As part of the Utrecht Colloquia in the Musicologies 2017-2018, Prof. Frank Hentschel (University of Cologne) will give a lecture on Historical Music Psychology: The Case of the Hymnic.
Abstract: A historical approach to music's expressive power
We take music's expressive power for granted. Yet, for musicological research this aspect poses many puzzling problems. One of them is how to approach the effect of music historically since satisfactory sources about music’s emotional qualities are rare and test persons cannot be involved. Also, I'm very cautious of transferring results of recent music psychology or cognitive musicology back to the 19th century. Therefore, if we would like to understand the expressive qualities of music as experienced by its contemporary listeners, we are in need of a kind of historical music psychology.
In my paper I’ll try to present a method inspired by systematic musicology, yet clearly being historical that hopefully offers a solution to that problem. By way of example I will concentrate on musical sections that I call ‘hymnic’ and on their contemporary perception. The works stem from Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Bristow, Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky and many other composers. In a final step I’ll ask for possible reasons for the dissemination of the ‘hymnic’ in 19th-century-music drawing the attention to contemporary historical events linking the expression type of the ‘hymnic’ to nationalism, religion and imperialism.