dutifully reproducing “orchestral qualities,” one might argue that he nonetheless excelled at summoning “orchestral effects” non-mimetically—that is, in a way that differs from what we might call Köhler's and Marx's “orchestrally realist” perspectives. For, at times, Czerny creatively exploits the piano's timbral constraints in order to compensate for orchestral loss, producing “effects” in ways that are distinctive to the “sonic hearth,” as a passage spanning measures 296–330 of the movement makes plain. (Cook would call this the “Joy” theme's “sixth variation” plus an extension.) Beethoven's writing in this passage is busy, replete with dashing choral solos, bursts of full chorus, and a fully fleshed-out orchestra. The transcription necessarily flattens this multiplicity. But all is not lost, as “pianistic noise” supplies its own expressive potential. Accordingly, in measures 312–20, Czerny briefly eliminates the horn and trumpet parts, which in Beethoven's score produce a mid- and upper-range bell tone quality, emphasized by the portato-style articulation employed in this passage (see Examples 4a and 4b). Yet by “slimming” the texture, he paradoxically also generates more “noise,” by relying heavily on the piano's timbral parameters, particularly its bass register. Because ultimately, it becomes clear that the horns and trumpets are not eliminated, exactly, but rather “fused” with the transcribed contrabassoon and double bass parts, which share with the brass an A-natural pitch class, albeit some octaves lower. (This process of subsumption is evidenced by the low Ds that Czerny inserts in mm. 316–19: in Beethoven's score these Ds are played by horn and trumpet as well as contrabassoon and double bass, whereas in the transcription the Ds are present only in the transcribed bass instruments.) This transferal of brass results in an attenuation of sustained mid- and upper-range sonorities in favor of a grumbling “effect,” an effect that is heightened not solely by the wash of overtones that this active, eighth-note-rich passage would likely have excited in the parlor, but also by retaining Beethoven's sprinkling-in of trills by the strings, creating much dissonance. For Czerny, I would contend, such “noise” was not a drawback of the transcriptive enterprise. Rather, such passages suggest that he seized upon timbral flatness in order to experiment with register, fabricating a sonically dense stand-in for the grandiloquence of Beethoven's rapid accumulation of parts.
The ten measures prior to the beginning of the March (also part of the “sixth variation”) evince a similarly savvy approach to “noise”—and not just in Gooley's sense, but in a quasi-Shannonian one, through the expressive seizure of the reproductive technology itself, which at once transmits and exceeds the notes, the “message,” per se.107 Here, Czerny negotiates such pianistic affordances in two noteworthy ways. First, he instructs the secondo player to make liberal use of pedal, a specification that turns the hectic passage of eighths (in the primo) and sixteenths (in the secondo) into mud (see Example 5a). As before, the result is the evocation and perhaps even magnification of the Ninth's expansiveness, at least in the parlor context. Secondly, Czerny reimagines the Ninth's textural physiognomy—again, necessarily by dint of mediality. Observe the difference between Czerny's and Beethoven's versions of this passage. In Beethoven's score, the bassoons and strings play propulsive sixteenths (see Example 5b); at a fortissimo dynamic, in performance these parts would have stood on a complementary dynamic footing with the acoustical force of the soaring winds and homophonic chorus. By contrast, in Czerny's transcription, the dashing sixteenths necessarily come to the fore, their rapidity puncturing the keyboard's monochromatic sheen. The textural balance—and thus the “orchestral effect”—is thereby substantially changed. Given the middle and bass registers in which the secondo plays this passage, yet more noise results, issuing in a clanging and crashing that in the parlor would have been intensified by the woody upright pianos on which young players typically played transcriptions.108
The novelty of Czerny's transcriptive decisions exceeds matters of timbre, however. Recurrently, Czerny makes brazen alterations to the Ninth's skeletal and expressive structure in ways that, at first blush, would seem unnecessary. Arguably, such “derangements” make it harder to imagine the Ninth in its orchestral form. For instance, in the primo part in measures 543–90, Czerny eliminates the trumpets’ fanfare-like, weak-beat iteration (quarter–eighth in 6/8) in favor of a square rhythmic profile. (The precise moment I refer to is the lead-up to the “Seid Umschlungen” theme, during the “Joy” theme's “ninth variation”; Examples 6a and 6b show measures 583–90 of this passage.) It is unclear why he did so, aside from the possibility that he wanted to line up the primo and secondo rhythms—that is, to make the piece more readily playable, “practicable.” It is also possible that he wanted to align the “trumpet” with the rhythm of the choral parts, in order to reinforce the affect of pomp that Beethoven had evidently intended the chorus to convey. The change effectively doubles the chorus parts, such that the primo plays the same thing in the two hands via multiply voiced octaves. Here, what was “lost” in terms of “brass” is compensated for by the addition of “voices.” Czerny applies this technique of transferal inconsistently, however. Indeed, at some points in the movement, the big sound of the choral parts is reduced to thin octaves and paltry tenths (as in the secondo part in measures 257–64, shown in Example 7, which Czerny nevertheless attempts to make more interesting by inserting a “soprano” countermelody that does not appear in Beethoven's score).
To be sure, Czerny's transcriptive process was not always so “deranged.” Occasionally, and as Christensen has observed, Czerny's transcriptions display a pronounced “faithfulness to the scores of his beloved master.”109 His approach to the Ninth's double fugue, for instance, is faithful to a fault (mm. 655–729). Even so, excisions—even radical alterations—are many, sometimes puzzlingly so. Czerny's rendition of the beginning of the finale's Maestoso conclusion is particularly striking. At “Götterfunken” (m. 919), the primo part replaces the dotted-eighth–sixteenth rhythms that Beethoven composed for the chorus with thirty-second-note ascents written for the strings; simultaneously, the secondo dashes through a barrage of thirty-second notes of its own (see Examples 8a and 8b). The result is a winning peroration, another wall of sound, minus the melodic contour that accompanies Schiller's all-important text. Here, rather than the chorus absorbing an orchestral part, the pianized orchestra subsumes the chorus, which remains truly present solely by dint of the text; meanwhile, Czerny relies on the performers’ agogic acumen to make the relationship between music and text explicit, otherwise the melody—inasmuch as it still exists—gets altogether buried. Incidentally, the publisher did not set the text in its proper rhythmic position in this measure, rendering this task an extremely difficult one to accomplish.
And it is made all the more so in that four rather than two hands are darting up and down the keyboard. This brings us to a crucially important facet of the piece, and of transcriptions generally—four-hand performance, specifically with regard to ensemble coordination. Coordinating this moment between two players is exceedingly tricky, given the nimbleness of finger demanded by the speedy tempo marking ( = 60). Yet just like “noise,” this seeming detriment is precisely what made four-hand reproduction so special, particularly in the way the format fostered an interpersonal, even erotic interaction between players.110 As Daub has summarized in his study of literary representations of four-hand playing—mostly of women, “Cecilias”—the prospect of the erotic dissolution of selves at the keyboard caused both fascination and immense anxiety in Biedermeier culture (hence theorist Edward Cone's oft-cited crack about budding pianists becoming “four-handed monster[s]”).111 This was a necessary by-product when it came to the home-based simulation of such an opulent piece as the Ninth; two hands could simply not cut it. The double fugue presents an obvious instance of the piece's four-hand erotics. The section begins with the exposition of “Joy” and “Seid Umschlungen” themes in compound meter, after which Czerny exchanges the themes between players, soliciting Cecilia no. 1 and Cecilia no. 2 to partake in a choreography of hand-grazing, shoulder-bumping, and hand-crossing. The result of this process is only partly musical. In fact, one might argue that it is multiply erotic. In light of what Daub would call four-hand music's intrinsically “spectatorial” hue, the piece furnishes an erotics on the performative level, manually, which it also puts on display, visually, in staging a communal ritual whose blurring of bodies effectively mimics, musically, the ambiguity one experiences when trying to discern which player is “singing” which of the fugal lines.112 From this vantage, it is conceivable that the acts of both playing and observing the challenge in coordinating such moments had aroused precisely the libidinal dynamics that Daub has documented so extensively. It is a challenge that, during the double fugue specifically (but also elsewhere), Czerny magnifies by interpolating breakneck eighth-note scalar passages at the keyboard's extreme treble (Cecilia no. 1) and bass (Cecilia no. 2) registers.
A skeptic might ask, To what extent would a speculative “young lady” like Cecilia have actually been capable of executing such bracing passages? After all, was not the middle-class subject addressed by Czerny in opus 500 and the Letters an amateur, however “distinguished”? To borrow from Köhler, is it truly possible to regard Cecilia's “hands” as approximating a “master's hand,” equipped to negotiate not just technical feats, as in the fanfare passages, the double fugue, and the Maestoso conclusion, but also the ensemble demands of the finale?113
In response, I would argue that we might productively return to Volumes 2 and 3 of opus 500. For, at least in Czerny's mind, by the time the learner reaches the end of opus 500, she will have acquired a technical prowess whereby the five fingers of each hand will be multiplied to “fifty,” capable of executing “the most rapid runs, the most intricate passages, consisting often of numberless notes, the boldest skips, and the most delicate and complicated embellishments.” Czerny's “master hand” was that which mastered the art of fingering; according to it, Cecilia should have no difficulty in performing “a dance of leaping hands full of chords” and scalar runs upon “the entire surface of the keyboard.” And in terms of musical expression, she should be able to decipher the composer's intentions with ease (“the inward and essential character of the music”), precisely because mechanical difficulties “ultimately vanish.” In short, having mastered the rules of Czerny's ludo-musical game, Cecilia would be amply equipped to play the Ninth transcription vis-à-vis the game's codes of conduct. In part, this is due to the way Czerny embeds the lessons of opus 500 within his transcriptions. Remember that work's third-based scales? A variation of this pattern can be found in measures 763–69 of the Ninth transcription (see Example 9). And do not the twists and turns of the primo in the measures leading up to the March resemble any number of the exercises that populate the remainder of opus 500? The list could go on endlessly.
To be sure, the integration of such technical passages was not unique to Czerny; other arrangers had made comparable transcriptive decisions (which also appear in the standard repertoire, not least in Beethoven's own piano music). All the same, and viewed in relation to opus 500, what I wish to stress here is that the Ninth transcription reflects a contact zone—again, a “coming together” of Czerny the pedagogue and Czerny the arranger, the mechanic of the hand and the mechanical reproducer of symphonies. Czerny's pedagogies helped to shape a mechanical skill set to which he could then accommodate his transcriptions, elaborating his own recursive cycle wherein several modes of “mechanical reproduction” could be made to converge. The remainder of this article examines further what it meant culturally for Czerny to reproduce Beethoven's music in this manner by returning to some of the topics broached in the first section.
On the “Proper Performance” of Beethoven, and Czerny's Mechanical Reproductions
The reverence for Beethoven implicit in Köhler's statement speaks not solely to the hagiographic presence of the composer in the day's imaginary. Additionally, such testimonies point to a wider tendency in the nineteenth century by which composers, critics, and pedagogues would exploit Beethoven's image as the acme of musicianship altogether. As Fuchs has shown, Czerny served as one of this discourse's primary mouthpieces. Drawing on recollections compiled in a manuscript of 1842 titled “Reminiscences,” Fuchs details how Czerny, as both pupil and friend of the symphonist, “was evidently of the opinion that his personal relationship with Beethoven gave him a unique ability to convey the intentions of the composer.”114 By contributing commentary on Beethoven's performances to the Allgemeine Wiener Musik-Zeitung and, upon Beethoven's death, offering biographical information to such journals as the Hamburger Theater-Chronik and London's Cocks's Musical Miscellany, Czerny established himself as, in Fuchs's words, Beethoven's chief “ambassador posthumous,” effectively fortifying the composer's position at the head of the emerging canon's pantheon. Notably for our purposes, Fuchs argues that, in addition to Czerny's published writings, the four-hand piano format offered one of the most efficacious means for achieving this objective. Given that transcriptions “were the most important medium for the dissemination and popularization of musical works during a time when they could not be reproduced electronically,” Czerny's efforts in this arena, Fuchs proposes, suggest that he was not just an ambassador of Beethoven generally, but also a home-based “propagandist of Beethoven.”115
Perhaps surprisingly, however, and contrary to the charges of misrepresentation leveled by Köhler and Marx, Beethoven apparently approved of the ways in which Czerny's transcriptions altered his original compositions in this propagandistic capacity—that is, he approved of precisely the excisions and “noisy” experiments described above. As reported by an advertisement for the 1829 edition of Czerny's transcriptions of Beethoven's symphonies,
Herr Carl Czerny, long famous as a composer, enjoyed Beethoven's trust to such an extent that for arrangements, the latter usually notified him of his compositions, and Beethoven approved of every little liberty required by the characteristic qualities of the pianoforte compared with those of the orchestra, as if he had indicated them himself. “What you deem good to change is quite alright with me,” B. told Herr Czerny personally. So Beethoven was after all of the opinion that one should keep in mind the instrument for which one is arranging and use its range in order to properly render the expression of the composition, and that an extract from the score that is nothing but completely slavish … is inappropriate.116
Fuchs notes that, in addition to his Beethoven transcriptions, Czerny's method books propagandized a comparably titanic image of the Great Composer. And they did so not simply by prescribing the mechanical and notational rules of the game, as discussed above; they accomplished this task descriptively, too, via extensive passages of pedagogical prose.
The fourth volume of opus 500, part of which was titled “On the Proper Performance of All Beethoven's Works for the Solo Piano,” offers a case in point.117 Published in 1846 as a supplement to the three-volume publication of 1839, the fourth volume is a sweeping survey of playing styles particular to individual composers, spanning Bach to Mozart to Liszt; the section on Beethoven—by far the most extensive—provides detailed instructions for the study and performance of the composer's piano works specifically, effectively codifying an early performance practice for the playing of this music.118 Appealing directly to his personal relationship with Beethoven, Czerny legitimates this commentary as follows:
The author of this work has frequently been requested by many persons to treat of the performance of Beethoven's pianoforte works. He here therefore undertakes to fulfill this request, and trusts it is so far competent thereto, from having in his youth (from the year 1801) received instruction from Beethoven in pianoforte playing—studied all his works with great predilection, on their first appearance, and many of them under the Master's own guidance—and, at a later period, until the close of Beethoven's life, enjoyed his friendly and instructive intercourse.119
“On the Proper Performance” begins as one might expect, with a laudatory preamble. Beethoven's “pianoforte works so far surpass all which were previously written for this instrument,” Czerny enthuses, “that even to the present day they remain unequalled.”120 Regarding the execution of these works, he asserts that “the mental conception which their performance demands, as well as the vanquishing of their technical difficulties, which are not slight, can only be attained by a thorough study of them.” Thus, he maintains, “Beethoven's works, with the exception of a few trifles, are written for [a] good, and well cultivated pianist.”121 In other words, “On the Proper Performance,” positioned at the far end of opus 500's progressivist teleology, demands—to invoke the work's subtitle—the “highest and most refined state of cultivation.” In what does this competency consist? According to Czerny, each of Beethoven's piano works “expresses some particular and well supported idea or object,” much like the affects in Volume 3.122 But in order to convey them, cultivated playing necessitates not simply the preservation of “the will of the Composer,” as Volume 3 stipulates. Additionally, it demands what Czerny calls an aptitude of “correct performance”—a closely related concept that in recent years has prompted a great deal of scholarly attention.
As Parakilas has suggested, Czerny's idea of correct performance reflects what might be seen as a “Catholic” attitude toward the musical work, an attitude Czerny himself depicts as follows: “In the performance of [Beethoven's] works, (and generally in all classical authors,) the player must by no means allow himself to alter the composition, nor to make any addition or abbreviation.”123 The performative variant of Werktreue, “correct performance,” Parakilas argues, advocates for fidelity to the unassailable teachings of a text, which are passed down unchanging from generation to generation, in the way a Catholic is supposed to read the Bible.124 George Barth has offered a slightly different perspective on the matter. Building on Parakilas's focus on “correctness,” Barth considers Czerny's application of the term “spiritual conception” in “On the Proper Performance,” a contiguous prescription that, although likewise conditioned by Romantic ideology, allows for a more fluid, even “Protestant” understanding of compositional authority than is suggested by Parakilas's explication.125 Barth argues that, in Czerny's view, while Beethoven's music would remain spiritually consistent across far-flung times and places, its transcendent character would nevertheless take on “a different value because of changed prevailing taste, and must at times be expressed by other means than were necessary” at other historical junctures.126 Just as Czerny accommodated the symphony to the transcriptive-reproductive medium of the piano, then, a Czernian performance practice, Barth insists, would seek not to materialize a composer's ideas verbatim, but rather to preserve the work's conception through translation: not in the sound, the score, or necessarily the way of playing, or even in the “conception as realized on a given occasion by the composer, because tastes change.” Rather, the spiritual conception is always already locally mediated, spatio-temporally altered by “‘the player's sense of propriety,’ which depends upon ‘well cultivated feelings, and much experience.’”127
“Propriety,” “well cultivated feelings, and much experience”: if we grant that Czerny had viewed the proper performance of Beethoven's piano works as the apogee of early-century keyboard training, then we may likewise understand the process of developing this skill to derive from a Pestalozzi-like progressivism. Beethovenian know-how represents the summit of “distinguished amateurism,” the peak to which Cecilia climbs. In terms of the actual playing of Beethoven's music, then, Cecilia personified the home-based means by which Beethoven's piano works were rendered sonic, reproduced. What, exactly, was this progressivist subject reproducing? Following Barth, I would maintain that Czerny likely imagined Cecilia to be able to retransmit the “spiritual conception,” the work's putative essence. She always does so imperfectly, however, no matter how “correct” her performance may be, for (re)production always already bears the performer's trace. If Cecilia is the physical medium, and Beethoven the metaphysical message, then the message's significance is predicated on its mediation, the player. Cecilia is no neutral vessel. From this Czernian perspective, mediation and reproduction go hand in hand, the former impinging on the latter and vice versa. Through Cecilia, Czerny reproduced a vision of Beethoven, a vision that presupposed a performance philosophy that sees performative difference as an essential criterion for the repetition of the Ideal—a specifically Czernian and emphatically pianistic version of what Mary Hunter has labeled an “early Romantic performance concept.”128
Yet there is more to Czerny's attitude toward “correctness” and “spiritual conception” than being just another example of the “performance genius” discourse discussed by Hunter.129 Indeed, throughout this article I have struggled to delineate the many ways in which “the mechanical” manifested itself in Czerny's oeuvre. Both a mechanic of the hand and a mechanical reproducer, Czerny also, it seems, sought to endow the subjects who were learning from opus 500 and its supplementary Beethoven material with the ability to themselves become reproducers. Of what? First of all, of Beethoven. If, as Fuchs illustrates, Czerny strove to be his intermediary, then it was via works like opus 500 and “On the Proper Performance” that the Cecilias of the parlor were tasked with channeling the image promoted by Czerny.130 Czerny inscribed this image in transcriptions, too. At the same time, Cecilia herself was a reproduction—that is, both the engine and the effect of a cultural technique whose variables, while furnishing outcomes that can never be wholly predetermined, nevertheless impose a certain set of restrictions, “rules.” Considering not so much what things mean in a semantic sense, but rather how things—such as, say, the ABC book, opus 500, or the Ninth transcription—entail a set of formal affordances as technologies for meaning-making, media theorist Bernhard Siegert writes, “humans as such do not exist independently of cultural techniques of hominization, time as such does not exist independently of cultural techniques of time measurement, and space as such does not exist independently of cultural techniques of spatial control.”131 For Siegert, if ontology is performative, so too is (post-)personhood: “objects are tied into practices in order to produce something that within a given culture is addressed as a ‘person.’”132 As I hope to have shown, parlor keyboarding signals the coming together of heterogeneous technologies, disciplinary regimes, print-based pedagogical media, and “cold” and “hot” mediations—transcriptions—all of which “are tied into practices in order to produce something that within a given culture is addressed as” the bourgeois daughter, Cecilia. It is not enough, however, simply to flag this ontological reversal; for the content—the meaning(s) transmitted—of transcriptive and pedagogical media is just as important as the form of the activities they enable.133 To this extent, one might interpret Czernian parlor keyboarding as a switchboard, of sorts, a toggle between a Beethoven who is fed in, and something else, another Beethoven, who is shot out, constituting output. In both cases, Beethoven is form and content, mediated through Czerny's multiply cultural techniques. It is by reference to, within, and out of this recursive space that, I think, the epistemic coordinates of domestic keyboarding—again, in Moseley's parlance, the rules of the ludo-musical landscape—could take their cue. Solie writes that, “for most girls, the girling experience was an ambivalent combination” of social and familial expectations and of negotiating the concomitant “form of romanticism that idealized and sentimentalized women at the same time that it idealized and sentimentalized the aesthetic experience, creating a natural link between them.”134 Czerny's techniques supplied an important glue for holding such a Kittlerian scene, such a ludo-musical assemblage, together: one in which a range of mechanical reproductions could be made to collide.