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David R. M. Irving: The Intercultural Interests of Early Music Pioneers Arnold and Mabel Dolmetsch

Wednesday 23 February 2022, 4.00PM to 5:00 PM

Speaker(s): David R. M. Irving (ICREA & Institució Milà i Fontanals de Recerca en Humanitats-CSIC)

Attend the seminar in-person, or online via zoom (Meeting ID: 998 9220 5308; Passcode: 390939).

Event details

Arnold Dolmetsch (1858-1940), a well-known pioneer of historical performance practice, was open and receptive to other music of cultures, particularly when his experience of them reinforced his evolving ideas about early musics from Europe and the loss of musical traditions occasioned by industrialised modernity. He engaged or experimented in several cross-cultural performances, and his practical experience extended to some exposure to South Asian techniques and musical-instrument history. The Dolmetsch family’s instrument collection at Haslemere included a number of instruments from cultures beyond western Europe: two sitars, an oud, a rebab, a Ugandan enanga, and several kinds of drum. Mabel Dolmetsch (1874-1963) had distinct interests in South Asian dance as well as harps from Africa and Asia; she was fascinated by Islam and had interests in esoteric matters. 

This presentation draws on archival materials from the Jeanne-Marie Dolmetsch Collection (Cambridge University Library) to explore the influence of the Dolmetsches’ interface with aspects of certain music cultures of Africa and Asia from the late 1890s to late 1930s. Some dimensions of the Dolmetsches’ activity could be characterised as exoticism or orientalism. However, it is striking to note that several interlocutors with Arnold and Mabel Dolmetsch from the Global Majority appear to have particularly respected their projects to revitalise old musics and dances from past cultures, and to have engaged in empathetic dialogue with them. 

Location: Music Department, Room D003, Sally Baldwin Buildings, Wentworth Way