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Sonorous Sublimes: Music and Sound 1670–1850

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This interdisciplinary conference is dedicated to the sublime in music and sound, c.1670–1850. It brings together scholars from across the humanities to re-sound the sublime, from its rise to prominence in the age of Boileau and Lully, to its saturation of European culture in the mid-nineteenth century. The sublime has long been recognised as a crucial cultural category in this period, involved not only in the emergence of aesthetics and radically changing artistic practices, but in politics, science, theology, gender history, histories of the subject, and so on. Until very recently, attention to sonorous sublimes beyond music has circled round a narrow range of terrifying noises – screams, canons, rushing waters – identified in Burke’s famous theory of the sublime. Music itself has appeared as a latecomer to the feast of the sublime, feeding off an established discourse concerned with the verbal and visual. Responding to new developments in musicology and sound studies, this conference aims to explore both the rich variety of sounds heard as sublime by past listeners, and the complex roles played by music in forming and transforming the discourse, practice, and politics of the sublime.

This talk is part of the CRASSH series.

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