December 9 at 3PM in Dodge 622
Title: Tuning the World: The Rise of 440 Hertz in Music, Science, and Politics (1859-1955)
Drawing from her monograph Tuning the World: The Rise of 440 Hertz in Music, Science, and Politics (1859-1955) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2023) Fanny Gribenski will examine the history of pitch standardization in Europe and the United States. Combining perspectives from musicology, science studies, and global history, she will demonstrate the aesthetic, scientific, industrial, and political contingencies underlying the construction of one of the most “natural” objects of contemporary musical performance, itself the result of a cacophony of competing views and interests. Her talk will show that the history of concert pitch sheds new light on the musical experience, while also providing new insights on processes of standardization. In particular, the history of concert pitch is crossed by tensions between hegemonic, universalist agendas of those eager to introduce a global sonic norm and the diversity introduced by the myriad responses to their project.
Bio: Fanny Gribenski is an Assistant Professor of Music at New York University. Her research focuses on two main areas: the relation between music and religion in 19thcentury France; and the intersection between music, science, and politics. Relying on intensive work in archives and collections of instruments, Fanny considers sound and music as thick sets of practices located at the intersection of multiple social worlds that offer new insights on modern culture and politics. Her first book, L’Église comme lieu de concert. Pratiques musicales et usages de l’espace (Paris, 1830–1905) (Arles: Actes Sud, 2019) analyzes the role of music in the production of sacred spaces. Her second monograph, Tuning the World: The Rise of 440 Hertz in Music, Science, and Politics (1859-1955) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2023) traces the rocky path towards international pitch standardization. Her current research examines the relationship between Western musical instruments, ecology, and empire. Recent articles have appeared or are forthcoming in Past and Present, Nineteenth-Century Music, ISIS, Sound Studies: an Interdisciplinary Journal, History of the Humanities, Contemporary Music Review, and the Revue de musicologie. Prior to NYU, Fanny has been a Fellow of the Thiers Foundation, the Fulbright Commission, and the Huntington Library, and worked as a Research Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin) and at the French National Center for Scientific Research and IRCAM (Paris).