Abstract and Keywords
Johann Nikolaus Forkel’s Ueber die Theorie der Musik (1777) is one of the earliest music guides aimed specifically at listeners. Nature, he argues, is not the best guide for listening; only a thorough knowledge of the elements of music will help music lovers understand what they hear. Forkel promises to elevate amateurs to the level of connoisseurs. An unpublished manuscript of Forkel’s university lectures based on Ueber die Theorie der Musik allows us to reconstruct his vision of the ideal listener in greater detail. These lectures advocate a fundamental shift in the relationship between the listener and the musical work. Forkel speaks repeatedly of the demands made by music on its audiences and the listener’s responsibility to understand the work. The idea that a concert audience member might have a responsibility to develop a skill that can be refined and developed marks the beginning of a new and fundamentally modern attitude toward the art of listening.
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