Music and Mobility

(Mozart Society of America Joint Session with Society
for Eighteenth-Century Studies at 2019 ASECS)
American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies
Friday, March 22, 2019

Chair: Edmund Goehring (Western University)


“Computational Approaches to Opera Criticism and Canon”
Estelle Joubert (Dalhousie University)

This paper presents the data visualization component to a large-scale SSHRC-funded project entitled Opera and the Musical Canon, 1750-1815.  ‘Visualizing Operatic Fame’ is a graph database (powered by neo4j with Graph9 as visualization tool) representing networks of relationships not only between individuals (composers, opera singers, music publishers) but also objects related to operatic fame (scores, reviews, images of actors).  My conceptual and computational frameworks are informed by Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory and Albert-László Barabási’s principles of network science. 

Focused on the German-speaking realm, I shall use three paradigmatic examples of Maria Antonia of Saxony, Gluck and Handel to illustrate the potential of graph database visualization in musicological scholarship.  A graph database enables one to show various levels of connection (strong or weak) between nodes, thereby allowing the user to visually foreground the strongest connections in a network.  Since opera reviews are often translated, reprinted and commented on in subsequent reviews, this project has the capacity to visualize communities of reviewers, how different documents relate to one another, and the number of times a review is ‘duplicated’, offering new ways to measure operatic fame.  Finally, each of the three composers and their works experience various levels of fame in different geographic regions.  Data visualization software is thus useful in uncovering which works might be famous at various points in time, whether the fame is consistent or sporadic, and making this information visible on a map.

“‘The Lady with a Harp’: Music and Women’s Education in the Early United States”
Elissa Edwards (Élan Ensemble) and Basil Considine (University of Tennessee-Chattanooga)

Eliza Eichelberger Ridgely (1803-1867) was a pioneering American musician and horticulturalist. A correspondent of the Marquis de Lafayette, friend of U.S. Presidents, and important businesswoman in her own right, she owned the first double-action harp in the United States, and both introduced and popularized many exotic plants in the country. Several authors have called her the epitome or ideal of American womanhood for the period, a characterization reinforced by her iconic portrait The Lady with a Harp by Thomas Sully in the National Gallery of Art.

There are, however, significant gaps in the literature concerning Eliza’s life, education, and musical practice. Much of the literature is also short on detail and contains factual errors in conflict with recently discovered documentary evidence. This paper provides an updated, expanded biography and assessment of Eliza Ridgely’s life, education, and musical activities. It draws on new research findings in American and European archives, a detailed cataloguing and study of the Ridgely Family music collection, and comparative research on other personal music collections from the period.

The presented findings provide important new insight into musical education, practice, and dissemination in the United States at the end of the long 18th century, including the important role played by refugees from the French and Haitian Revolutions. It includes illustrated maps of musical transmission vectors, live music demonstrations, and excerpts of contemporary documents. As a whole, it illuminates the process by which an “American” art music tradition emerged in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, including the evolution of social mores. 

“Bridging the Social Strata: Music on the Walks of Eighteenth-Century Tunbridge Wells”
Ashley Greathouse (University of Cincinnati)

In his Review of the State of the British Nation from 25 June 1709, Daniel Defoe divides the people of England into seven categories, ranging from “the great, who live profusely” to “the miserable, that really pinch and suffer want.” Defoe’s extensive taxonomy points clearly to a complex state of social flux. Importantly, the turn of the eighteenth century saw the emergence of Defoe’s third social category—“the middle sort”—which he describes as those who “live the best, and consume the most of any in the nation, . . . and with whom the general wealth of this nation is found.” One way in which the emerging “middle sort” expressed their newfound wealth was through leisure activities, including visits to spa towns such as Tunbridge Wells. Many scholars (James Curl, J. H. Plumb, and others) have investigated spa towns, but few have focused specifically on music within them. This presentation will shed light on the exceptionally important role music played in spa towns, where it facilitated social emulation: the process whereby the “middle sort” could imitate their social superiors, and could themselves be admired and imitated.

Tunbridge Wells was unusual in that it had two promenades, one for the upper classes and one for the lower classes. Musical performances took place between these upper and lower walks. Although the specific repertoire played at Tunbridge Wells can rarely be determined, examining diverse sources gives us a general idea of the styles and genres that were heard there. Through examination of primary-source materials, ranging from written accounts to engravings and other visual sources, this presentation reconstructs the history of music’s function in Tunbridge Wells across the eighteenth century—thus providing insight into music’s unique role in the broader commercialization of leisure that was such an important part of eighteenth-century English life.