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TALK: "Edmund Gurney and the Power of Sound"

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Today's date is Wednesday, October 21, 2020
"Edmund Gurney and the Power of Sound" : Friends of the Library Talk Other events...
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. This presentation 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. It 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.

Special Collections

The Friends of the Library have recently donated a facsimile copy of the Barcelona Haggadah to Special Collections. The illuminated Hebrew manuscript dates from the fourteenth century and contains the Haggadah, Laws for Passover, piyyutim and Torah readings for the festival of Passover according to the Spanish rite. The purchase of the facsimile was supported by Assoc/Prof Suzanne Wijsman (Chair of Strings Conservatorium of Music) for her research as the manuscript contains illustrations of musical instruments.

Special Collections will next be open on Tuesday 11th June from 6.30pm – 7.15pm for members to view the Barcelona Haggadah.

Members: Free, Guests: $5 donation
Speaker(s) Sarah Collins
Contact Kathryn Maingard <[email protected]> : 08 6488 2356
Start Tue, 14 May 2019 19:30
End Tue, 14 May 2019 21:00
Submitted by Kathryn Maingard <[email protected]>
Last Updated Mon, 29 Apr 2019 11:39
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