The icon of the machine in early-nineteenth-century Britain was subject to a number of contemporary critiques in which pedagogy and the life of the mind were implicated, but to what extent was education in music composition influenced by this? A number of journal articles appeared on the topic of music and phrenology, bolstered by the establishment of the London Phrenological Society (1823), and its sister organization, the British Phrenological Association (1838). They placed the creative imagination, music, and the “natural” life of the mind into a fraught discourse around music and materialism. The cost of a material mind was a perceived loss of contact with the “gifts of naturer … the dynamical nature of man … the mystic depths of man's soul” (Carlyle), but the concept of machine was also invested with magical potential to transform matter, to generate energy, and can be understood as a new ideal type of mechanism. These confliciting ideals and anxieties over mechanism, as paradigm and rallying cry, are here situated in the context of music pedagogy during the second quarter of the century, with particular reference to amateur musicians and the popular appeal of phrenological “exercise,” and of devices such as Johann Bernhard Logier's “chiroplast.”
Exercising Musical Minds: Phrenology and Music Pedagogy in London circa 1830
David Trippett is a principal research associate at the University of Cambridge and principal investigator for an ERC-funded project on “Sound and Materialism” in the nineteenth century. His first monograph, Wagner's Melodies (CUP 2013), examines the cultural and scientific history of melodic theory in relation to Wagner's writings and music. Recent research interests include nineteenth-century materialism and the cultural history of twenty-first-century sound technologies. His work has received the Alfred Einstein and Lewis Lockwood Awards from the AMS, and the Bruno Nettl Prize of the SEM.
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David Trippett; Exercising Musical Minds: Phrenology and Music Pedagogy in London circa 1830. 19th-Century Music 1 November 2015; 39 (2): 99–124. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ncm.2015.39.2.99
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