“Listening in Hell” topic of musicology lecture

Francesca Brittan

Francesca Brittan

Youngstown State University’s Dana School of Music presents a lecture by noted musicologist Francesca Brittan at 4 p.m. Friday, March 29, in Bliss Recital Hall.

The lecture, titled “Listening in Hell,” is free and open to the public.

Brittan is assistant professor of Music at Case Western Reserve University. She holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University and was a Research Fellow at Queens’ College, University of Cambridge. She works on 19th-century music (particularly Berlioz) and American popular music (especially blues traditions). She has published in journals including 19th-Century Music, The Journal of the American Musicological Society, Popular Music Studies, and the Journal of the American Liszt Society. Her edition of Jean-Etienne Soubre’s Symphonie fantastique is forthcoming from A-R. Her current book project, for Cambridge University Press is concerned with theories of supernatural sound in French and German romanticism and their relationship with emerging literary, scientific, and philosophical discourses. An excerpt of this project, published in JAMS under the title “On Microscopic Hearing: Fairy Magic, Natural Science, and the Scherzo fantastique” was the recipient of the 2012 Alfred Einstein Award.

The lecture focuses on the made-up language featured in Hector Berlioz’s “Pandaemonium” scene in La Damnation de Faust. Linguistic fantasy linked Berlioz’s demonic and exotic aesthetics, gesturing toward a new kind of scientific imaginary. His languages responded to the emerging disciplines of comparative philology and anthropology, which, in the early 19th century, conflated supernatural sound with degenerate syntax, moral deficiency with primitive languages, and hell itself with the fringes of the “civilized” world. The quasi-ethnographic grammar of his Pandaemonium was reflected in the music of this scene and in his other infernal evocations, which hover between the unreal and the ethnomusicological, intermingling the fictional voices of demons with the ‘authentic’ sounds of foreign places and people.

The Musicology Guest Lectures are sponsored by the Dana Research Society, a student organization devoted to the promotion of student research in music. In addition to hosting guest lectures by distinguished musicologists, the group meets regularly for film screenings and music discussions. For more information about the program, email  Ewelina Boczkowska at eboczkowska@ysu.edu.