Thesis ID: CBB144734757

From Ut Re Mi to Fourteen-Tone Temperament: The Global Acoustemologies of an Early Modern Chinese Tuning Reform (2019)

unapi

This dissertation examines what is commonly known as the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1661–1722)’s fourteen-tone temperament, a 1714 reform to Chinese musical tuning that effectively uses the familiar Pythagorean proportions to divide the octave into fourteen parts. Besides examining the ideological and cultural contexts of the tuning reform and correcting many long-held misconceptions, I argue that the reform largely resulted from an epistemological shift that rearticulated the empirical process of sounding and listening vis-à-vis the historicist studies of texts and records in producing musical knowledge. Besides examining it in the context of traditional Chinese scholarship, I shed particular light on the transregional and even global scale of this shift. I argue that the series of experiments and studies on which the fourteen-tone temperament was based took place within the specific political structures of the Qing Empire (1636–1912) as a conquest regime that subjugated China under its minority Manchu ruling class. I also show that the shift was itself inspired by a global exchange of musical knowledge, in which the concept of octave equivalence in Western music theory was misunderstood yet appropriated to advocate an empirical term in music theory and a reform to Chinese opera, both in turn harnessed for Qing-imperial ideological purposes. What is more, by comparing the fourteen-tone temperament to roughly contemporary discourses on texts vs. sounds, writing vs. speech, and historicism vs. empiricism, both within the Qing Empire and beyond, I argue that the Qing’s reform to musical tuning, despite its apparent parochialism, potentially reflected a much broader transformation that took place on a global scale, or what I call the “Phonological Revolution.” In concluding this dissertation, I make a case for further examining how seemingly discrete rearticulations of the relation between historicism and empiricism across different discourses and praxes of language, music, writing, and songs may reveal a coeval and co-constitutive epistemological shift on a global scale in the early modern world.

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Authors & Contributors
Jami, Catherine
Bellissima, Fabio
Ch'iu, Chung-lin
Restle, Conny
Berns, Jörg Jochen
Bai, Xin
Journals
Bollettino di Storia delle Scienze Matematiche
Lishi yuyan yanjiuso jikan (Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica)
Journal of Dialectics of Nature
Guangxi Minzu Xueyuan Xuebao
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
Aestimatio: Critical Reviews in the History of Science
Publishers
University of California Press
Oxford University Press
University of Minnesota
New York, City University of
Concepts
Music theory
Music
Musical instruments
East Asia, civilization and culture
Harmony (music theory)
Mathematics
People
Helmholtz, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von
Ptolemy, Claudius
Yi, You
An, Qingqiao
Jie, Xuan
Mei, Wen-Ting
Time Periods
17th century
18th century
Qing dynasty (China, 1644-1912)
19th century
Ming dynasty (China, 1368-1644)
16th century
Places
China
Japan
Greece
Italy
Germany
Mongolia
Institutions
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)
Astronomical Bureau (China)
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