Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Dr Sarah Collins presents “Edmund Gurney and the Power of Sound”

Edmund Gurney was a late-nineteenth-century polymath who is today best remembered for his writing on music and listening, and for his research into ‘psychical’ phenomena such as telepathy and ghosts.

He wrote an influential book in 1880 titled The Power of Sound (1880), which is customarily read as an enclosed work of music philosophy. Yet much of the text of this book was initially published as separate essays in the liberal press years earlier—such as in the Fortnightly Review, Fraser’s and Macmillan’s Magazine, as well as in Nineteenth Century, and Mind. Gurney’s ideas about music were therefore initially directed at and read within the context of the broader discourses on politics, economics, moral philosophy and psychology that regularly appeared in these journals.

Dr Sarah Collins is a lecturer and Chair of Musicology at the UWA Conservatorium of Music. In this presentation, Sarah will trace the interaction between Gurney’s wide-ranging thinking and the traditions of utilitarianism, political economy and liberalism through his association with the novelist George Eliot and the moral philosopher Henry Sidgwick in particular, as well as through the liberal press.

She will argue that one of the central tenets of Gurney’s thinking on sound—namely the idea that there is an irreducibly ‘musical’ form of beauty—might be construed as a manifestations of a form of ‘liberal individualism’ as it was framed by the liberal utilitarians with whom he associated.

Bringing together ideas about sound, pleasure, labour and the good, these figures attempted to combine the cultivation of disinterestedness with the pursuit of pleasure as a means to attain a balance between self-interest and the common good.

Tuesday, 14th May 2019

Doors open 7:00pm - Talk commences at 7:30pm

Cost: $5 donation (Free for Friends of the Library Members)

Venue: UWA - Reid Library Ground Floor, Hemsley Suite

Kathryn Maingard – [email protected] or 08 6488 2356

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