"Body, Mind, and Sound in the Musical Theories of Marie Jaëll (1846–1925)"

"Body, Mind, and Sound in the Musical Theories of Marie Jaëll (1846–1925)"

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Event type: Seminars

15 September 2021 from 12.00 pm - 1.00 pm 15 Sep 2021 12:00 pm 15 Sep 2021 1:00 pm


Presented by Dr Hamish Robb (NZSM – Te Kōkī, Victoria University of Wellington) via Zoom https://vuw.zoom.us/j/91027368795?pwd=RjRpbHZsY3NQbFRxc1J0UHhOTFdTQT09

Picture of lady with hair up and hat
(Photo credit: Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg)

This talk draws on themes from my forthcoming article on the French pianist, composer, pedagogue, and theorist, Marie (Trautmann) Jaëll (1846–1925). Jaëll presents the earliest detailed theoretical framework of how performers and listeners embody music. In modern-day English speaking countries, embodiment-based theories and pedagogies are built unwittingly on many of the same principles as found in Jaëll's earlier writings, but Jaëll herself has gone largely unrecognised.

Writing in late nineteenth century France, when interdisciplinary projects between physiology, psychology, philosophy, and the arts are ripe, Jaëll is inspired to demonstrate that science and art are different sides of the same coin. Her theory centres on the interconnections between body, mind, and sound. Through framing movement, thought, and hearing as functioning within one elastic consciousness—which can be refined through appreciating more microscopic shades of temporospatial dimensions—Jaëll explains why we "feel" and "hear" music "moving" in fluid lines. She reveals piano playing and listening to be deeply embodied experiences, where the elasticity and dynamism of thought and (real or imagined) movement mobilize our inner sonic realities. For piano music, the consequences are remarkable: we "hear" elastic sound that the instrument is objectively incapable of giving.