• ‘It Would Be without Error’: Automated Technology and the Pursuit of Correct Performance in the French Enlightenment

    Author(s):
    Rebecca Cypess (see profile)
    Date:
    2017
    Subject(s):
    Performance practice, Musicology
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    automatons, mechanical music, French Enlightenment
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M67940T4M
    Abstract:
    Marie-Dominique-Joseph Engramelle’s treatise La tonotechnie, ou l’art de noter les cylindres (1775) claimed that automated instruments driven by pinned cylinders would grant listeners direct access to music as the composer conceived it. Standard notation was insufficient, as it did not capture the music’s mouvement – its temporal flexibility from moment to moment. Denis Diderot provided an aesthetic justification for automated instruments in terms that linked them to materialist philosophy. Like android automata, which simulated life through automated motion, automated musical instruments encoded live music to simulate the ideal performance of a composer. Yet Engramelle’s collaboration with the composer Claude Balbastre, which resulted in a pinned-cylinder notage of one of Balbastre’s keyboard pieces, raises crucial questions about the effectiveness of the technology and its notation, and about Engramelle’s claims and his own musical skill. Engramelle’s project is best understood as a performance unto itself – a manifestation of the cultures of public science that were widespread in the European Enlightenment.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    3 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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