Vortrag aus der Reihe „Chapters from Chinese Studies“

Chinesischer Wächterlöwe aus Stein.
Chinesischer Wächterlöwe aus Stein.

Mittwoch, den 17.01.2024, 18:00 Uhr, Raum 00.112, Artilleriestr. 70, Erlangen;

Coercive Sounds: The Power of Music in Early China (Dr. Avital Rom (University of Cambridge))

Textual references to music appear in Chinese history almost as early as the texts themselves do. From early on, music is mentioned in the context of ritual and perceived as having the power to domesticate spirits. An examination of texts reveals that music doubtlessly occupied an important role in the minds of early Chinese thinkers. But why is this so? What is it about music that makes its presence so dominant in historical, philosophical, and even military debates within the early Chinese textual tradition? This talk offers a new understanding of the perception of sound in early China and explores the question of music’s power over human society. I will first re-examine the language and contents of the Xunzi’s 荀子 (ca. 340-ca.245 BCE) „Discourse on Music“ („Yue lun“ 樂論) as a response to Mozi’s 墨子 (ca.478 – ca.392 BCE) „Rebuking Music“ („Fei yue“ 非樂). Then, I will suggest a two-fold model depicting the operation of authoritative power through music. Through these analyses I will show that sounds were perceived by the majority of early Chinese thinkers not only as joyful and educating – as previously emphasised by critics – but also emotionally compelling and even potentially dangerous.

About the speaker:

Avital Rom is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and a Gulbenkian Junior Research Fellow at Churchill College, University of Cambridge. Her research covers various topics in early Chinese cultural history and political thought, including musical thought, disability studies, and sensory theory. Avital has published several essays on early Chinese musical thought and is currently finalising the manuscripts for an edited volume titled Other Bodies: Disability and Bodily Impairment in Early China (upcoming, Routledge); and a monograph titled Polyphonic Thinking: Music and Authority in Early Chinese Thought.

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