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Le concert et son public

Hans Erich Bödeker
Michael Werner
Patrice Veit

V. Publics : écoutes et comportements

The social discipline of listening

Richard Leppert

Texte intégral

1The present article is shaped by the visual record of musical practices surrounding the phenomenon of the concert and its public. However, I should stress at the outset that my interest in the intersection of musical history with visual history has little to do with the positivistic account that visual evidence might provide for the study of, say, performance practice, organology, or the “listening public”. Indeed, I’m highly sceptical that any one-to-one relation exists. In my view, the worth of studying visual practices relative to music history pertains principally (though hardly exclusively) to our learning more about how music was conceived in a particular historio-geographico-cultural setting by its practitioners. Conception (including visualisation), after all, drives practice, though the two are hardly a precise mirror image of each other.

2Visual modes of perception, like aural ones, are neither simple nor “natural”. As Michel Foucault (in particular) has shown, visibility is a matter of visuality: What is seen is what can be seen in one historical moment, yet not necessarily in another. Visuality is a matter of culture and history, not optics. “Visibilities” in other words are not constants.

  • 1 Rajchman, J. 1988, “Foucault’s Art of Seeing”, October 44: 89-117, 93.

3To see is always to think, since what is seeable is part of what “structures thought in advance”. And conversely to think is always to see1.

4Beginning in the Enlightenment, and completed during the nineteenth century – the period concerned in this volume – an epistemological shift occurred whereby visuality and visibility became dominant means of knowing, replacing seemingly less objectively verifiable forms of knowledge, such as theology and philosophy. The notion of “scientific verifiability” had significant impact on musical aesthetics, criticism, performance, and listening, particularly to the degree to which performance concretised the semantic properties of aural experience.

5Historically evident by the seventeenth century, Modernity is marked and defined by an obsession with “evidence”, the magical coin that has long defined most humanistic and social-scientific disciplines. Evidence: from videre, to see – and, in the uncovering of evidence, to make visible, to make plain, to strive for the self-evident (but in actuality, to privilege a certain way of knowing, at the expense of another). Modernity’s passion for visibility organised the myriad acts of classification that underwrite what we commonly understand as knowledge, from botany to zoology, from the New Grove to the Billboard charts. Further, the specifically cultural demands of visuality inform and determine the cultural necessity to render music itself legible, that is seeable. This is obvious of course in narrative overlays (whether programmatic or formalist) that anchor mental images – formulated in stories of events, places, people, or structures (sonata form, etc.) – to overcome the immeasurability of absolute music, to concretise the nothingness of musical sonority. And of course the passion for visibility informs the passion for images that first consumed European and American inhabitants of the nineteenth century – and now threatens to capture us all in a virtual reality within the World Wide Web, a form of self-disciplining visual desire that Foucault did not live to imagine.

6I shall explore, very briefly and very provisionally, the visuality of musical listening across the historic divide separating the early modern from the modern, to suggest how music participated in the shift from aristocratic state power, during the final moments of the Ancien Régime, to the privatised and domesticated power of the bourgeoisie, in the course of the nineteenth century, with the parallel phenomenon of public listening. In the course of these remarks, I shall insist that the habits of the listening public are a matter as much of the eyes as the ears, involving socio-cultural and epistemological change, as well as changes in musical style (with an implicit demand for concentrated listening). Again: The argument I shall advance builds on the premise that listening in public was a profoundly visual and aural experience.

7Prior to and simultaneous with any musical text and/or its performance, are musics ‘various relations to lived experience. In other words, musical discourse necessarily both precedes and exceeds the immanent semantic quotient of any particular musical text and any specific instance of listening. These comments are intended to suggest that the semantic content of music – its discursive “argument”, however defined – is never solely about its sound either as an abstract entity or as an isolated experience. In other words, the act of listening in public to a musical performance cannot be understood simply as phenomenological. Crucially involved are the ways of knowing (Foucault’s epistemes) that constitute the forms of “software” unique to a time and place. For music to “occur”, someone has to perform it, and someone has to hear it (even if that means only the performer him/herself, in absence of other auditors). An act of hearing must occur for sonoric semantics to function. (We don’t conventionally think of studying scores as making or hearing music; we clearly do not understand that the studying of scores constitutes music’s performance.)

8Listening, as well as performing, involves the materiality, the culture, and the politics of the human body. The semantic content of music registers through the body (and the five senses that incorporate the very foundation of embodiment), as well as the mind, its rational powers mediated by emotional reactions. The experience and meaning of music is physical, intellectual (in the broad notion of the word), and spiritual; and it is deeply and fundamentally social. Musical experience is especially to be understood as the result of mediations between ear and eye functioning within a “sonoric landscape” wherein music occurs as both a sound and a sight. What follows is a cursory attempt to demonstrate the workings of the relationship between sight and sound in historical socio-cultural efforts to establish, stabilise, and render useful the meanings of music through both performing and listening.

9My concern with vision focuses upon the physicality of music-making itself (the sight of the body’s labours to produce sound), and on the (ironic) fact that the “product” of this activity – musical sonority – lacks all concreteness and disappears without a trace almost instantly once the musician’s “physical labours” cease (what is called acoustic decay). Precisely because musical sound is abstract, intangible, and ethereal – lost as soon as it is gained – the visual experience of its production is crucial to both musicians and audiences alike for locating and communicating the place of music and musical sound within society and culture. (In our own visually captivated world, I’d further suggest that the social impact of phonograph records – as we used to call them – ironically produced a pent-up demand for the re-visualisation of music, the re-embodiment of music, which we witness today in the phenomena of MTV, operas on laser disk, televised performances of symphony orchestra performances, and the like.)

  • 2 Bryson, N. 1983, Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze. New Haven, Yale University Press; Lep (...)

10In short, I’m suggesting that the slippage between the physical activity of reproducing musical sound and the abstract nature of what is produced creates a semiotic contradiction that is ultimately “resolved” to a significant degree via the agency of human sight, and that sight and sound together produce the force of sociality that music encodes. The visual code functions through the human body in its efforts to produce and receive music. When people hear a musical performance, they see it as an embodied activity. While they hear, they also witness: how the performers look and gesture, how they’re dressed, how they interact with their instruments and with one another, how they regard the audience, how other listeners heed the performers. Thus the musical event is perceived as a socialised activity. Visual representation in effect summarises by encapsulation more or less all of this, not as a “disinterested” record of events, but as a coherent and discursive, commonly dialectical vision of the varied relations within the context of which sound occurs and hence sound means2.

Aural-visual consumption

11What is it that the early modern listener “consumed” when he or she “consumed” music? What are the relationships of this consuming to the construction of personhood, that is, to identity? What is the function of consumption, for the auditor, of the public concert? How ought this consumption to be theorised? One answer to the question, “What is it that one ‘consumes’ when one ‘consumes’ music?”, might go something like this: One consumes pleasure, wherein pleasure as a category of human experience is at once “disinterested” and “interested”. By disinterested I mean that pleasure of music is produced in part by aural stimulations which in turn trigger physiological and emotional responses that result in a sense, inevitably temporary, of well-being. This pleasure is embodied; it may be simultaneously of body and mind, and as such the sonoric simulacrum of an organic totality absent from an otherwise fractured reality. Nonetheless, the organicism of music can be imagined only to the extent that it is lost as soon as it is gained, inevitably lost the moment sound ceases. By “interested” I mean that the pleasures of music just described are never totally innocent, never produced or experienced solely as autonomous reaction (“disinterested”). This says no more than that any discursive practice must give meaning to, and gain meaning from, not only its own practice and result (in this case, sonority proper), but also from the larger system of discursive and semantic practices of which it is never more than a part.

12Pleasure by its very nature comes with a bill attached. In a culture of scarcity, even among those for whom scarcity is no more than a theoretical possibility, pleasure by definition is understood to be an unstable and exceptional category of human experience. This is because pleasure is not dependent solely upon material excess – financial means do not guarantee access to pleasure. Pleasure is a non-commodified commodity. Its materiality is only metaphoric; like music, it is immaterial. Further, the pleasure of consumption incorporates loss at the moment of gain. This partly accounts for the desire that pleasure produces, to the extent that we understand by desire that which we have not (even in the moment of having). Pleasure, in bourgeois culture, is always on loan, and repayment is invariably demanded. Indeed, the very identity of the bourgeois subject hinges on this somewhat pathological relation to the question of pleasure.

13Even when most semantically drained, as in the abstract projection “pleasure for pleasure’s sake” – as such, an ideology but not a lived reality pleasure remains semantically rich. Pleasure is experiential; it involves consciousness and intentionality. Even when, as is often the case, it locates itself outside the mind by a nonetheless mental conception of its escape from the bounds of (instrumental) rationalisation, pleasure’s contingency is not only a matter of physical-emotional sensing, but also the awareness of the difference it allows, momentarily, from ordinary experience, where pleasure is all too often in very short supply. The desire for pleasure of whatever kind is embodied. The embodied pleasure of music to which I refer – as commonly explained by nineteenth-century aesthetics, for example – is marked by a (wished-for) totality of body and mind that hardly exists except in the imagination.

  • 3 Jameson, F. 1990, Late Marxism: Adomo, or, the Persistence of the Dialectic. London, Verso: I46f.; (...)

14Music is a repeatedly inscribing marker. Its “repetitions”, immanent to musical structure, are at once audible and visible (in the gestures of performers, for example); repetitions serve as sensory over-determinations of every semantic value music produces. Indeed, therein lies much of music’s power and pleasure: whatever it might mean, it means repeatedly – whether referring to the re-playing of a piece of music over some interval of time, or referring instead to the internal repetitions in all music, but especially obvious in formal procedures like dance forms or theme and variations. Repetition inscribes reassurance and predictability. As such it is the sonoric-visual simulacrum of contentment, the promesse de bonheur that Stendahl described as art and which the Frankfurt School took up in their account of the Utopian moment in culture3. Music, like dance, with which it is closely associated, both visually and sonorically enacts a stylised and aestheticised order which human beings valorize highly, especially in light of order’s abundant opposite, chaos or disorder: noise.

Listening in representation

  • 4 Raines, R. 1966, Marcellus Laroon. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul: 2.

15I’ll begin at the beginning, so to speak, with a painting by Marcellus Laroon (1679-1774), an English “musician, singer, professional soldier and man of pleasure”4 and a painter of what art historians call “musical conversations”, that is, depictions of musical “speakers” and listeners – producers and consumers of musical discourse (Figure 1) produced c.1760, hence immediately prior to the period defined by this volume. Conversation – dialogic speech – is of the body, an abstract and ethereal breathing outward – like singing, like flute playing – in order to connect to the body of the other so as to represent, to account for: an act of speaking tied to an act of listening. There are two conversations in Laroon’s picture, and their duality is made an issue.

1. Marcellus Laroon the Younger. 1679-1774. A Musical Conversation (c. 1760). New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

16On the left, is the conversation of the (non-musical) speech-act pairs of speaker-listeners, couples, men and women, are represented in the conventional manner as spouses or lovers, or at least intimate friends. On the right, is another conversation – musical – partly texted (a man sings), but mostly not of or about words but about sounds as such. The performers in this instance do not pair off; the musicians are all men, apart from the harpsichordist. Yet their discourse defines the profoundly interactive nature of musical discourse. How do we know this? Laroon organises his picture around a meeting, a coming-together, occurring at the centre of the painting and framed by the archway. A man and a woman meet, bow, touch; they engage. Their gestures semiotically shade into the opening moves of physical contact associated with social dancing, itself a ritual form of love-making, a rehearsal of bodies organising their sensualities and desires, guided by musical sonorities which give form to their practices; expressions associated with love and love-making after all constitute the most dramatic examples of human sociality.

17In the foreground is something odd, a storage-case for a musical instrument, lying atop music books. There’s a negative aesthetic quotient to this dark, unattractive, utilitarian object, yet its presence is asserted by the painter. Its excuse for being lies in its meaning. The music case, it seems to me, is like a coffin. It protects something precious at the same time as its protection confirms loss. Both a casket and the case allude to vitality, to sound, to breath, though only by announcing death and silence. However, the music-case differs from the coffin. The coffin protects the corpse from the worms, if only figuratively, but it also shrouds the survivors from the look, and perhaps stench, of decomposition. It’s a frame marking the permanent dissolution of the body it contains. The music-case on the contrary protects something which “sleeps” and might be awakened. The awakening, as in the fairy tale, comes from the touch – of fingers, mouth, tongue – of the player who, like a lover, embraces his or her instrument and brings it to life, makes it “speak” – commonly for the “benefit” of another, the listener. (The ultimate listener in Western discursive practice is, of course, the lover, he or she to whom a serenade is addressed.) Laroon’s is a painting of promise centred around people’s bodies, young and old, desired and desiring. The musical conversation is ultimately one about the possibility of life itself, involving shared, embodied interiorities. In Laroon’s painting, the silence encoded by the instrument case is overwhelmed by the radical, almost scandalous amount of sonority being produced: the silence it recommends is, in practice, excessively overcome. Thus to get in on the musical act at the left, a man at the extreme right stands on a chair to reach a lute hanging on the wall: people clamour for music, and for the obvious reason that musical doing defines and indeed practices human interaction, that is, practices sociality itself.

Representing change

18I’ll focus the remainder of my remarks on the last two thirds (roughly speaking) of the nineteenth century, and address the profound changes in the habits of listening, which might be described under the category of discipline. The object of my concern will be the virtuoso soloist performer, considered in light of the various sorts of visual discourses surrounding the look of such performers and, equally important, their being looking at-the fetishisation of virtuosi by nineteenth-century audiences most dramatically marks the issues I’m attempting to raise and clarify. But I’ll begin with a little background relative to the bourgeois listener, seen through the lens of Adorno.

19Throughout his writing, Adorno laboured to understand the socio-cultural import of Western individuality in both its philosophical and practical functions – dating as far back as Homer’s Odysseus and culminating in what he would surely recognise today in human types as diverse as media stars, sports tycoons (both owners and players), celeb-status musicians, whether Toscanini-type classical-orchestral Titans or Spandex-clad rockers, or Madonna-types. Adorno – typically for a high Modernist – saw individuality as the very basis of history, as the defining principal of the West. But he viewed it dialectically, as something both paradoxical and contradictory, at once liberating and enslaving. Individuality constituted the basis of social organisation, yet individuality, in its competitive, appetitive, ultimately solipsistic drive, was ironically anti-social, anti-communal, and fundamentally private. And Adorno brilliantly – and to be sure scandalously – linked individuality in its most radical phase – the modernity first defined by the nineteenth century triumph of the bourgeoisie, economic capitalism, and the Industrial Revolution – to music itself: opera, symphony, concerto, and chamber music.

20For example, to Adorno chamber music, both as sound and as a social phenomenon, constituted a place of momentary refuge, a place of promise, a place of imagination, perhaps of memory, where an atypical kind of individuality might be thought, seen, and indeed heard. In chamber music, he located a space for a lost sociability, where each musical voice was heard by mutual consent, and where being heard was not defined by the competitive survival of the fittest, the loudest, the most clever. In chamber music, as a principle of musical organisation, Adorno heard and saw what Laroon drew: namely, musical conversation, musical give and take, musical sharing, the musical support of intertwining voices: mutual respect and – in fact – an acoustic and physical-visual manifestation of “friendship”. In chamber music, Adorno could imagine the possibility of what otherwise seemed unavailable, a society that was in fact actually social (or sociable).

  • 5 Adorno, Th. W. 1976, Introduction to the Sociology of Music. New York, Continuum: 86.

21The Utopian element of chamber music, for Adorno, wasn’t defined simply by what went on among the few players; the effects he projected likewise involved chamber music’s audience. Adorno clearly understood that the audience for chamber music was largely privileged. It was small, typically an economic and educational elite; its audience was comfortable. Paradoxically, the audience for chamber music constitutes the embodied reminder of the profoundly unequal society that Adorno saw chamber music itself sonorically imagining in more democratic form. Adorno was neither romantic nor cynical, either about music or political sociology. As he put it, “Chamber music is specific to an epoch in which the private sphere, as one of lei-sure, has vigorously parted from the public-professional sphere5.” How was or is the chamber music audience different from, say, the audience for the London Symphony or the Berlin Philharmonic? What was Adorno getting at? He’s not entirely clear about this, but I think that his understanding goes something like the following. Chamber music does not in fact eschew the competition inherent in, say, the concerto: the four string parts of the quartet do after all interrupt one another, one part struggling against the momentary hegemony of another, for example. Further, the audience sees this in the physical gestures necessary to make one instrument heard with or against or above another – the biting attack of bow against string, maybe of pizzicato, or col legno use of the bow, introducing a new sonority like an exclamation or an insistence against the prevailing discourse. We can see all this: the players do things with their bodies that have visual and aural consequences. Piano trios and string quartets, in other words, are not necessarily the musical equivalents of love feasts. But neither is chamber music merely a reduced-size analogue of large orchestral compositions.

22So far as I can hear – and see – the nineteenth-century piano concerto fast movements commonly depend for their impact on the thrall in which the audience is held by the soloist’s ability to hold our attention as the one and only. That is, the concerto’s success is defined by the soloist in opposition to the orchestra. It’s not the orchestra that thrills us, no matter how well it plays; it’s the soloist. Indeed, if the soloist is sufficiently commanding, the orchestra increasingly serves to underscore the soloist.

23With the symphony orchestra, the audience’s visual attention is centred on the conductor, who commands attention, who for that matter commonly promotes attention to himself via his gestures, his body language. Thus the plethora of nineteenth-century cartoons that at once make light of the phenomenon and acknowledge the audience’s appetite for it (Figure 2). From our own time, Leonard Bernstein comes immediately to mind. Recall the endless television footage of Bernstein from the 1950s to the 1980s, the degree to which the camera “looked” at him, giving to his body the authority to “read” the music’s meaning for us. In the 1950s, one New York City fm deejay, I forget who it was, but not a devotee of Bernstein in any event, referred to Bernstein, in light of his famous gestural carryings-on, as a con-ductor, as in con-man. I mention this not to defame one of the genuinely great American musicians of this century, but to reiterate the fact that the issues Adorno wrote about were based on quite ordinary experiences of how music, functioning as a sound and sight, firmly anchors itself in the social-political, even as it commonly claims to be a refuge from such mundane, usually unpleasant realities. As many orchestral musicians have experienced, the conductor’s literal power over the orchestral musicians, at times tyrannical, can engender fear and loathing, and reflects what Adorno once sarcastically referred to as conductors’ “Führer-complex”.

2. Schliessmann, 1884. Hans von Bülow Conducting.
Published in: Le Figaro. In: K. Storck, Musik und Musiker in Karikatur und Satire. Laaber 1998 (1910).

Focused listening as a decentering experience: The virtuosi

24The archetypal musicians in nineteenth-century mythology were the virtuosi – Paganini, Liszt – simultaneously virtual factories of sound, limitless output, the embodiment of the superman and the super-sexed (Figure 3). (Filmmaker Ken Russell, rather more than merely perverse, got that much “right” in his outrageous filmic “account” of Liszt, Lizstomania [1975], fittingly enough with Roger Daltrey, of The Who, in the title role). In the film, as in an 1889 magazine illustration published in Paris, Liszt’s musical prowess is directly and unambiguously linked to sexual prowess, rather vulgarly evident in the hyper phallic sword slung from his waist. Liszt’s eight arms and multiple long fingers only reinforce the phallocentrism of the image (and not coincidentally equate him with the insect world), arms and fingers in abundance resonating with another popular image of the time, that of the Medusa. Such performers served as the ultimate realisation of a socially impossible unity of the public with the private, of power and desire realised and linked – and projected onto men who were bracketed off from quotidian life by their status as entertainers and as artistic freaks. (And, as is well known, virtuosi self-consciously acted out – literally made visible for spectators in physical form the sonoric pyrotechnics. In every sense of the word they were performers.)

3. Liszt-Fantasy (detail) 1886. Published in La vie parisienne, 3 April.
In: K. Storck, Musik und Musiker in Karikatur und Satire. Laaber 1998 (1910).

  • 6 Johnson, J.H. 1995, Listening in Paris: A Cultural History. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University o (...)

25Listening, to belabour the obvious, demands a listener. But listening is not properly understood as a biological phenomenon, rather a historico-socio-cultural one: the listener is framed by history, society, and culture. The nineteenth-century bourgeois, living a life of sharp division between the private sphere and the public, the man of the world, so to speak, took his identity in no small portion from a code of rigid self-discipline that staged human emotion in the being of his wife rather than himself. But the degree to which the bourgeois male’s self-domination excised his emotional life (the better to be fit for the rigors of intense economic competition), the more the demand for the reappearance of emotion elsewhere, and not only in the person of his wife. Emotional life was made explicitly visible and audible through musical art, but experienced collectively in the concert hall as a phenomenon of transference. The physical rigidity of the audience (often seated on backless benches, discomfort raised to a principle of metaphoric honour) precisely mirrored the physical heroics on the raised platform: spectacle. The virtuoso is born of visual and aural genetic stock. The effects of sound, the plethora of Paganini’s notes, is matched by the violence of his bodily movements, via effects of visibility of which he was conscious, and whose impact he carefully exploited. Performances are described as being “watched”, and not simply heard6 (Figures 4–6). Similarly, the silence of the audience, purportedly listening ever more intently, is precisely mirrored in the form of the orchestra, whose size gradually increases until it reaches the literal breaking point with Bruckner and Mahler. The “stakes” of sound, more and more sound, are the perfect reflectors of the increased discipline of silence required of the audience: The bourgeoisie’s silence is paid for by an “assault” on the ears. Whereas early in the nineteenth century, audiences called out during orchestral concerts, not only between movements but during the playing, by the end of the century, audiences had recessed into tight-lipped quiet and bodily immobility. And just as this happened, the histrionics of sound and sight proceed up-scale: violinists, pianists, singers, and of course conductors. As Richard Sennett points out:

4. J.P. Lyser, Paganini as Sorcerer. In: K. Storck, Musik und Musiker in Karikatur und Satire. Laaber 1998 (1910).

  • 7 Sennett, R. 1978, The Fall of Public Man: On the Social Psychology of Capitalism. New York, Vintag (...)

26The artist is forced ever more into a compensatory role in the eyes of his audience, as a person who really can express himself and be free. Spontaneous expression is idealized in ordinary life but realized in the domain of art7.

27The virtuoso constitutes the wish-fulfilment, the desires hidden within repressed identity. Again Sennett:

  • 8 Ibid.: 202.

For the spectator [the virtuoso] creates feelings which are both abnormal and safe. He appears to feel spontaneously in public, and that is abnormal; through his shock tactics, he makes others feel. But momentary shock is safe because of his very isolation. Here is no emotional experience the audience must measure against their own powers; after all, he is an extraordinary man. Thus appear both the public identities produced by personality in public: on one side, an extraordinary actor, on the other, spectators who can be comfortable in their passivity8.

28Schumann understood this implicidy, per remarks on the Liszt Études·.

  • 9 Ibid: 203; Schumann, R. 1946, On Music and Musicians, edited by K. Wolff. New York, Pantheon: 150.

One ought also to see the composer play them, for just as the sight of any virtuosity elevates and strengthens, so much more does the immediate sight of the composer himself, struggling with his instrument, taming it, making it obey9.

29Schumann smartly defines musical virtuosity opposite to what we might expect. Critics of virtuoso visual display and critics of virtuoso sonoric display both commonly allude to immanent tastelessness, as though the letting go, so to speak, was a manifestation of the hysterical (oddly, at once the stuff of manly superheroes and womanly weakness: analogous to Hercules, powerful, super-developed yet feminised by his hyper-curvaceous body). But Schumann recognised the other side of this coin: The virtuoso’s virtuosity is a hyperbolic form of the self-disciplining bourgeois who himself disciplines, who wrestles the chaos of infinite sonoric possibility into the shape he demands – and who turns it into Work. Not for nothing is the étude the perfect metaphor for the complicated links of nineteenth-century Romanticism to the dearest-held precepts of Industrial Capitalism and the Protestant work ethic.

30Henry Stock’s “Musician’s Reverie” (Figure 7) attempts to connect an impassioned music with an imagination giving vent to distinctly male fantasies conventionally suppressed by bourgeois ideology.

5. Klie, Abbé Liszt. 1873. Published in: Die humoristischen Blatter, Vienna. In: K. Storck, Musik und Musiker in Karikatur und Satire. Laaber 1998 (1910).

6. Gustav Doré, Those Who are Carried Away.
In: K. Storck, Musik und Musiker in Karikatur und Satire. Laaber 1998 (1910).

31That is, Stock’s image valorises the unrepresentable, in essence the libidinal sublime. Music serves as a cultural transfer point between daily life and the locked closet containing self-discipline and self-repression. The male sitter’s position is frontal, and his dream is dark, swirling and conflicted, potentially frightening and unpredictable: in a word, exciting for its possibilities. Yet the dreamer is not the bourgeois Everyman, but that of the (anti-bourgeois) artist-musician. That is, at the same moment the repressed returns, it is nonetheless located at a “safe” distance from the likely bourgeois viewer (the men who bought such pictures, of which many similar examples survive). The artist is isolated, conjuring a masturbatory fantasy (in the picture’s background) of Watteauesque nudes and Goyaesque demons in an experience that brings on night. Here there is no concern with a domestic completeness, but with a yearning for unremitting solitary passion. Woman and devil float together in the dreamer’s psyche, pushing reason aside (this man’s use for books is as a footrest). However, this is not merely an image about music as such; it is about improvisatory music; notated music lies abandoned on the floor, in the lowest space available in the image. The dreamer’s is an art a false art – produced by abandoning the text; his music moves into unscripted, hence socially dangerous, space. The price of liberation, sexually charged, is the loss of reason – marked in the painting’s murky background by a bastardised recollection of Goya’s famous etching, “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters”, which opens the series Los Caprichos.

7. Henry J. Stock, 1853-1931. A Musician’s Reverie (1888).
Harrow (Greater London), Harrow School Collection.
Copyright The Governors of Harrow School.
Photo: Courtauld Institute of Art, London.

  • 10 Leppert, R. 1993, The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation and the History of the Body. Berkeley (...)

32On the one hand, the absolutes of gender difference are obvious. The man’s playing is interactive with his instrument, impassioned, deeply soulful, as his furled brow encodes. It is hot, threatening, stimulating, and it is ultimately contemporary, not classical; thus it preserves the Victorian male prerogatives over time and history, as opposed to then-common images of prim women sitting stiffly at their pianos. On the other hand, the singularity of Stock’s subject removes it from the more measurable reality of contemporaneous imagery. Its singularity is principally embedded in the openly acknowledged connection between male desire and music. Yet the sexual desire is nonetheless unrealised; it fails. As a fantasy – a dream and not a “reality” – it marks its own inadequacy in precisely the one domain where successful performance codifies masculine identity. The image transfers lack, though a dynamic lack, to a man. Physical sexuality is transformed into musical improvisation. By this means, the putative social dangers immanent in the dreamer’s abandonment of the musical text – his refusal to follow the notation, the sonoric simulacrum of the social script – are rendered harmful to him alone, and not to other men. Still, it is not that simple; the message is mixed. The improvising musician in effect “refuses” to read a musical text which both social convention and cultural practice mark as feminine. By refusing to follow a notated “code” – his determination to improvise – he lays claim to his masculinity at another level. Yet in the very act of performing, he re-establishes the link between music and feminine identity – endlessly articulated from the eighteenth century onwards – that he sought to break. He acknowledges that music is the displacement of his true object of desire: Music is woman; woman is evil; both are captivating, castrating10. The pleasures afforded by both ironically conflate with evil and terror. Take your pleasure; pay the price.

33What does this suggest about music? The socio-erotics of music established by these private-public dichotomies, wherein the visual inscription of music serves as a substitute for both emotion and sensuality, operate also as momentary compensations and consolations for the social fracturing within the increasingly competitive, class-and gender-separated world of nineteenth-century capitalist industrialism. (Το say this does no more than acknowledge the ideological thrust of most nineteenth-century aesthetics.) Imagery preserves the sedimented memory of what has been lost in the process, even as memory is continually mediated by the fast-changing present.

Sites for looking. Space and desire

  • 11 Johnson, J.H. 1995 [note 6]: 29.

34Social space is commonly a musical terrain; indeed, the terrain of music sometimes provides the opportunity to make visual an aestheticised schema of social classification. Concert halls and opera houses were at once public spaces and, paradoxically, privileged ones. In the eighteenth century opera theatre – to cite but one example (representing a situation that changed in the course of the nineteenth century to some degree) – cheap seats existed, but what might be seen from such quasi-public space was all that space to which the public was denied access. The opera fan (Figure 8), printed on paper, or sometimes silk, and revised each season, provided the more elite participants with a spatial diagram of the social register: who was who depended on and helped determine where one sat, and knowing that order was crucial to the rhetorical function of claiming one’s identity within the circle of theatrical spectacle, part of which involved the performance on stage, part of which involved the performance by the audience of its claim to privileged identity. The musical experience of the opera was a matter not just of hearing (and seeing) what was being sung, it was also a matter of seeing the social order enacted within an architectural, sonoric, and aesthetic frame, one guaranteed to be kept in place for an entire season. That is, the spatial order immanent to the printed seating chart possessed a temporal dimension as well, which added to the total power of the experience that the audience at once witnessed and helped to enact. The lorgnette (opera glasses) was a standard accouterment of dress, used as much to surveil fellow spectators as to watch the action on the stage11. Social order was not a matter of the moment; it repeated itself night after night via spatial, temporal, spectacular, and sonoric paradigms, all acting in concert – especially via staged narratives organised around sexual conflict, which by the second half of the nineteenth century almost totally define opera.

8. New Opera Fanfor 1797 (1797). London, British Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings. By courtesy of Trustees.

35As virtuoso display (aural and visual) increased, it should be no surprise that listening became more its opposite, namely, quiescent: Listening increasingly occurred under self-imposed conditions that discouraged any visible or audible reaction to the music, provided one had claims to being a bourgeois (Figure 9).

  • 12 Sennett, R. 1978 [note 7]: 206.

36Το sneer at people who showed their emotions at a play or concert became de rigueur by the mid-nineteenth century. Restraint of emotion in the theatre became a way for middle-class audiences to mark the line between themselves and the working class. A “respectable” audience by the 1850’s was an audience that could control its feelings through silence; the old spontaneity was called “primitive”12.

  • 13 Ibid.: 207.

37According to Sennett13, disciplined silence was first and foremost a phenomenon of urban centres, less so of provincial outposts. As he further notes, the dimming of house lights, which began in the 1850s and was virtually universal by the 1890s, contributed to audience self-restraint.

9. Honoré Daumier, The Public Gallery. In: K. Storck, Musik undMusiker in Karikatur und Satire. Laaber 1998 (1910).

38James Johnson reiterates the point:

  • 14 Johnson, J.H. 1995 [note 6]: 232.

Policing manners [...] became an act of self-reassurance. It confirmed one’s social identity by noticing those who didn’t measure up, whether through (choose your label) ignorance, laziness, bad upbringing, insensitivity, or overall dullness14.

39Not the least contributor to the discipline of quiescent listening was fear:

  • 15 Sennett, R. 1978 [note 7]: 210.

Το not show any reaction, to cover up your feelings, means you are invulnerable, immune to being gauche. In its dark aspect, as a mark of self-doubt, silence was a correlative of 19th Century ethology15.

40Still, compensation came in other forms. It became scored, literally texted, and hence not “merely” the result of supposedly spontaneous lettings-go by odd men behaving oddly (Paganini, Liszt). Virtuosity became codified in (some) notation, not surprisingly, in the concerto, which was nothing if not the metaphor of the isolated and individualised hero against the collective identity of the orchestra, itself led by a titan with whom one sometimes worked in concert, at others times seemingly against – momentarily and triumphantly breaking free in the cadenza, the moment that metaphorically acknowledges the victory of steady, hard work: the exhaustion of the (orchestral) masses/minions, who catch their breath while the hero marches on, his energies at full force.


41Recall Schopenhauer on the question of musical affect:

  • 16 Schopenhauer, A. 1981 [1819], “Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung”, excerpted and reprinted in: Le (...)

The inexpressible inner essence of all music, by virtue of which it flows past us so utterly comprehensible and yet so inexplicable, like a familiar but eternally distant paradise, is rooted in the fact that it reproduces all the movements of our innermost being but quite divorced from phenomenal life and remote from its misery16.

42What Schopenhauer acknowledges is that the “condition” of music is less an aspiration of art and more a desire for an embodied happiness that does not exist in material life, but resides buried in the imagination. In the aesthetics of autonomy, in other words, the social enters surreptitiously via the back door, its presence denied yet named. Schopenhauer’s notion of “the inexpressible inner essence of all music” involves the decentering of the self, a letting go of mind (but balanced in social practice by a disciplined and publicly immobilised body), a cultivation of desire, and a simultaneous transference of desire onto the Other, a projection of the self into and onto the sight and sound of the performer, especially the virtuoso, who as it were enacts the desires imagined – and stage manages them as well. This marks the discourse network within which the aural spectator is invited to experience concert music.

  • 17 Leppert, R. 1993 [note 10]: 217-227.

43This discourse network likewise manifests itself in the work of many Victorian artists who took directly to heart Pater’s assertion that, “[a]ll art constantly aspires to the condition of music”. Invariably the art that aspires to music, in representing music, rendered it feminine: Music equalled Woman, and not coincidentally Woman equalled (object of) Desire. Specifically, the aesthetic image commonly envisioned the focus of male emotional decentering in the form of female personifications of music, the female subjects provided names like The Prelude, A Symphony, or even Lieder ohne Wortd17. In these images, the musical female subject is labelled musical, pre-texted. And never in the history of painting did so many artists supply their own titles to the images they produced (Staley). Ironically, in other words, the visual personification of “Lieder” was seldom left “ohne Worte”. The music defined in these pictures is one of societal remove: it has no place in the world; it is perfectly mental, ethereal, disembodied, ahistorical, or of another place – or all of these at once. Yet the music depends for its effects on physical desire, perhaps, more accurately, on an often quite blunt and sometimes illicit erotics.

44Meanwhile, the listener sat silent and immobile, the body still and the imagination adrift. (How we might account for the differences in listening experience across the gender boundary, in different geographies, and among different races and ethnicities has to date hardly been defined, yet alone researched. Indeed, the listener whom I myself imagine in the foregoing remarks is male and bourgeois, the obvious character with which to start, but no more than that.) In the course of the nineteenth century, the sociality of active music-making evident in Laroon’s late eighteenth century, with which I began, reforms itself into the sociality of the musically passive Self, attentively listening. The public concert experienced in the ideologically correct manner was a social event, but one organised around highly dynamic yet absolutely interiorised emotions, ideally rendered invisible to others, a matter of soul not body – a psychic projection onto the musical body of the Performing Other that was openly acknowledged only by massed applause – applause sometimes less a spontaneous reaction than an arranged demonstration (claques), an early manifestation of what Adorno and Horkheimer termed the Culture Industry at work to manipulate “consumer” response.

45Arguably, public music under the conditions of modernity was less a manifestation of sociality than a simulacrum of a lost but imagined one. The participatory musical spontaneity evident in Laroon was replaced by ritual, manifesting the aesthetics of a sonoric secular religion, organised around musical bodies meant to be looked at as much as heard. Public listening was a pedagogical event through which identity could be learned and projected through codes of etiquette that were specifically visual but notable as visual absences: stasis instead of movement, hidden emotions not feelings on public display. Not least, the visual presences of the same code, in mirror image, were enacted in musical sound, in performance as spectacle. Moreover, these codes of conduct were overdetermined by their relation to the large socio-cultural and socio-economic realm from which the public concert itself stemmed. The look of frenetic performers, and equally frenetic conductors and their disciplined orchestras, constituted, in sight, the aesthetic transformation of human mass labour and, in sound, the aesthetic manifestation of the results of work: namely, artistic Production. Not for nothing does the cartoon of von Bülow (Figure 2) remind us of things to come, the high-speed motion of Modernity captured in early industrial films celebrating ever-more-efficient Taylorist technologies of material manufacture. The comedy immanent to the cartoon reflects not just derision, but in equal measure the disquieting awe demanded by Superman, where actions speak much louder than words. Indeed, the viewer-listener’s thrall is evident in the faces of “those who are carried away” (Figures 5–6), whose attention manifests the look of the star-struck.



L’écoute comme discipline sociale

Se fondant sur l’hypothèse que l’écoute musicale dans un lieu de réunion public relève à la fois du visuel et du sonore, cet article se concentre surtout sur les deux derniers tiers du XIXe siècle. Il étudie les transformations des habitudes d’écoute, que l’on peut classer dans la catégorie de la discipline, Il se penche tout particulièrement sur le cas du soliste virtuose, en analysant les différents types de discours autour de son aspect extérieur, mais aussi le regard fétichiste que lui porte le public.

Le virtuose répond aux souhaits du public bourgeois, dont les désirs secrets se réincarnent dans le virtuose sur scène. Schopenhauer accrédite l’idée selon laquelle la «condition» de la musique est moins une aspiration à l’art qu’un désir de bonheur personnifié, qui n’existe pas dans la vie matérielle mais reste enfoui dans l’imaginaire. La notion de «l’essence inexprimable de toute musique» implique une descente en soi-même, une liberté de l’esprit (dans un corps pourtant immobilisé dans une attitude publique disciplinée par le social), un transfert de désir, une projection du soi dans l’apparence et le son du musicien, en particulier du virtuose. Le concert public, vécu de manière «idéologiquement correcte», était un événement social organisé autour d’émotions intériorisées et, dans l’idéal, rendues invisibles, et une projection psychique dans le corps musical de l’Autre musicien.

Sozialdisziplinierung des Horens

Fur die Überprüfung der Arbeitshypothese, dass die Rezeption von Musik im 19. Jahrhundert sowohl eine Erfahrung des Horens als auch des Sehens war, konzentriert sich dieser Beitrag vor allem auf die beiden letzten Drittel des 19. Jahrhunderts. Er untersucht Veränderungen der Rezeption von Musik, die mit der Kategorie der «Disziplinierung» beschrieben werden können. Als Beispiele werden die Aufführungen virtuoser Solisten und berühmter Dirigenten sowie die verschiedenen visuellen Diskurse, sowohl über den Habitus dieser Künstler als auch über das fetischisierende Beobachten dieser Künstler durch das Publikum, herangezogen.

Der Virtuose konstituiert die Sehnsucht des bürgerlichen Publikums, dessen unterdrücktes Begehren im Körper der Virtuosen in den öffentlichen Konzertveranstaltungen wieder ersteht. Schopenhauer erkennt an, dass die «Bedingung» der Musik weniger in einem Streben nach Kunst gründet, als vielmehr im Wunsch nach einer Verkörperung von Glück, die nicht im alltäglichen Leben vorkommt, sondern in der Einbildung gründet. In der Autonomieästhetik bricht, in anderen Worten, das Soziale gleichsam durch die Hintertür wieder herein; seine Existenz wird geleugnet, aber dennoch artikuliert. Schopenhauers Konzept der «unaussprechlichen inneren Essenz aller Musik» impliziert die Dezentrierung des Selbst, ein Loslassen des Gefühls (balanciert allerdings durch einen disziplinierten und in der Öffentlichkeit immobilisierten Korper), eine Übertragung des Begehrens, eine Projektion des Selbst in und auf die sehende und hörende Wahrnehmung des Musizierenden, insbesondere des Virtuosen. Das auf ideologisch korrekte Art und Weise erlebte öffentliche Konzert war ein soziales Ereignis, das in internalisierten, gewohnlich vor anderen verborgenen Emotionen und in derpsychischen Projektion auf den musikalischen Körper des aufführenden Anderen gründete.


1 Rajchman, J. 1988, “Foucault’s Art of Seeing”, October 44: 89-117, 93.

2 Bryson, N. 1983, Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze. New Haven, Yale University Press; Leppert, R. 1988, Music and Image: Domesticity, Ideology, and Socio-Cultural Formation in Eighteenth-Century England, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

3 Jameson, F. 1990, Late Marxism: Adomo, or, the Persistence of the Dialectic. London, Verso: I46f.; Marcuse, H. 1968 [1937], “The Affirmative Character of Culture”, in: Negations. Essays in Critical Theory translated by Jeremy J. Shapiro, Boston, Beacon: 115.

4 Raines, R. 1966, Marcellus Laroon. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul: 2.

5 Adorno, Th. W. 1976, Introduction to the Sociology of Music. New York, Continuum: 86.

6 Johnson, J.H. 1995, Listening in Paris: A Cultural History. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press: 232.

7 Sennett, R. 1978, The Fall of Public Man: On the Social Psychology of Capitalism. New York, Vintage Books: 191.

8 Ibid.: 202.

9 Ibid: 203; Schumann, R. 1946, On Music and Musicians, edited by K. Wolff. New York, Pantheon: 150.

10 Leppert, R. 1993, The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation and the History of the Body. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press.

11 Johnson, J.H. 1995 [note 6]: 29.

12 Sennett, R. 1978 [note 7]: 206.

13 Ibid.: 207.

14 Johnson, J.H. 1995 [note 6]: 232.

15 Sennett, R. 1978 [note 7]: 210.

16 Schopenhauer, A. 1981 [1819], “Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung”, excerpted and reprinted in: Le Hurray, P. and J. Day (eds), Music and Aesthetics in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 300; emphasis added.

17 Leppert, R. 1993 [note 10]: 217-227.

Table des illustrations

Légende 1. Marcellus Laroon the Younger. 1679-1774. A Musical Conversation (c. 1760). New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Fichier image/jpeg, 349k
Légende 2. Schliessmann, 1884. Hans von Bülow Conducting.Published in: Le Figaro. In: K. Storck, Musik und Musiker in Karikatur und Satire. Laaber 1998 (1910).
Fichier image/jpeg, 652k
Légende 3. Liszt-Fantasy (detail) 1886. Published in La vie parisienne, 3 April.In: K. Storck, Musik und Musiker in Karikatur und Satire. Laaber 1998 (1910).
Fichier image/jpeg, 589k
Légende 4. J.P. Lyser, Paganini as Sorcerer. In: K. Storck, Musik und Musiker in Karikatur und Satire. Laaber 1998 (1910).
Fichier image/jpeg, 750k
Légende 5. Klie, Abbé Liszt. 1873. Published in: Die humoristischen Blatter, Vienna. In: K. Storck, Musik und Musiker in Karikatur und Satire. Laaber 1998 (1910).
Fichier image/jpeg, 491k
Légende 6. Gustav Doré, Those Who are Carried Away.In: K. Storck, Musik und Musiker in Karikatur und Satire. Laaber 1998 (1910).
Fichier image/jpeg, 256k
Légende 7. Henry J. Stock, 1853-1931. A Musician’s Reverie (1888).Harrow (Greater London), Harrow School Collection.Copyright The Governors of Harrow School.Photo: Courtauld Institute of Art, London.
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,5M
Légende 8. New Opera Fanfor 1797 (1797). London, British Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings. By courtesy of Trustees.
Fichier image/jpeg, 270k
Légende 9. Honoré Daumier, The Public Gallery. In: K. Storck, Musik undMusiker in Karikatur und Satire. Laaber 1998 (1910).
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,3M

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