Abstract: European encounters with other musical traditions between c.1500 and c.1800 revealed the existence of certain homologies between the scale systems and solmization practices from a number of different cultures. Over the course of the eighteenth century, several European scholars wrote treatises on Persian, Turkish, Indian, and Chinese music traditions. A crucial point about these cross-cultural studies is that the musical background of Europeans in this era – against which they made comparative assessments – was based on unequal temperaments, and not equal temperament. Prior to the hegemonic spread of equal temperament throughout the world (beginning gradually from the mid-nineteenth century and accelerating in the twentieth), and well before the endeavours of comparative musicologists to make exact measurements of intervals with the cents system (from 1885), there was arguably more nuance and empathy in early modern Europeans’ perceptions of other scale systems than is commonly recognized. This paper explores some of key episodes of encounter and engagement between different systems of music theory in the early modern world.
David R. M. Irving is Lecturer in Music at the University of Nottingham. His research focuses on the role of music in intercultural exchange, colonialism, and globalization from c.1500 to c.1900, with a particular focus on Southeast Asia. His published work includes Colonial Counterpoint: Music in Early Modern Manila (Oxford University Press, 2010) and multiple journal articles and book chapters. He is currently exploring the impact of Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonialism on the musical traditions of the Malay–Indonesian Archipelago, c.1500–c.1850. David is Visiting Fellow and Director of the Malay Case Study on the collaborative project ‘Musical Transitions to European Colonialism in the Eastern Indian Ocean’, funded by the European Research Council and based at King’s College London. He is also writing a book on European music and globalization in the early modern world.
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