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date: 05 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article analyzes the ways in which nineteenth-century acoustical instruments that were meant to standardize musical performance and measure various dimensions of sound, such as pitch and beat, were a century later put to use as musical instruments themselves. Drawing upon a material cultural history of science and technology, it traces the ways in which the tuning fork, the metronome and the siren were redefined by their new roles as the generators rather than the quantifiers of musical qualities by exploring both the use of mechanical apparatus to standardize critical aspects of early nineteenth century music and the resulting debates surrounding what such standardization meant to the art. The article addresses the question of whether machines hinder or enhance expression and creative genius. Finally, it addresses the importance of sound in eighteenth and nineteenth century workshops, which is a topic often ignored by historians and sociologists of science and technology.

Keywords: acoustical instruments, musical performance, tuning fork, metronome, siren

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