Epistemology of Hearing

Historical Epistemology of Hearing, 1850-2000

Julia Kursell

This project investigated the concepts that constitute our present understanding of sound, hearing, and music in three different historic constellations. Knowledge about acoustics, which had been guided by the symbolic code of music far into the nineteenth century, began to be transformed step-by-step into an experimental science on hearing, which eventually reappeared in music aesthetics of the second half of the twentieth century as a reflection of music’s own medial condition.

The first part of the project analyzed the relation between physiology, psychology, and the aesthetics of the acoustic around 1850. A second part, “Experimentalization of Hearing: Moscow 1920–1930,” dealt with the attempts to reconcile the diverging disciplines of aesthetics and scientific investigation into hearing in the early Soviet Union The third part, “Music and Media after 1945,” discussed the history of composition from the perspective of medial historiography.

The methodology for this project was based on “historical epistemology” as it is understood in French philosophy of science. It further involved research in the history of media and the material culture of experimentation. The aim of the project was to show hearing as historically changing, and hoped thereby to contribute to the current reorientation of research in the human sciences that deal with hearing, sound, and music.

Funding Institutions

Dilthey Fellowship
Thyssen Stiftung