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date: 30 November 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores early modern conceptions of voice and vocal timbre, focusing on French and German philosophical and musical writings of the long seventeenth century. It argues that a Cartesian paradigm of representation, which has tended to underpin most present-day interpretations of the music of this period, falls short of recognizing the capacity of the early modern (musical) voice to bridge the realms of the material and immaterial, of body and soul. Such a historically situated consideration of timbre – configured here as a quality arising at the intersection of the physiological and spiritual processes that constituted the human voice – thereby offers a way towards recuperating certain off-Cartesian modes of thinking, feeling and listening.

Keywords: timbre, voice, body, early modernity, listening, materiality, representation, Descartes

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