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Volume 7, no. 1:

Music, Morals, and the Body:  An Academic Issue in Turku, 1653–1808 . By Jukka Sarjala. Studia Historica 65. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura—Finnish Literature Society, 2001. [264 pp. ISBN 951-746-264-6 150 Markkaa ($21)]

Reviewed by Inna Naroditskaya*

1. Poetics of Academia

2. Organization and Contents

3. Conclusion

References


1. Poetics of Academia

1.1 For me as an ethnomusicologist, who attempts to bridge traditional musicology and cultural studies, the monograph of Jukka Sarjala is especially interesting. Dismissing the analysis of music as a set of autonomous structures, the author places music at the center of an intellectual discourse about desire, fantasy, and imagination—philosophical questions which bore significantly on the society, culture, and gender dynamics of the city Turku1 in the early modern period. The central issue of the monograph is the changing perception, in a Protestant academic environment, of the “magic power” of music. The author explores the reciprocity between ideas about music and the social norms of Turku. Academic writing and publicly presented debates (“disputations”) on music mirrored social values; and musical sensibilities in turn affected the construction of values and norms.

1.2 Like literary historian and theorist Stephen Greenblatt, who searches for a poetics of culture in “hidden places of negotiation and exchange” (p. 13), Sarjala avoids writing about original and famous authors and movements and instead looks for “the ordinary, referring to the not so well-known academics of a Protestant university town” (p. 14). The documents examined in the monograph were generated within two Turku institutions, the Royal Academy and the Musical Society, over a period of 160 years from the 1650s, the early days of the Academy, to 1808, the date of the Musical Society’s last festival. Sarjala’s subject “displaces” the reader from well-known European centers and moves across established periods (from the middle Baroque to pre-Romanticism).

1.3 Sarjala’s primary sources include five dissertations on music produced at the Royal Academy and seventeen public lectures presented at the Musical Society of Turku. Arguing the importance of this study, Sarjala writes in the conclusion:

True, the music theses of the Academy and the lectures delivered in the Musical Society are not extensive theoretical accomplishments, but that does not make them literary enterprises of inferior value. On the contrary, they render interesting things visible. Beyond the domain of ideas, there is a set of significative operations: the dissertations and lectures show the field in which the basic elements, powers, possibilities, processes, and characteristics of man’s corporeal nature were introduced and conceptualized.

By limiting the scope of the subject, Sarjala is able to investigate in depth the inherent connection of musical philosophy with various layers of religious belief, scholarly argument, social conduct, and the function of both music and musical knowledge. Sarjala compares academic Turku with the neighboring schools of Uppsala, Tartu, and Lund, all part of the northern intellectual milieu, highly influenced by German scholarship.

2. Organization and Contents

2.1 The monograph is divided into seven chapters including an introduction which provides the historiography of the study of affects in music. The second chapter outlines the origin, purposes, and structure of the Royal Academy and the connection of Turku’s academic setting with both Western and Northern intellectual traditions. The third chapter explores the Academy’s interpretation of the baroque doctrine of affects. The fourth chapter approaches the emerging view of music as a moderating force that, operating under “the control of reason,” (p. 119) stabilizes emotions and tames sensuality, with music itself representing an “eternal life tasted beforehand” (p. 140). The fifth chapter focuses on the change of ideas and perception of music in Turku during the second half of the eighteenth century, when music “did not provoke the listener; it evoked his or her feelings”—ideas advocated by the newly established Musical Society of Turku. The sixth chapter discusses the concept of musical expression as a source of sensation and happiness. The seventh chapter summarizes the author’s discursive journey through philosophy and aesthetics and reveals the dynamic between music and society, intellectual and “corporeal,” at the beginning of the Romantic era.
 
2.2 In the Introduction, the author poses a question (p. 20): “what kind of powers, properties, and potentialities were inherent in tones, rhythms, and harmonies, and finally, in the recipient, so that music could excite, soothe, recreate, elevate, habituate, and civilize human beings?” Sarjala scrutinizes Turku’s view that musical power should be employed “as a practical tool for regulating psychological and social dynamics” (p. 26). Thus the introduction establishes the focus of the monograph as music in relation to “social practice, theoretical discipline, and subject of politics” (p. 27).
 
2.3 “Intellectual and Social Conditions” contains factual material on the Royal Academy of Turku, whose four departments, Theology, Law, Medicine, and Art (or Philosophy), reflected the social hierarchy of the time and place. Music was not originally included in the academic curriculum, and the first music faculty was appointed only in 1747. Describing ideas and academic traditions embraced by the Academy in the seventeenth century, the author employs materials from several dissertations. Pointing out that it is not certain who actually wrote these theses (students, professors or both), Sarjala suggests that the facts of their writing and publication were secondary to public debate about them (pp. 44–50). The author also explains the topics, bibliographic sources, purposes, and formats of these dissertations.
 
2.4 “The Affects as Forces in Music” explores the differences between the notion of affects in Turku and Central Europe. Jose Antonio Maravall, writing on “baroque and rationalism,” notes that “the mind of the epoch had come to believe in the ultimate mathematic structure of human work.” This “mathematic structure,” as well as the overall “tendency toward attaining a technical manipulation of human conduct,”2 can be seen in the musical culture of the Central European Baroque, which was immersed in the euphoria of newly developed musical genres, and in the semiotics of ascending and descending passages, melodic and rhythmic figures. Baroque scholars perceived these innovations as mechanisms that acted upon human feelings and behaviors. Academic Turku, in contrast, dealt with the opposite end of the same model. The members of the Academy, shunning “details regarding various shapes and combinations of tones, melodic lines, rhythms, tempi, or timbres,” (p. 81) studied instead emotional responses to music—desires and fantasies as well as the mechanics of the body—all energized and activated by music. Sarjala includes citations of Turku’s scholars (including Pro-Chancellor Jahannes Gezelius, professors Christiern Alander and Henrik Gabriel Porthan) interweaving their voices with those of their famous European contemporaries, as well as Greek, Medieval, and Renaissance philosophers. The resulting polyphony of the text reflects the spirit of the Baroque and exposes different layers of its aesthetics and philosophy.
 
2.5 “The Stabilization of Affects by Music” focuses specifically on the notions of desire, passion, and sentiment. Baroque philosophers viewed these emotions as evidence that human beings, as “blind forces” of nature, needed monitoring. Recognizing the possibility of the dangerous effect of music, academicians searched for the keys to music’s moderating power that would serve as a mechanism for regulating human sentiments and passions. Music was perceived as a device for establishing “right order” between reason and emotions, morality and corporeality, culture and nature. Thus music was the measure, people were the subjects. Used as stabilizer, music was supposed to produce an experience of the everlasting, continuing order shining through the sensitive world (p. 142).

2.6 “Institutions and Ideas in Transition” describes changes in eighteenth-century aesthetics—a shift from the rational idea of music as a mechanism designed to satisfy a trained listener to the concept of music as a magical force that induces tears. Like Rousseau and Kant, Turku scholars Johan Bilmark and Johan Michelin were disillusioned with the idea of a mathematical correspondence between sound and sense. They observed the separation of music “from the confines of church, court, school” (p. 145) and the growing role of the general public in the revision of musical ideals and activities. The decline of religious authority, apparent in the shift from Latin to Swedish in public debates, resulted in the "emancipation" of music from the censorship of the church. Later in the chapter Sarjala shows how the ideas of the time energized the upper class and intellectuals of Turku. In the second half of the century, the musical life of Turku was blossoming. The Musical Society was founded, and citizens were offered performances, public debates, lectures, and balls. The author writes: “The affected manners of men and women were seasoned with music” (p. 168). Public lectures (but not academic debates) were opened to women and “the lecturers took pains to address their words to this attractive part of the public too” (p. 178). The presence of women in some lectures and musical events and their absence from others lead Sarjala to the discussion of “music, gender, and sociability” that takes place in the following chapter (pp. 221–29).

2.7 “Sensibility and the Pleasure of Music” explores the magic of music in terms of joy. By the late eighteenth century, music was no longer perceived as danger but as inspiration. Franc Mickael Franzen, a professor at the Academy of Turku and a lecturer at the annual festival of the Musical Society, analyzed the physiological mechanism which formed the basis of musical pleasure: “Music shook the body as a cannon shot shook the windows. This tremor of the nervous and circulatory systems tended to produce a strong effect on the soul. Franzen said it swung the soul as in a dance” (p. 189). Exploring the sensibilities of the new age, Sarjala comments that music was no longer explored in terms of formulas that would regulate human actions. Instead music was the shortest way into one’s heart, a bridge between external and internal, self and sentiment. According to the scholars in Turku, music “was a secret force . . .between individuals” which created sympathy, compassion, and sorrow—feelings attained within an individual and shared with others. The focus on individual feelings and the appeal of music to the human heart signal the beginning of Romanticism. The last part of the chapter is dedicated to sensuality and gender. A lecture “On the Capability of the Fair Sex for Evaluating the Beautiful” echoes the familiar European equation of femininity with excessive and even dangerous passion and desires, a threat to the morals of (male) society.

2.8 In a short concluding chapter on “The Dynamics of the Body and the Soul,” Sarjala summarizes the gradual realization of scholars, at the dawn of the Romantic era, that “music represented the world; it did not transcend it” (p. 238). Academic theses and lectures of the late seventeenth and the early eighteenth centuries propounded the “law of music” in “human nature” (p. 239), a notion that signaled the pre-Romantic era.

3. Conclusion

3.1 While much of this monograph about the philosophy of music is necessarily abstract, Sarjala sometimes invigorates it by exposing his readers to details of life at the university—debates, procedures, events, curriculum and dissertation-writing—as well as the overall intellectual and musical life of Turku. Sarjala’s prose is interspersed with passages from dissertations, lectures, and records, cited in the context of mainstream philosophers and philosophical doctrines. Although the author focuses primarily on musical discourse rather than music itself, occasional references to specific events, such as a 1795 performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat mater by a female ensemble (p. 227), bring new light to the understanding of the culture of Turku. More references of this sort would, perhaps, reveal how the tastes, musical fashion, and the acquaintance of the public with the European repertory related to theoretical views of the academic circles. The list of sources and manuscripts following the seventh chapter should be valuable to scholars in the field.
 
3.2 This monograph, exploring the scientific construction of culture, morals, and gender in relation to music, should attract scholars from a wide array of humanistic and interdisciplinary areas: specialists on Baroque and pre-Romantic studies; Finnish historians, musicologists, and philosophers; and scholars of Germanic and Northern-European culture. The book is a tribute to the idea of the power of music, an idea which has survived generations of changing philosophical, social, and cultural constructs.


References

*Inna Naroditskaya (in-narod@northwestern.edu ) is Assistant Professor of music at Northwestern University. Her research interests include Soviet and post-Soviet musical cultures, as well as Russian music of the early modern period during the reign of Elizabeth and Catherine the Great.

Notes

1. A Finnish city on the Baltic Sea, it was under the rule of the Swedish king Gustavus II Adolphus at the time when the Royal Academy was founded.

 
2. José Antonio Maravall, Culture of the Baroque: Analysis of a Historical Structure, Translated by Terry Cochran (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 68.


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