Author: Kovaciny, Stephen M.
Title: Chabanon, Rameau, and the Listening Body in Early Modern France
Institution: University of Wisconsinâ€“Madison
Begun: February 2017
Completed: November 2019
This dissertation investigates early modern auditory culture in France from 1618â€“1785. Broadly, it takes a synoptic view of how emotional experience becomes theorized through listening practices. More specifically, my project focuses on two authors, Michel-Paul Guy de Chabanon (1730â€“1792) and Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683â€“1764), and their exploration of musical hearing and listening to bridge the gap between exterior sensation and interior bodily response. Their writingsâ€”which blur the lines between music theory, history, criticism, and aestheticsâ€”illuminate early modernityâ€™s often eccentric (but nonetheless captivating) understanding of how the ear and body functioned within aural experience and emotional representation.
The project draws from a number of disciplines; at perhaps its broadest level, it relies on intellectual history. Chabanon and Rameauâ€™s encoded rhetoric relates to a large network of ideas concerned with the ear and the body. I contextualize their musical thought within and against contemporaneous cultural practices, from the origins of language and foundations of etymology to Enlightenment anatomy and pathology; from anthropologies, ethnographies, and cartographies of French colonialism and Egyptomania to studies on dance, pantomime, and movement; from theories of emotion and affect to early modern automata and experiments with artificial life; from the rise of sensibility and vitalism to acoustics, resonance, and vibration. In taking a wide-angled view, my dissertation re/conceptualizes music theory itself as a powerful determinant for musical meaning. I ultimately argue that Chabanonâ€™s and Rameauâ€™s musical thought reflects the early modern eraâ€™s desire to recognize music theory as intimately tied to lived emotional experience.
Keywords: Jean-Philippe Rameau, Michel-Paul Guy de Chabanon, history of music theory, historical approaches to sound studies, emotional response, the passions, affective attunement, the ear, the body, aesthetics
Part One: The Sympathetic Ear 
Act I: Hearing the Corps sonore 
Act II: Rameauâ€™s Resonant Ear 
Act III: Chabanon and the Autonomous Sound 
Part Two: Expressing the Body 
Act IV: The Interior Body 
Act V: Listening through the Corps humain