Listening and life writing

Parallel session A1 (Chair: Martin Clarke)
24 Oct 2015
10:15 - 11:15
Recital Hall

Listening and life writing

‘Human voices are alone themselves sufficient’: Protestant and Catholic currents in the listening experiences of a 19th-century Anglo-Prussian family.

Dr Helen Barlow, The Open University

On 1 July 1817, in the chapel of Palazzo Savelli in Rome, Frances Waddington, a devout Anglican daughter of the English gentry, married Christian Karl Josias (Charles) Bunsen, an equally devout Prussian Protestant and member of his country’s diplomatic legation to the Papal Court. They would live in Rome for the next twenty-one years, and Bunsen’s professional life led to frequent attendances at services in St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. Here they encountered the music of the Roman Catholic tradition and fell under the particular spell of Palestrina. These listening experiences would have a lasting impact on their ideas about sacred music, not least on Charles’s project of writing a German Protestant liturgy. Subsequently, diplomatic life took them to postings in London and Germany; their experiences of sacred music in Catholic and Protestant traditions were thus many and varied. Drawing on their published letters and on archival sources, this paper will consider the Protestant influences that underpinned their listening and the Catholic influences that overlaid it.

Sensibility and listening in England 1910-1925

Dr Fiona Richards, The Open University

This paper uses the diaries and letters of two composers born in the latter part of the twentieth century (Frederick Kelly (1881–1916) and William Baines (1899–1922)) to examine a slice of listening history. Kelly was based in London and Sydney, and Baines lived in North Yorkshire. There are thus national, international and regional perspectives on the fifteen-year period. The diaries offer very different insights. Kelly meticulously logs the musical activity of the period, while Baines focuses on the feelings induced by listening. Born in Sydney, Kelly was educated at Eton and Oxford, before spending five years studying music in Frankfurt. Perhaps unusually, he kept a daily diary, affording the reader a real sense of chronology and change, giving a glimpse of the three musical worlds he encountered. He records very precise details, telling the reader what he played and to whom, and notes the reactions of his listeners. Of particular interest is his year back in Sydney in 1911, where he attended as many musical events as possible, commenting on programmes, performers, venues and climate. It is a very different approach to Baines’s descriptive and delicate poeticism, which is also revealed in his many rhapsodic descriptions of nature and weather. Baines tells us what he heard in concert halls and at the seaside, but more importantly gives profoundly personal reactions. For example, on hearing Ansermet conducting Stravinsky he felt ‘cold shivers of glory’. Within the paper I will probe the extent to which his sensibility and northern temperament affected his responses.