Music, history, materiality: where we are coming from

Wistreich, R. (2022) Music, history, materiality: where we are coming from. In: Materialising Musical Instruments, 8-9 December 2022, Royal College of Music. (Unpublished)


The investigation of the history of music of Europe in the early modern era (which, for the purposes of our current project, ‘Materialising Musical Instruments’, covers the period from roughly 1520– roughly 1750) has been undergoing a series of tectonic shifts, particularly over the last 50 years or so, which have hugely broadened the field of what once constituted the relatively circumscribed field of ‘musicology’. Although almost all of us here today know this story, we very rarely rehearse it among ourselves, because what we do in our work focused on music and material culture feels for the most part so obviously validated as an approach that it’s easy to forget where we are, and therefore where we are coming from when we take our ideas beyond the confines of our particular historiographical space. This paper provides a brief introduction to where we – in our project ‘Materialising Musical Instruments’ are coming from, and where we are hoping to get.

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