Feel-good tunes: music aesthetics, performance and well-being in the eighteenth century

Thormählen, W. (2020) Feel-good tunes: music aesthetics, performance and well-being in the eighteenth century. In: Lifestyle and medicine in the Enlightenment: the six non-naturals in the long eighteenth century. Routledge studies in the history of science, technology and medicine . Routledge, Abingdon. ISBN 9781138610705 (hardback) 9780429465642 (e-book)

Abstract

Wiebke Thormählen looks at the role of dietetic ideas of music and the emotions in the British context. Looking at Charles Avison’s Essay on Musical Expression (1752), Richard Browne’s Medicina Musica (1723), Johan Georg Sulzer’s Allgemeine Theorie der schönen Künste (1771) and John Burton’s A Treatise on the Non-Naturals (1738), Thormählen considers how music’s specifically emotional impact and its role in regimen were reflected in aesthetic and moral thinking on the subject. While previous observers had often turned to ideas of universal cosmic harmony to explain music’s importance, Enlightenment writers on the subject generally assumed that it affected human emotions via the body. This argument opened up all sorts of problems in relation to music’s aesthetic and moral status, as Thormählen sets out. Like Kennaway, she shows how the medicine of the period was happy to use both an older language of digestion and one of nerves and stimulation to explain music’s impact.

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