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Music in the Flesh

An Early Modern Musical Physiology

A corporeal history of music-making in early modern Europe.

Music in the Flesh reimagines the lived experiences of music-making subjects—composers, performers, listeners—in the long seventeenth century. There are countless historical testimonies of the powerful effects of music upon the early modern body; it is described as moving, ravishing, painful, dangerous, curative, and miraculous while affecting “the circulation of the humors, purification of the blood, dilation of the vessels and pores.”

How were these early modern European bodies constituted that music generated such potent bodily-spiritual effects? Bettina Varwig argues that early modern music-making practices challenge our modern understanding of human nature as a mind-body dichotomy. Instead, they persistently affirm a more integrated anthropology, in which body, soul, and spirit remain inextricably entangled. Moving with ease across repertories and regions, sacred and vernacular musics, and domestic and public settings, Varwig sketches a “musical physiology” that is as historically illuminating as it is relevant for present-day performance. This book makes a significant contribution not just to the history of music, but also to the history of the body, the senses, and the emotions, revealing music as a unique access point for reimagining early modern modes of being-in-the-world.

368 pages | 20 halftones, 23 line drawings | 6 x 9

New Material Histories of Music

Music: General Music

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Musical Examples
A Note on Musical Examples and Translations

Part I: Embodiment
1. Words
2. Affektenlehre
3. Melisma
4. Quemadmodum desiderat cervus
5. Representation
6. Music
7. Bodies
8. Flow
9. Sound
10. Voices
11. Fili mi, Absalon

Part II: Inspiration
12. Spirit
13. Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben
14. Hearing
15. Attention
16 Affections
17. Lament
18. Pulse
19. Contagion
20. Memory
21. Partien auf das Clavier

Part III: Animation
22. Souls
23. Liquefaction
24. Softness
25. Liebe, sag, was fängst Du an?
26. Hearts
27. Chills
28. Pain
29. Beastliness
30. Mensa sonora

Primary Sources: Biographical Register and Works Cited
Secondary Sources: Works Cited

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