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Music and the New Global CultureFrom the Great Exhibitions to the Jazz Age$
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Harry Liebersohn

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226621265

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226649306.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 24 September 2021

Sound in Historical Time

Sound in Historical Time

(p.75) 3 Sound in Historical Time
Music and the New Global Culture

Harry Liebersohn

University of Chicago Press

Beginning in 1876, Hipkins collaborated with the Cambridge-trained mathematician, phonetician, social reformer, and follower of Auguste Comte, Alexander John Ellis. Their aim was to establish the scales of musical systems across Eurasia. A warm friendship developed between them despite the social gulf between the craftsman and the independently wealthy gentleman-scholar. Their joint research venture came from Ellis’s reading in 1863 of Hermann Helmholtz’s book, On the Sensations of Tone. Helmholtz analyzed the human perception of pitch as requiring analysis with the methods of physics, physiology, and psychology. Helmholtz introduced his controversial theory that the perception of harmony was grounded in the mathematical ratios of overtones. The book struck Ellis with the force of a revelation. After many years of work and difficulties finding a publisher, he finally succeeded at seeing his translation of it into print. Ellis analyzed the historicity of pitch in researches that he presented to the Society of Arts, where his papers showed how the standard pitch of Western classical music had risen from the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth century. This conclusion pointed in the direction of a more general understanding of musical sound as grounded in cultural preferences.

Keywords:   overtones, Society of Arts, harmony, Alexander John Ellis, Hermann Helmholtz, On the Sensations of Sound pitch, pitch

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