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Faculty of Music


Dr David Trippett

'Exercising Musical Minds: Phrenology and Music Pedagogy in London ca. 1830'

Dr Trippett is Principal Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, and Principal Investigator for an ERC-funded project on Sound and Materialism in the 19th Century. Before coming to Cambridge, he was Reader in Music at Bristol. 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 the intersection of 19th-century aesthetics with the natural sciences, and the cultural history of 21st-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.

The icon of the machine in early nineteenth-century Britain was subject to a number of contemporary critiques, in which pedagogy and the life go the mind were implicated ("we have machines for education: Lancastrian machines; Hamiltonian machines; monitors, maps and emblems"). In this paper I ask to what extent education in music was influenced by this discourse. A number of journal articles appeared on the topic of music and phrenology, bolstered by the establishment, in 1823, of the London Phrenological Society, and, in 1838, its sister organsation, the British Phrenological Association. They placed the creative imagination, music and the "natural" life of the mind into a fraught discourse of music and materialism.

The cost of a material mind was a perceived loss of contact with the "gifts of nature ... the dynamical nature of man ... the mystic depths of man's soul" (Carlyle 1829), 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 conflicting 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. This paper addresses them with particular reference to amateur musicians and the popular appeal of phrenological "exercise," including that relating to various orthopaedic devices for training pianists, after Czerny, such as Johann Bernhard Logier's "chiroplast.

Wednesday, 25 November, 2015 - 17:00 to 18:30
Event location: 
5.00pm, Recital Room at the Faculty of Music