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MusicPart of Humanities

First Editions – New Books Seminar with Dr Thomas Irvine, University of Southampton Seminar

16:30 - 17:30
25 November 2020
Microsoft Teams

Event details

The music department is delighted our own Associate of Professor in Music Tom Irvine for the next instalment of our ‘First Editions - New Books Seminar’ series.

This public online event will take place on Microsoft Teams. If you are not a staff or student at University of Southampton and would like to attend, please contact Matthew Shlomowitz at

First Editions – New Books Seminar

Listening to China: Sound and the Sino-Western Encounter, 1770-1839

From bell ringing to fireworks, gongs to cannon salutes, a dazzling variety of sounds and soundscapes marked the China encountered by the West around 1800. These sounds were gathered by diplomats, trade officials, missionaries, and other travelers and transmitted back to Europe, where they were reconstructed in the imaginations of writers, philosophers, and music historians such as Jean-Philippe Rameau, Johann Nikolaus Forkel, and Charles Burney. Thomas Irvine gathers these stories in Listening to China, exploring how the sonic encounter with China shaped perceptions of Europe’s own musical development.

Through these stories, Irvine not only investigates how the Sino-Western encounter sounded, but also traces the West’s shifting response to China. As the trading relationships between China and the West broke down, travelers and music theorists abandoned the vision of shared musical approaches, focusing instead on China’s noisiness and sonic disorder and finding less to like in its music. At the same time, Irvine reconsiders the idea of a specifically Western music history, revealing that it was comparison with China, the great “other,” that helped this idea emerge. Ultimately, Irvine draws attention to the ways Western ears were implicated in the colonial and imperial project in China, as well as to China’s importance to the construction of musical knowledge during and after the European Enlightenment. Timely and original, Listening to Chinais a must-read for music scholars and historians of China alike.

Speaker information

Dr. Tom Irvine,Thomas Irvine is Associate Professor at the University of Southampton. Tom received his PhD in musicology from Cornell University in 2005, which was followed by a postdoc at University of Würzburg Institute of Musicology, before coming to Southampton in 2006. He is a Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute (the UK’s national institution for AI and data science), a Non-Executive Director of the Southampton Web Science Institute and currently serve as an external examiner at the Royal Academy of Music. He also co-chairs the American Musicological Society study group ‘Global East Asia.’

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