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Seminar in Medieval and Renaissance Music - Seeing, Hearing, Touching, Smelling: Early Modern Dance and the Senses

Dr Moritz Kelber, Universität Bern


Thursday, 17 October - 5:00pm



This paper investigates modes of physical encounter in early modern dance and considers their importance within musical life in general. In medieval and early modern times dancing was one of the most widely disseminated forms of musical practice and an important means of social interaction. It was a space of seeing, hearing, touching, and even smelling. In a society that highly valued the symbolism of physical proximity, dance involved the implementation of social conventions as well as the crossing of boundaries.

The social role of dance was long debated in dance theory and polemical literature from the mid-fifteenth century onwards. Italian dancing masters like Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro tried to establish dancing as a discipline alongside the other arts. A close reading of the texts by Ebreo and his followers reveals a sophisticated understanding of sensual perception and in particular of musical hearing. Thus, dance theory might not only help to sharpen our picture of Renaissance philosophy of the senses, but it might also lead us to rethink our preconceptions about art music as the only valid topic for theoretical reflections on music.

Dr Kelber will also be giving a talk in the Music Faculty colloquium series on Tuesday Oct 15th at 5.15 p.m., entitled: (De-)Constructing the Enemy in Early Modern Dance.