Research Expertise and Interest

nineteenth-century music, environmentality, musics and bodies, cultural performance, histories of science, pianists and pianos, singers and voice, music pedagogy and training, music and colonialism

Research Description

James Q. Davies (J. Q. Davies) is Professor in the Department of Music. His first book, Romantic Anatomies of Performance, was published by the University of California Press in 2014. This monograph addresses immersive modes of music making in the European nineteenth century, exploring music’s role in the political cultivation of bodies. It describes a historical phase wherein, in the words of one reviewer, “new norms about music’s relation to the body emerged and began to organize new relations of social power.”

After this book, research extended from issues of personal expression and voice to larger questions of materiality and elementality writ large. Sound Knowledge: Music and Science in London is a book co-edited with Ellen Lockhart for the University of Chicago Press, wherein he addressed colonial media infrastructures for acoustic delivery in the so-called “global nineteenth century.”

His forthcoming 2023 book with University of Chicago Press -- involving atmospherics and inspiritedness in the “deep nineteenth century” -- is entitled Creatures of the Air: Music, Atlantic Spirits, Breath, 1817-1913. The book is a history of music written in relation to the history of music's original massed medium: the air: the Ur-Medium in which we all purportedly live, breath, and share our being. He is interested in human attempts to manipulate this great resonating media system, thinking about music as a way of "working out" air or "working out of" air in the Eurocene. The book addresses breathing/phrasing techniques, air-conditioning systems in concert halls/opera houses/built environments for music, and ideas about race and climate, particularly as it concerns Equatorial west-central Africa.

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