The Sound of Empire: Soundscapes, Aesthetics and Performance between «Ancien régime» and Restoration


edited by Federico Gon and Emmanuel Reibel, Turnhout, Brepols, 2023 (Specvlvm Mvsicae, 51), pp. xvi + 352, ISBN 978-2-503-60849-5.


The second half of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century was a time of great historical and social upheavals — a melting pot of events whose repercussions are still felt.

The first industrial revolution, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic wars: such were events that gradually undermined the status quo of the Ancien régime. Napoleon Bonaparte is the keystone of this period, given his role as an innovator of aspects of the military, political, civil, artistic and cultural life of his time.

This book explores the musical changes brought on by the multifaceted pre- and post-Napoleonic sonic world. It focuses on the politicised dramaturgy at the Paris Opera, on the incredible diffusion of French opera in the German-speaking world, and on the question of national identity in Italian, Polish, Spanish and Portuguese contexts during this politically critical period.

Beyond operas and cantatas in praise of Napoleon, this book also highlights the mechanical soundscape of the Empire, the repertoire of incidental music and the varied fortunes of the music business at that time. Finally, it analyses the place of female singers or composers from a gendered perspective.

Federico Gon, musicologist and composer, studied musicology (Masters Degree and PhD) at the University of Padua, and has to his credit numerous participations in conferences as well as the publication of books and essays in scientific journals specialising in opera and instrumental music of the xviii-xix centuries. He is a winner of the ‘Tesi Rossiniane’ award (Fondazione Rossini, Pesaro, 2013). He is member of the Committee of the Italian National Edition of the Comedies for Music by Domenico Cimarosa and has been a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Vienna (2016-2019). He currently teaches at the Conservatorio ‘G. Tartini’ in Trieste.

Emmanuel Reibel is Professor of Musicology at the École Nationale Supérieure de Lyon and Professor of Aesthetics at the Conservatoire de Paris. His work focuses in particular on music discourses and the history of Romanticism. He is the author of a number of renowned works (including Faust, la musique au défi du mythe, Paris, Fayard, 2008 and Comment la musique est devenue romantique, de Rousseau à Berlioz, Paris, Fayard, 2013) and director of the Dictéco (Dictionnaire d’écrits de compositeurs) program, which he co-founded with Valérie Dufour and Michel Duchesneau (<>). His latest book has just been published: Du metronome au gramophone: musique et révolution industrielle (Paris, Fayard, 2023).

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