This article investigates the work of philosopher and experimental psychologist Carl Stumpf with a focus on embedding his scientific perspective in a practice of musicianship. Stumpf wrote in an autobiographical essay from 1924 that he had considered becoming a professional violin player before taking up the study of philosophy. I claim that the practice of learning and playing this instrument sheds light on his concept of music, and at the same time signals its relevance for nineteenth-century musical aesthetics. To carve out the role of Stumpf's musicianship, I propose a “psychoanalytic” approach of tone psychology in the sense of Gaston Bachelard. For this I read through Stumpf's writings to trace the function and role of practices like analyzing tones and tunes, memorizing and notating pitch and melody, and using related tools and techniques like phonography. This is held against a reconstruction of his mentioning of the violin and of the context of violin pedagogy in the mid-nineteenth century. In so doing, I hope eventually to sharpen the notion of tone in Stumpf and thereby to contribute to a better understanding of his concept of complex qualities as opposed to the notion of Gestalt in the generation of his students.

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