The Culture of Music Collecting in 17th and 18th-Century England

Music was an important part of the early modern English culture of collecting books, antiquities and curiosities; but it differs from other collection items through its simultaneously material and immaterial status, and its strongly evocative power as sound. Arguing that musical repertoire can represent confession, politics, or socio-cultural affiliation in uniquely complex ways, I will explore the creative processes of music collecting and collectors’ interaction with past and foreign musical cultures. This project will redefine classic collecting categories and challenge notions of musical collection items as the result of antiquarian preservation for its own sake. It will also question current ideas of so-called musical antiquarianism as eighteenth-century counter-culture, arguing that trends in music collecting affected later processes of canon formation and the building of a national musico-historical knowledge-base—processes that still affect research today. Moreover, music’s uniqueness will contribute new perspectives to fields such as book history and material culture.

Project coordinator: Ester Lebedinski
Funded by: Swedish Research Council
Starting: 2016