Theses Doctoral

The Making of Modern Musical Expertise: German Conservatories and Music Education, 1843-1933

Navon, Joshua

Music conservatories are central institutions to the field of classical music. In them, aspiring professional hone their craft, renowned musicians pass on their expertise to upcoming generations, and notions of exactly who and what is considered “musical” are forged and disseminated. However, the apparently self-evident place of conservatories in modern cultures of classical music obscures their historical novelty—it is only since the latter nineteenth century that these institutions have become a pervasive force in classical music pedagogy and culture.
This dissertation explores this revolution of institutionalized training in classical music by analyzing the history of German music conservatories over a roughly ninety-year period, from the founding of the Leipzig conservatory in 1843 to the Nazi takeover of power in 1933. Combining archival research, extant musicological scholarship, and theoretical and methodological approaches developed in a variety of social scientific and humanities disciplines, each chapter traces and historicizes a key development in modern music-pedagogical thought and practice: 1) the crystallization of a set of pedagogies designed to produce competency in the performance of canonical musical works; 2) the development of music education as a discipline; 3) the emergence of ear training; 4) the rise of Émile Jaques-Dalcroze’s method of rhythmic gymnastics.
Throughout, I show that conservatories not only served to reproduce specific musical practices (such as the faithful performing of musical works, or Werktreue), but that they also functioned as incubators for new ways of thinking about human musicality and the pedagogies that would produce it. In particular, the latter chapters outline central features of what I call the “psychotechnical turn” in music education in the decades surrounding 1900, arguing that this resulted from growing connections between conservatory pedagogy and the psychological sciences.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Frisch, Walter M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 29, 2019