Thomas Christensen

University of Chicago

Tonality in France c. 1860:

Scales, Skulls and Sanskrit

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Logan 802

Download the Chapter Here

Beginning with the earliest orientalist preclusions of Villoteau, Thomas Christensen traces the influence of this early comparative musicology on the theories and music of François-Joseph Fétis. Through this lens, we follow the inception of Fétis’s thinking about tonality, gradually evolving from a universalist conception to one historically and geographically specifiable. As Fétis himself professes at the beginning of his Résumé,

“But what is there in common between the music of the Greeks, that of the Hindus, the Chinese, the Arabs, the chordal Psalmody of the Middle Ages, the counterpoint of the masters from the sixteenth century and the art of Beethoven, of Weber and of Rossini? Among all these people, in every epoch, art seems to have neither the same principle nor the same purpose. Even the order of sounds, which we call a scale, is constituted by turns in twenty differing ways.” (pp. xxxviii-xxxix).

This presentation will be on the fifth chapter from Thomas’s forthcoming book from University of Chicago Press:

Fétis and the Tonal Imagination:  Discourses of Tonality in Nineteenth-Century France

Persons who believe they may require accommodations to participate fully in this event should contact the coordinator, Bradley Spiers at, in advance.

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