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Music-Historical Egyptomania, 1650–1950

From: Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume 75, Number 4, October 2014
pp. 545-580 | 10.1353/jhi.2014.0037



Starting with Athanasius Kircher in the seventeenth century, it became de rigueur for music histories to include a discussion of Ancient Egypt’s musical contribution. This is striking, considering that no notated sources of ancient Egyptian music exist. Due to stringent cultural demands, Egypt became an indispensable component of music histories in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The idea of Egyptian music, unfettered by actual examples of it, can give us a rare glimpse into wide-ranging ideas about the nature of evidence in music-historical narratives, the inner workings of music histories, and how the wider cultural tasks of music are imagined.