Projekt Laboratory Studies in the Context of Musical Arts: Emile Berliner’s Inventions and Music in the Making

Leitung: Prof. Dr. Andreas Georg Stascheit

Building on ethnomusicological research concerning construction principles of musical instruments, already Max Weber had studied the complex relation of technology, musical aesthetics, and music in the making.

Referring to music as a cultural form of expression and social practice, this project discusses the connectedness of sound technologies, creative processes and aesthetic concepts. The project’s focal research question is: What are the implications of sound technology as regards the process of musical invention and the respective modes and typical styles of collaboration in the music workplace, the recording studio?

In spite of the evident relevance of cultural practices for configuration and reconfiguration of social structures, quite rarely artistic creativity has been studied in the context of Science and Technology Studies. The project's contribution to the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) consists in (1) probing the study of cultural and artistic contexts from the perspective of STS, and (2) providing a first evaluation of the productivity of STS as an innovative approach in the field of musicology

The project analyzes the technologies of music recording and reproduction from the perspective of the sociology and phenomenology of corporeality, via an exemplary case study of Emile Berliner's contributions to the history of sound technology: the famous gramophone and the lateral-cut disc record (Schallplatte), as well as microphone and transformer (integrated into the telephone system marketed by the Bell Company).

The aesthetic and artistic implications of recording, editing, and reproduction of sound and music are discussed with reference to two controversial positions in the history of musical performance practice of the 20th century, whose outstanding promoters have been Glenn Gould and Sergiu Celibidache.

Sergiu Celibidache, who started his career as conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (1945-1952), articulated fundamental reservations with regard to the integration of electronic technologies into the field of music. Understanding music on basis of a phenomenological approach to sound and its acoustical conditions and environment, Celibidache (who had studied philosophy with Nicolai Hartmann and Eduard Spranger) emphasized the specific effects on the organization of auditory experience involved when listening to the reproduction of recorded music via loudspeakers.

In contrast, Glenn Gould integrated the electronic means into his artistic work in the sense of specific musical instruments. Gould also developed elements of a theoretical view on musical performance and aesthetics, through which a link between musicology and Science and Technology Studies may be established.