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Frederic Kiernan
The University of Melbourne
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Jane Davidson
The University of Melbourne
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Historical and Contemporary Emotional Engagement with the Music of Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679–1745)

This project explores the role of emotion in the reception of the music of Dresden-based Bohemian composer Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679–1745), in a series of snapshots from eighteenth-century Dresden to present-day Melbourne.

Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679–1745) at his desk, as illustrated in the children’s novelette O starých českých muzikantech (‘Old Czech Musicians’) by Zdeněk Gintl (Prague: Šeba, 1946)

Dresden-based Bohemian composer Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679–1745) is now regarded as one of the leading figures of early eighteenth-century German musical life, but it was not until the second half of the twentieth century that this composer’s music entered the mainstream. Very little is known about the posthumous fate of Zelenka’s music. While reception studies can provide generalisations about people’s awareness of, and attitudes towards, particular repertories, and can help illuminate music’s function within society, the role of emotion in these histories is often unclear. This is partly because there has been, until recently, an absence of theoretical and methodological tools to facilitate investigations of this kind. However, recent developments in music psychology – especially, the BRECVEMA model of music perception presented by Patrik N. Juslin and his colleagues – have opened up the possibility of exploring the relationship between music and emotions in a more detailed way than previously possible. Although these researchers have not discussed the possibility of historicising emotional engagement with music in their work, this model can nevertheless help to explain how certain features of musical structures became emotionally significant in particular historical contexts. Using the BRECVEMA model as a theoretical basis, this thesis investigates the migration of Zelenka’s music from eighteenth-century Dresden to present-day Melbourne, exploring how it became associated with various cultural and social phenomena: the provocative proselytising of local Dresden Catholics in eighteenth-century Lutheran Saxony; the reformer ideals of the nineteenth-century Cecilian movement; the revolutionary impulse of Czech nationalists in the early twentieth century, and so on. In this way, the thesis explores how, in past emotional engagements with Zelenka’s music, historical actors ‘heard’ their religious beliefs, their social agendas and their personal and political goals. It therefore sheds new light on the posthumous fate of Zelenka’s music, and adds a new theoretical dimension to our understanding of the relationship between music and emotions throughout history.

Outputs:

Publications

Stockigt, J. B., A. Frampton and F. Kiernan. ‘Zelenka, Jan Dismas’. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.ezp.lib.unimelb.edu.au/subscriber/article/grove/music/30907 (forthcoming, 2017).

Kiernan, Frederic. 'Zelenka Reception in the Nineteenth Century: Some New Sources.' Clavibus unitis 5 (2015): 91–96. www.acecs.cz/media/cu_2015_04.pdf

Blog

The Fredly Digest (A blog of my Endeavour Research Fellowship, 2015):

https://fredkiernan.wordpress.com/

Image: Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679–1745) at his desk, as illustrated in the children’s novelette O starých českých muzikantech (‘Old Czech Musicians’) by Zdeněk Gintl (Prague: Šeba, 1946)