Research report 2021 - Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics
Listening with attention in late eighteenth-century Scotland
Max-Planck-Forschungsgruppe „Histories of Music, Mind, and Body“
SummaryMusic scholars have generally discerned in Adam Smith’s essay “Of the nature of that imitation which takes place in what are called the imitative arts” a unique 18th-century harbinger of the listening practices associated with theories of “Absolute Music” in the 19th century. I offer a complementary perspective on Smith’s innovations by contextualizing his ideas as part of a broader shift in Scottish conceptions of musical listening, and attention itself, in the decades around 1760 and 1770, which I trace to the psychology of Thomas Reid and the music-theoretical writings of John Holden.