Michael Vincent, a Ph.D. candidate in Musicology, used his 2015-2016 Tedder Family Doctoral Fellowship to travel to Paris and Berlin for archival work. His dissertation, “Cosmopolitan Culture in Boccherini’s Madrid, 1785-1800” examines the unpublished musical manuscripts of Luigi Boccherini housed in the Bibliothèque National in Paris and the Deutsche Staatsbibliothek in Berlin. Boccherini, an Italian composer who spent much of his professional life in Madrid during the heyday of Europe’s Enlightenment, composed music in a predominantly Italian style but incorporated a variety of different musical techniques. Boccherini’s music produced in Madrid a cosmopolitan attitude inspired by the Enlightenment.
The European Enlightenment in the eighteenth century is historically associated with the birth of nation-states and nationalism. The spread of print culture and a consolidation of national languages such as French shaped a common culture bound by national borders. But as much as the eighteenth century was a period of borders and boundaries, it also marked the growth of transnational cosmopolitan attitudes based on the belief that individuals could be citizens of the world. Boccherini celebrated the culture of the cosmopolitan Enlightenment by adopting different national musical idioms in his own work. As an example Boccherini’s Fandango, his most popular work, was frequently altered by court composers or by Boccherini himself to incorporate different styles including German and French dances. Writing in a variety of musical styles, Boccherini advertised his music as cosmopolitan and intentionally appealed to an international audience.
The language of music is not constrained by geographic boundaries. However, the exclusion of music manuscripts from the analysis of print culture creates a lopsided sense of national space. The incorporation of music and music manuscripts into analyses of Enlightenment print cultures also shows that Madrid contributed to Enlightenment culture and should be included in any general analysis of nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the eighteenth century. Overall, Vincent’s project reveals that music, as much as print culture, is a binding agent; it can speak to and work to connect communities across geographic and cultural boundaries – the essence of Boccherini’s cosmopolitanism.
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