Thesis ID: CBB144734757

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


Hu, Zhuqing (Author)
Feldman, Martha (Advisor)

University of Chicago
Feldman, Martha
Publication date: 2019
Language: English

Publication Date: 2019
Physical Details: 491

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.

Citation URI

This citation is part of the Isis database.

Similar Citations

Chapter Restle, Conny; (2008)
Organology: The Study of Musical Instruments in the 17th Century (/p/isis/citation/CBB000831243/) unapi

Article BaldisseraPacchetti, Marina; (2014)
Turning Music into Sound: Vincenzo Galilei's Contributions to the History of Acoustics (/p/isis/citation/CBB001201082/) unapi

Article Fabio Bellissima; (2014)
Arithmetic, Geometric and Harmonic Means in Music Theory (/p/isis/citation/CBB139505675/) unapi

Article Fabio Bellissima; (2011)
L'anamorfosi logaritmica degli intervalli pitagorici (/p/isis/citation/CBB342675550/) unapi

Article Jami, Catherine; (2010)
Experts en Sciences Mathématiques et Projets Impériaux sous le Règne de Kangxi (/p/isis/citation/CBB001252106/) unapi

Article Khazrai, Babak; (2009)
Abd al-Qādir Marāghī's Statements Concerning Fretting the String Instruments (/p/isis/citation/CBB001510398/) unapi

Article Cecilia Panti; (2017)
Boethius and Ptolemy on Harmony, Harmonics and Human Music (/p/isis/citation/CBB900599050/) unapi

Article Kursell, Julia; (2013)
Experiments on Tone Color in Music and Acoustics: Helmholtz, Schoenberg, and Klangfarbenmelodie (/p/isis/citation/CBB001320389/) unapi

Article Hagel, Stefan; (2013)
A Response to Laywine on Hagel, Ancient Greek Music (/p/isis/citation/CBB001201012/) unapi

Thesis Adam Fix; (2019)
Sensible Mathematics: The Science of Music in the Age of the Baroque (/p/isis/citation/CBB226988728/) unapi

Article Wu, Hong-ya; (2006)
A study on the scientific skepticism and critical spirit of Chu Tsai-Yu's equal temperament scale (/p/isis/citation/CBB000701100/) unapi

Chapter Zengjian Guan; Xiaoyuan Jiang; (2021)
Zenghouyi’s Bells and the Ancient Chinese Rhyming (/p/isis/citation/CBB118691258/) unapi

Thesis Ping-Ying Chang; (2015)
Chinese Hereditary Mathematician Families of the Astronomical Bureau, 1620–1850 (/p/isis/citation/CBB621834765/) unapi

Article Bai, Xin; Yang, Jian; Yuan, Min; (2008)
On the Introduction of Surveying into China and Japan from the Beginning of the 17th Century to the Middle of the 18th Century (/p/isis/citation/CBB000952294/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Bellissima, Fabio
Asen, Daniel
Bai, Xin
BaldisseraPacchetti, Marina
Berns, Jörg Jochen
Boantza, Victor D.
Bollettino di Storia delle Scienze Matematiche
Aestimatio: Critical Reviews in the History of Science
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Journal of Dialectics of Nature
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
University of Minnesota
New York, City University of
Music theory
Musical instruments
East Asia, civilization and culture
Harmony (music theory)
Helmholtz, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von
Ptolemy, Claudius
Chu, Tsai-Yu
Galilei, Vincenzo
Schoenberg, Arnold
Time Periods
17th century
18th century
Qing dynasty (China, 1644-1912)
16th century
19th century
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)
Astronomical Bureau (China)

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment