Article ID: CBB001201425

Visual Music: Jazz, Synaesthesia and the History of the Senses in the Weimar Republic (2014)


Jazz's sensational appearance in Europe during the interwar period was a major event in European sound culture. The tours and residencies of American bands and musicians---such as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band or Sam Wooding---fundamentally disrupted and transformed the sonic aesthetics of European popular culture. Focusing on jazz as sound culture, however, can obscure the larger character of jazz and the nature of its production and perception. This article argues that jazz, in fact, was primarily a visual and textual phenomenon in Germany during 1920s. Most Germans, it shows, did not have access to live performances of jazz or radio and gramophones. Instead, they encountered it in newspapers and visual culture. This article explores what it meant for jazz to be visual and textual in the Weimar Republic. It also uses jazz as a window onto the larger history of the senses. A number of scholars have argued that the human senses were separated within modernity. This study argues that, within a growing media society such as early twentieth century Germany, the senses did not necessarily remain singular or divided. As this history of Weimar jazz suggests, modern media culture often promoted synaesthesia and perceptual mixing.

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Authors & Contributors
Kursell, Julia
Fretwell, Erica
Magnusson, Thor
Wouters, Kees
Taylor, Timothy Dean
Taylor, Timothy
Technology and Culture
Physics in Perspective
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Organised Sound: An international journal of music technology
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Icon: Journal of the International Committee for the History of Technology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Washington Press
University of Chicago Press
University of California, Los Angeles
Sdu Uitgevers
Oxford University Press
Technology and music
Music theory
Senses and sensation; perception
Helmholtz, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von
Stumpf, Carl
Einstein, Albert
Wundt, Wilhelm Max
Weber, Ernst Heinrich
Schoenberg, Arnold
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
20th century
17th century
14th century
United States
Radio Corporation of America
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)

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