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Faculty of Music


Dr Bettina Varwig
King’s College London

‘Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut’: Early Modern Physiologies and Metaphors of the Heart

Bettina Varwig is Senior Lecturer in Music at King’s College London. After completing her PhD at Harvard University, she was a Junior Research Fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford and held a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on German musical and cultural history of the early modern period, including compositional and listening practices as well as the history of the emotions and the body. Her first book, Histories of Heinrich Schütz, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2011. She received the Jerome Roche Prize of the Royal Musical Association in 2013 and the William H. Scheide Prize of the American Bach Society in 2016.

What did it feel like, in 1714, to have a heart swimming in blood? And how could music be implicated in generating or ameliorating such a condition? Using J. S. Bach’s Cantata 199 as a focal point, this paper explores how musical sound was thought to operate within and upon the human body as constituted in early eighteenth-century scientific and theological discourses. The tangled notions of corporeality in contemporary accounts of music’s affective power complicate a Cartesian dualist model of human nature, instead suggesting a fluid body-mind continuum easily infiltrated by sense perceptions and affective motions. The somatic archaeology I develop here aims to move beyond the shorthand appeal to ‘Pietist’ modes of expression in Bach’s works, and the familiar preoccupation with text expression in Baroque repertories more generally. In recovering some of the intensely physical dimensions of the Lutheran worship experience, I hope to enable a more comprehensive reconstruction of the historical phenomenologies of music and the body that underpinned these early modern acts of musicking.

The Colloquium series is the main opportunity for members of the Faculty, researchers from other departments, and the general public to come together and hear papers on all aspects of music research, given by distinguished speakers from the UK and abroad. Colloquia are held on Wednesday afternoons in the Recital Room of the Faculty of Music, West Road. Admission is free and all are welcome. Please arrive at 4:50pm for a 5:00pm start. Papers are followed by a discussion and a drinks reception with the speaker.

Wednesday, 9 November, 2016 - 17:00 to 18:30
Event location: 
5:00pm, Recital Room, Faculty of Music