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Enlightenment OrpheusThe Power of Music in Other Worlds$
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Vanessa Agnew

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195336665

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195336665.001.0001

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 Music's Empire

 Music's Empire

(p.73) Chapter Two Music's Empire
Enlightenment Orpheus

Vanessa Agnew

Oxford University Press

In examining the status of music in the cross-cultural encounter, this chapter focuses on Captain Cook's second voyage (1772-5) and the role played by Burney's son James and the German naturalist Georg Forster in transcribing and commenting on Polynesian music. It shows that the discovery of part singing in New Zealand and Tonga conflicted with Rousseauvian assertions about polyphony as an exclusively European invention. Music scholars like Charles Burney, Johann Nicolaus Forkel, Eduard Hanslick, and August Wilhelm Ambros subsequently played down the polyphonic and affective character of Polynesian music so as to uphold theories about music's universal progress and its hierarchical ordering. The chapter argues that this move, and others like it, had lasting implications for the development of western musicology and ethnomusicology, which would come to be predicated on a series of radical distinctions between the European and non-European. Where Orpheus had once signified the harmonizing powers of music, he would now be transformed into a cautionary tale about musical difference and the dangers of music's instrumentality.

Keywords:   Polynesian music, cross-cultural encounter, bagpipes, ethnomusicology, performativity, polyphony, James Cook, James Burney, polyphonic, Georg Forster, noise

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