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Davies In , John William Strutt, the third Baron Rayleigh, published The Theory of Sound, in which he discussed how musical sounds could initiate intense bodily responses. New discoveries in the field of acoustical science traveled beyond the scientific community and entered the Victorian popular imagination. While articles about sound appeared in newly-emerging scientific periodicals like the popular scientific journal Nature founded in and the more psychologically- and philosophically-oriented Mind founded in , acoustics also permeated non-scientific periodicals.

When one audience member describes being moved to tears by music, the professor replies that his emotional state was simply a reaction to certain vibrations of the air due to sound Carey Carey Carey not only offered a lighthearted glimpse into the world of public acoustical lectures but also instructed his readers about the physiological aspects of sound. Acoustics also became central to Victorian music curricula. In , the theologian and musicologist Sedley Taylor published a textbook titled Sound and Music , which contained in-depth discussions of the theories of Helmholtz and Tyndall.

Upon its release, a similar text, T. Hiebert ; Harris iii-v. Indeed, several universities required acoustical study as part of their examination proceedings In , both Trinity College London and Oxford advertised in the Musical News that students could receive fellowships and degrees by passing examinations on acoustics and sound physiology Musical News , Pole, Dr. The Universities of Cambridge and London set papers in Acoustics at their examinations for musical degrees…There is, it is believed, little doubt that the other Universities will in due course follow the example set by Cambridge and London, by adding Acoustics to their curriculum for music degrees.

Broadhouse v-vi. In , the doctor J. Ewing Hunter wrote in the British Medical Journal of an experiment he conducted at his hospital in which seven out of ten patients exposed to music experienced fever reduction Hunter If, for example, one could inoculate a refractory maniac or deluded patient with a nocturne by Chopin, and so make him susceptible to the influence of suggestion.

Goodall Victorian physicians thus translated contemporary discoveries about the physiology of music into medical practice. The British Medical Journal and other periodicals widely publicized the work of the Guild, and major medical figures such as Florence Nightingale and Sir Richard Quain the physician to Queen Victoria praised the organization Davis Nineteenth-century educators also drew on contemporary understandings of the links between sound and the body to implement new disciplinary techniques.

Late nineteenth-century physical education manuals such as R. Acoustical theory perhaps most prominently found its way into Victorian popular culture through literature. In another entry, Eliot engaged with Helmholtz more explicitly:. If two sonorous bodies tuned in unison or in octaves, one is made to sound, the other will also sound without being touched. Thus the pitch of the notes of a church bell may be ascertained by playing upon a flute under the bell. Thomas Hardy also demonstrated a long-term interest in and engagement with physiological aesthetics and acoustical theory.

Hardy was thus aware of and curious about the intricacies of sonic vibration and the embodied nature of music listening and performance. Hopkins also met Tyndall in the Alps in Beer While Picker, Beer, Weliver, and others have uncovered the influence of acoustical ideas on Victorian writers—particularly those about sonic vibrations and waves—there is still room for work on literary responses to ideas about sound and physiology that scientists like Tyndall and Helmholtz emphasized.

Throughout the blowing of these plaintive November winds that note bore a great resemblance to the ruins of human song which remain to the throat of fourscore and ten It was a worn whisper, dry and papery, and it brushed so distinctly across the ear that, by the accustomed, the material minutiae in which it originated could be realized as by touch.

Similarly, the English novelist J. Though these moments only scratch the surface of the intersections between acoustics and Victorian literature, they indicate that members of the Victorian literary community were attuned to new advancements in sound physiology. These authors used acoustical science to engage with music not merely as a metaphor, symbol, or poetic convention, but rather as a way of capturing the material relationships between art and sensation. The acoustical work of Helmholtz, Tyndall, and others thus propelled Victorian thinkers in a variety of fields to engage with sound in new ways—from developing music curricula about the physical nature of melody and harmony, to advancing medical techniques that cured pain with sonic vibration, to imagining narratives in which characters and objects quiver.

In the Victorian era, then, sound not only created dancing flames, shaking glass, and vibrating bodies, but also fundamentally transformed the epistemological frameworks that nineteenth-century thinkers used to understand both their aesthetic and material worlds. Draucker, Shannon. Dino Franco Felluga. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net. Smithsonian Natural Museum of American History.

General Abbreviations

Musical News. Royal College of Music Archives. Royal College of Music Library, London. Advertisement for Trinity College Fellowship Examination. Allen, Grant. Physiological Aesthetics. Henry S. The British Newspaper Archive. Barton, Ruth. Beer, Gillian. Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter. Oxford: Oxford UP, Broadhouse, John. London: William Reeves, Burchfield, J. Frank A. New York: Routledge, Cahan, David. The Royal Society Publishing. Open Access. Berkeley: U of California P, Cambridge Independent Press.


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Carpenter, Mary Wilson. Athens: Ohio UP, Cohen, William. Embodied: Victorian Literature and the Senses. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, Cummings, W. Curtis, John Harrison. London: John Anderson, The score of Variations I presents the performer with six transparent squares, one with points of various sizes, five with five intersecting lines. The performer combines the squares and uses lines and points as a coordinate system , in which the lines are axes of various characteristics of the sounds, such as lowest frequency, simplest overtone structure, etc.

Concert for Piano and Orchestra , Fontana Mix both present the performer with similar difficulties. Still other works from the same period consist just of text instructions. Musicircus simply invites the performers to assemble and play together. The first Musicircus featured multiple performers and groups in a large space who were all to commence and stop playing at two particular time periods, with instructions on when to play individually or in groups within these two periods.

The result was a mass superimposition of many different musics on top of one another as determined by chance distribution, producing an event with a specifically theatric feel. Many Musicircuses have subsequently been held, and continue to occur even after Cage's death. This concept of circus was to remain important to Cage throughout his life and featured strongly in such pieces as Roaratorio, an Irish circus on Finnegans Wake , a many-tiered rendering in sound of both his text Writing for the Second Time Through Finnegans Wake , and traditional musical and field recordings made around Ireland.

The piece was based on James Joyce's famous novel, Finnegans Wake , which was one of Cage's favorite books, and one from which he derived texts for several more of his works. Since chance procedures were used by Cage to eliminate the composer's and the performer's likes and dislikes from music, Cage disliked the concept of improvisation, which is inevitably linked to the performer's preferences. In a number of works beginning in the s, he found ways to incorporate improvisation. In Child of Tree and Branches the performers are asked to use certain species of plants as instruments, for example the cactus.

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The structure of the pieces is determined through the chance of their choices, as is the musical output; the performers had no knowledge of the instruments. In Inlets the performers play large water-filled conch shells — by carefully tipping the shell several times, it is possible to achieve a bubble forming inside, which produced sound. Yet, as it is impossible to predict when this would happen, the performers had to continue tipping the shells — as a result the performance was dictated by pure chance.

Although Cage started painting in his youth, he gave it up in order to concentrate on music instead.


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The work comprises two lithographs and a group of what Cage called plexigrams : silk screen printing on plexiglas panels. The panels and the lithographs all consist of bits and pieces of words in different typefaces, all governed by chance operations.

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From to his death Cage worked at Crown Point Press, producing series of prints every year. The earliest project completed there was the etching Score Without Parts , created from fully notated instructions, and based on various combinations of drawings by Henry David Thoreau. This was followed, the same year, by Seven Day Diary , which Cage drew with his eyes closed, but which conformed to a strict structure developed using chance operations. Finally, Thoreau's drawings informed the last works produced in , Signals.