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Reviewed by:
  • Carmel Raz
Haydn's Sunrise, Beethoven's Shadow: Audiovisual Culture and the Emergence of Musical Romanticism By Deirdre Loughridge. Pp. vi + 291. (University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 2016. £38.50. ISBN 978-0-226-33709-8.)

The central concern of this book can be summarized as the recuperation of new forms of multi-sensory experience afforded by the technologies of the telescope, peepshow, magic lantern, shadow play, and phantasmagoria at the cusp of the nineteenth century. By bringing the little-known history of these audiovisual cultures to life, Loughridge challenges us to consider aesthetic experiences in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in terms that are both closely familiar to, and profoundly distant from, our present day. In one sense, this is a long history of the various forms of multimedia that permeate our modern world, yet Loughridge does not conceptualize her investigation as prehistory of technologies such as the cinema. Rather, her aim is more ambitious, in that she attempts to consider late eighteenth-century audiovisual listening practices on their own terms: as autonomous cultures at the intersection of discourses in the natural sciences, aesthetics, the arts, and spiritualism.

The main thread that runs through this imaginative book is the notion that novel technologies relating to optical instruments generated new forms of listening, and that these [End Page 126] in turn had a direct impact on the composition and reception of musical works. Accordingly, each chapter is structured around a different listening attitude and its associated technology. The first chapter focuses on a mode of listening linked with the telescope, which Loughridge terms 'prosthetic'. Beginning with Haydn's appeal to muted strings in depicting the lunar characters in Il mondo della Luna (1750), she traces a series of connections between an emerging popular discourse around the telescope and the keyboard fantasia, both of which were described by no less an authority than Kant as affording access to hidden regions of the moon and the mind respectively. Loughridge applies this insight to a reading of Rochlitz's Der Besuch im Irrenhaus (1804) which emphasizes that the hidden position of his narrator is integral to the construction of the scene; indeed, as she astutely notes, a number of contemporary examples describe analogous situations in which a concealed observer loses access to his subject by altering his position and inadvertently revealing his desire for immediate, rather than prosthetic, access. The culmination of the chapter weaves these insights into a discussion of how the slow movement of Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto situates its audience as 'an eavesdropper … evok[ing] the conditions of sensory extension' (p. 57).

In the second chapter, Loughridge proposes that the audiovisual culture around itinerant street performers with peepshow boxes left its mark on the practice of listening with the expectation of some kind of visual reward. She maintains that the peepshow setting affords two kinds of encounters with the audiovisual realm: some sounds (the words, cries, and music produced by the showman soliciting his audience to attend to the show) arouse the viewers' desire to see, while other sounds (predominantly the showman's speech) instruct them how to look. Following a detailed examination of the staging of this technology in three operettas, she argues that the experience of the peepshow as a technique should be regarded as informing early Romantic accounts of striving to see imaginary images inspired by instrumental music. In the next chapter, 'Shadow Media', Loughridge contends that the early nineteenth-century lied's shift from strophic to through-composed form reflects a close association between changing modes of listening and audiovisual experimentation. Pushing back against Kittler, who saw in poetic works 'media for the hallucinatory substitution of realms of the senses', she maintains that poetry inspired various experiments with sound and other forms of media. As a case study, she examines Burger's ballad Lenore (1781), a poetic text that was adapted to various genres including a shadow play. As Loughridge points out, the latter required some form of audible accompaniment, thereby involving 'an aesthetic of sound-image synchronization, calculated to produce a compelling audiovisual illusion' (p. 131). The resultant hybrid works, she argues, proved that narrative meaning could reside...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1477-4631
Print ISSN
0027-4224
Pages
pp. 126-128
Launched on MUSE
2018-06-05
Open Access
No
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