The Implicit Listener

The Implicit Listener

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Listeners @Chris

During her visiting research fellowship at the MPIWG, Magdalena Zorn will work on the history of listening. A postdoctoral researcher at the LMU Munich since 2015, she is currently exploring the hypothesis that under particular conditions, the history of music reveals an extraordinary relationship between the work and the listener where cause and effect seem to be inverted. Historically, in other words, the musical work does not arise in isolation from its effect. Rather, composing has responded to changing epistemes of the listener as a sociocultural entity throughout history and is itself an outcome of such knowledge. From this perspective, the history of Western “serious” music disengages itself from the narrative of the autonomous work and appears as a result of discourses of listening. Starting from the late fifteenth-century music theory of Johannes Tinctoris, authors—whether composers or theorists—have established relatively clear notions of the listener and have tried to anticipate the reception in their music. To track these changing images of the listener from 1500 to the mid-twentieth century, when physiological and psychological epistemes became increasingly essential to the composing process itself, is to deconstruct the work-based readings that are usual in historical musicology.