ABOUT THIS BOOK
A corporeal history of music-making in early modern Europe.
Music in the Flesh reimagines the lived experiences of music-making subjects—composers, performers, listeners—in the long seventeenth century. There are countless historical testimonies of the powerful effects of music upon the early modern body; it is described as moving, ravishing, painful, dangerous, curative, and miraculous while affecting “the circulation of the humors, the purification of the blood, the dilation of the vessels and pores.”
How were these early modern European bodies constituted that music generated such potent bodily-spiritual effects? Bettina Varwig argues that early modern music-making practices challenge our modern understanding of human nature as a mind-body dichotomy. Instead, they persistently affirm a more integrated anthropology, in which body, soul, and spirit remain inextricably entangled. Moving with ease across repertories and regions, sacred and vernacular musics, and domestic and public settings, Varwig sketches a “musical physiology” that is as historically illuminating as it is relevant for present-day performance. This book makes a significant contribution not just to the history of music, but also to the history of the body, the senses, and the emotions, revealing music as a unique access point for reimagining early modern modes of being-in-the-world.