Earthquakes in the Eighteenth-Century Musical Imagination
CitationOliva, Diane. 2020. Earthquakes in the Eighteenth-Century Musical Imagination. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the sonic repercussions of four earthquakes—Lima in 1746, Lisbon and Boston in 1755, and Santiago de Guatemala in 1773. I examine the far-reaching cultural impacts of these early modern natural disasters through global networks of literary, scientific, and artistic exchange. Earthquakes and music may appear to be an unusual pairing; however, a disaster-centric study of music draws attention to the ways listening helped shape eighteenth-century conceptions of nature and environment throughout the Atlantic world. These four earthquakes altered the landscape of musical practices in their respective epicenters in both subtle and profound ways, and I explore how music shaped and was shaped by experiences and knowledge of these events. Drawing on extensive archival research, I outline the processes of restoring quotidian musical practices in affected areas, the creation of new musical traditions and repertoires in the aftermath of destruction, musical commemorations of earthquake disasters, and the representation of earthquakes in compositions. My research is also informed by sound studies as I trace how accounts of these earthquakes and their noise, often interpreted through musical frameworks and the science of acoustics, factored into emerging theories on the natural and divine causes of natural disasters.
By harnessing the disruptive power of earthquakes, this dissertation pushes the boundaries of musicology beyond its traditional Western scope, drawing on lesser-explored materials and methodologies, to draw attention to geographical regions that typically fall outside standard historiographies of music. I aim specifically to destabilize the focus of eighteenth-century music studies on Enlightenment Europe by taking a transatlantic scope that incorporates the relevance of colonial regions to a study that contributes to scholarship on music and nature. Structuring my dissertation around the global impact of real natural disasters allows the colonial American continents to take center stage, while also illuminating the surprisingly direct connections between contemporary natural events and music. Through an ecology of music, sound, theology, and science, this dissertation draws from the fields of musicology, history of science, sound studies, and Atlantic studies, to weave a history of music that, like earthquakes, traverses the boundaries of empire.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365832
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