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Title

Temporality, Aesthetics, and Musical Novelty in Early Modern Colonial Port Cities

AuthorsIrving, David R. M.
KeywordsMusical Temporality
Musical Aesthetics
Musical Novelty
Early Modern Colonial Port CitiesEarly Modern Colonial Port Cities
Long-distance musical synchronicity
Colonial music cultures
Music aesthetics
Cosmopolitanism of port cities
Issue Date2019
PublisherUniversity of Oxford
CitationSensing Colonial Ports and Global History: Agency, Affect, Temporality : (2019)
AbstractThe arrival of a ship after often-perilous journeys and its unloading of passengers and wares at early modern colonial ports heralded levels of anticipation, excitement, or disappointment for local musicians, in an aesthetic world that was regularly stimulated by injections of music novelty. Archival traces of this traffic and its artistic aftermath exhibit desire for long-distance musical synchronicity, highlighting the relative sense of temporality in the reception and generation of aesthetic frameworks across seaborne imperial ecumenes. The recreation of European music in colonial milieux underscored the aesthetic desire for cultural reproduction or familiarity in a host environment that could periodically appear hostile in its social or environmental dimensions. Yet colonial music cultures generally demonstrated -- on the surface level, at least -- a degree of dependence with the European metropolis, in so far as they sought to replicate the arts of Europe. Political authority and cultural identity were reinforced by the ongoing reproduction of European social and religious musical institutions, in the often-overlapping categories of music for entertainment, music for civic ceremony, and music for religious observance. A comparative temporality in music thus became a concern in colonial port cities, and music performance was seen by officials and visitors as an index of local prosperity (that is, a colony's emulation of Europe and its capacity to enrich Europe) in social, economic, and cultural terms. That the aspiration of colonial settler societies for synchronisation with Europe and, in turn, the identification of Europe as a source of 'modernity', projected the 'denial of coevalness' (Johannes Fabian's term) onto surrounding indigenous populations is widely recognised. However, settler (and plural) societies were, to varying degrees, also the subjects of comparable forms of critique, both reflexively and externally. Thus while European travel writing often viewed encounters with non-European musics as experiences of 'travelling back in time', through a developmentalist paradigm, the settler-colonialist desire for musical novelty from Europe mirrored urban-provincial relationships within Europe itself: colonial cultures simultaneously acknowledged and resisted a sense of deferral, in forms of cultural production that privileged waves of European standards. The cosmopolitanism of port cities also meant that the diversity of imported musics could elide national styles, contributing to a monolithic aesthetic concept of 'European music', in comparison to radical Others. Drawing on case studies from Kolkata (Calcutta), Manila, and Rio de Janeiro, this paper critiques relational links between global trade, temporality, and novelty in early modern thinking about music aesthetics.
DescriptionSensing Colonial Ports and Global History: Agency, Affect, Temporality - 2 and 3 May 2019. TORCH, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (University of Oxford)
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/10261/214183
Appears in Collections:(IMF) Comunicaciones congresos
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