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Author Kirby, Sarah

Title Exhibiting music: music and international exhibitions in the British Empire, 1879-1890

Published 2018


Location Call No. Status
Physical description 1 online resource
Thesis notes Thesis (PhD )-- Melbourne Conservatorium of Music 2018
Summary Between 1879 and 1890 there was barely a year in which an international exhibition was not held somewhere within the British Empire. These monumental events were intended to demonstrate, through comparative and competitive displays, the development of every branch of human endeavour: from industry and manufacturing, to art and design. They were also a massive and literal manifestation of the Victorian obsession with collecting, ordering, and classifying the world and its material contents. Though often considered in scholarly terms of grandiosity—of Victorian monumentalism and Benjamin-esque phantasmagoria—exhibitions were also social events, attended by individual members of the public for both education and entertainment. Music, as a fundamental part of cultural life in the societies that held such events, was prominent at all these exhibitions. This thesis interrogates the role of music at the international exhibitions held in the British Empire during the 1880s, arguing that the musical aspects of these events demonstrate, in microcosm, the broader musical traditions, purposes, arguments, and anxieties of the day. Further, it argues that music in all its form-whether in performance or displays of related objects, and whether deliberately or inadvertently—was codified, ordered, and all-round 'exhibited' within the exhibition-sphere in multiple ways. Exploring thirteen exhibitions held in England, Scotland, Australia and India it traces ideas and trends relating to music and the idea of 'display' across the imperial cultural network. This thesis begins with an historical survey of music and exhibitions in London from the Great Exhibition of 1851 to the 1880s, analysed through the lens of contemporary discourses around music and concepts of display, and recent museological scholarship on the presentation of musical art in physical space. Arranged thematically rather than chronologically, several broad concepts relating to music at the 1880s exhibitions are then examined. These include a discussion of musical instruments as spectacularised commodities within the phantasmagoric exhibition space, music as both an educational device and a means of entertainment and leisure in line with contemporary theories of rational recreation, and the ways exhibitions created forums for engagement for Western audiences with non-Western musics.
Subject music, nineteenth century, exhibitions, Britain, Australia