Charles Avison Essay On Musical Expression Pdf Files

1BurneyCharles, A General History of Music, from the Earliest Ages to the Present Period (London: Printed for the author, and sold by T. Becket, J. Robson and G. Robinson, 1776), volume 1, xiii.

2RousseauJean-Jacques, A Complete Dictionary of Music: Consisting of a Copious Explanations of all Words Necessary to a True Knowledge and Understanding of Music, trans. WaringWilliam, second edition (London: Murray, 1779; reprinted New York: AMS, 1975). For the French text see RousseauJean-Jacques, Œuvres complètes (Paris: Gallimard, 1995), volume 5: Écrits sur la musique, la langue et le théâtre, 915.

3 Burney's definitions of music varied. The ‘Essay on Musical Criticism’ concisely defines music as ‘the art of pleasing by the succession and combination of agreeable sounds’ (in Burney, General History of Music, volume 3, v). The new Cyclopaedia, for which the editor Abraham Rees commissioned the music articles from Burney, commends and reproduces Rousseau's definition from the Dictionnaire de musique; see ‘Music’, in ReesAbraham, The Cyclopaedia: or, A New Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (London: Longman, 1819), volume 24. Burney proposes here his own translation of the article (slightly abridged) and elements of a critical commentary. The first few paragraphs of Rousseau's text bear traces of the article published by Ephraim Chambers in the original Cyclopaedia (London, 1728, volume 2, 607). As noted by Claude Dauphin in the critical edition of the Dictionnaire, however, Rousseau himself had provocatively objected to his own definition of music in the fourteenth chapter of the Essai sur l'origine des langues (completed c1761): music is not the art of combining sounds in a manner agreeable to the ear, but, thanks to melody, a moral art, meaningful and expressive; see DauphinClaude, ed., Le dictionnaire de musique de Jean-Jacques Rousseau: une édition critique (Bern: Peter Lang, 2008), 480n.

4 Vanessa Agnew has emphasized Burney's social appreciation of music in Enlightenment Orpheus: The Power of Music in Other Worlds (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), in the context of both his European travels and his son's encounter with Polynesian music. Edward Green has opposed Burney's and Hawkins's ethical views, as betrayed by their distinct representations of Rousseau and his work; see ‘The Impact of Rousseau on the Histories of Burney and Hawkins: A Study in the Ethics of Musicology’, in Music's Intellectual History, ed. BlažekovićZdravko and MackenzieBarbara Dobbs (New York: Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale, 2009), 157–167.

5 Charles Burney to Thomas Twining, 30 August 1773, in The Letters of Dr Charles Burney, ed. RibeiroAlvaro (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991), volume 1: 1751–1784, 140. See also LonsdaleRoger, Dr Charles Burney: A Literary Biography (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965), 118 and 130.

6 For this social distinction see Lonsdale, Dr Charles Burney, 131–133, which quotes, among other things, an excerpt from a 1776 letter by Thomas Twining. Twining recalls the disbelief of some that Burney would indeed be the true author of his books: ‘we have had no experience of such a phenomenon as a professor of Music, & an artist, that was a man of letters, & a good writer’ (132–133).

7 Lonsdale, Dr Charles Burney, 79. On the status of music teachers (including Burney) see LeppertRichard, Music and Image: Domesticity, Ideology and Socio-Cultural Formation in Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 56–61.

8 Quoted in AdornoTheodor W., Introduction to the Sociology of Music, trans. AshtonE. B. (New York: Seabury, 1976), 149. It is the thirteenth of BenjaminWalter's ‘The Critique's Technique in Thirteen Theses’ in his 1928 essay ‘One-Way Street’, One-Way Street and Other Writings, trans. UnderwoodJ. A. (London: Penguin, 2009), 36.

9 See in particular CaygillHoward, Art of Judgement (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989); EagletonTerry, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990); and FerryLuc, Homo aestheticus: l'invention du goût à l'âge démocratique (Paris: Grasset, 1990).

10 For a survey of British aesthetic philosophy, especially in its relation to musical thought, see SemiMaria, Music as a Science of Mankind in Eighteenth-Century Britain, trans. KeatesTimothy (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2012).

11 These accounts may be found in Dr. Burney's Musical Tours in Europe, ed. ScholesPercy A. (London: Oxford University Press, 1959), 2 volumes.

12 Semi, Music as a Science of Mankind, 142.

13 Semi, Music as a Science of Mankind, 143.

14 Burney, General History of Music, volume 3, v.

15 Adam Smith, Of the Nature of That Imitation Which Takes Place in What Are Called the Imitative Arts [1795], part II, paragraph 24, in Essays on Philosophical Subjects, ed. WhightmanW. P. D. and BryceJ. C. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1982). See also Semi, Music as a Science of Mankind, 100. According to Smith, music does not refer to anything outside itself, and therefore cannot be an imitative art except when it is made to resemble human voices and natural sounds. This does not mean that music is nothing but an abstract form. Music affects us, and as such, elicits ‘an original, and not a sympathetic feeling’: ‘it becomes itself a gay, a sedate, or a melancholy object’; or, more precisely, ‘it is our own gaiety, sedateness, or melancholy’. A piece with good melody will necessarily have expression. For this reason, Smith thought that expression, an intrinsic quality of instrumental music, could not logically constitute a separate criterion of its merit; he criticized Charles Avison on this account, and might have criticized Burney on the same account.

16 For Hume and Harris see Burney's Letters, 46 and 120–121. Adam Smith presented his ideas on imitative arts at a meeting of the Literary Club (to which Burney belonged, with Johnson, Reynolds and Boswell) in the summer of 1782; see de MarchiNeil, ‘Smith on Ingenuity, Pleasure and the Imitative Arts’, in The Cambridge Companion to Adam Smith, ed. HaakonssenKnud (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 136. If Burney was away, he would most likely have heard reports.

17A Catalogue of the Miscellaneous Library of the Late Charles Burney, Doctor of Music, and Fellow of the Royal Society: Removed from his Apartments in Chelsea College, Which Will be Sold by Auction, by Leigh and Sotheby, Booksellers, at their House, no. 145, Strand, Opposite Catherine Street, on Thursday, the 9th of June, 1814, and Eight Following Days (Sundays Excepted), at 12 o'Clock (London, 1814). Burney owned works by Batteux, Beattie, Burke, Du Bos, Hobbes, Hutcheson, Locke, Machiavelli, Mandeville, Montesquieu, Necker, Rousseau, Smith, Voltaire and Young; reports and publications on the French Revolution; the initial issues of the Anti-Jacobin Review (July 1798–April 1801); and translations or editions of the classics (Plato, Aristotle, Polybius and Cicero, among others).

18 Twining began his work in 1778 (Lonsdale, Dr Charles Burney, 248); see TwiningThomas, Aristotle's Treatise on Poetry, Translated: With Notes on the Translation, and on the Original; and Two Dissertations, on Poetical, and Musical, Imitation (London, 1789; reprinted New York: Garland, 1971). For a commentary see MalekJames, ‘Thomas Twining's Analysis of Poetry and Music as Imitative Arts’, Modern Philology68/3 (1971), 260–268; and Semi, Music as a Science of Mankind, 89–93.

19 Twining, Aristotle's Treatise on Poetry, 49–50, note s. Johnson's comment is reported in Miss Reynolds's Recollections of Dr. Johnson, quoted in BalderstonK. C., ‘Dr. Johnson and Burney's History of Music’, Proceedings of the Modern Language Association49/3 (1934), 967.

20 Burney, ‘Essay on Musical Criticism’, x.

21 Burney, ‘Essay on Musical Criticism’, x. Twining, who also served as Burney's proofreader, reproduces this very argument in Aristotle's Treatise on Poetry, 49–50, note s, in his second dissertation on ‘the different sense of the word, imitative, as applied to music by the Antients, and by the Moderns’. In his Réflections critiques sur la poésie et la peinture (1719) Du Bos establishes the spectator's feeling – that is to say, the feeling that the work of art generally impresses on the spectator – as the only legitimate instance of aesthetic judgment. Just as one tastes a dish and knows whether the dish tastes good or bad, one ‘tastes’ a work of art and knows its value. See Luc Ferry, Homo aestheticus, 63–66, and LontradeAgnès, Le plaisir esthétique: naissance d'une notion (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2004), 55–67.

22 This is the starting-point for Terry Eagleton's The Ideology of the Aesthetic. ‘Aesthetics’, he writes, ‘is born as a discourse of the body’ (13). Eagleton's point of departure is Baumgarten's Aesthetica, which, he claims, opens up the ‘terrain of sensation’ to the ‘colonization of reason’ (15). Luc Ferry adds to Baumgarten's Aesthetica Lambert's Phänomologia to define a historical turning-point whereby the sensible acquires its autonomy; see Homo aestheticus, 90–110.

23 Burney, ‘Essay on Musical Criticism’, xi.

24 On liberalism as an art of separation see ManentPierre, Histoire intellectuelle du libéralisme (Paris: Hachette, 1997), and WalzerMichael, ‘Liberalism and the Art of Separation’, Political Theory12/3 (1984), 315–330.

25 Rousseau, Œuvres complètes, volume 5, 322–328.

26AvisonCharles, An Essay on Musical Expression (London: Printed for C. Davis, 1752), 71–74.

27BurneyCharles, The Present State of Music in France and Italy: Or, the Journal of a Tour through those Countries, Undertaken to Collect Materials for a General History of Music (London: Printed for T. Becket and Co., 1771), 135–136.

28BurneyCharles, The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands and United Provinces: Or, the Journal of a Tour through those Countries, Undertaken to Collect Materials for a General History of Music (London: Printed for T. Becket, J. Robson and G. Robinson, 1775), volume 2, 270.

29 Richard Kramer approaches the question of the performer as actor from the perspective of Diderot's writings on the theatre in ‘Diderot's Paradoxe and C. P. E. Bach's Empfindungen’, in C. P. E. Bach Studies, ed. RichardsAnnette (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 6–24.

30 Rousseau's critique of social appearances and theatrical representation appears in the Discours sur les sciences et les arts (especially the opening of the first part) and the Lettre à D'Alembert.

31 A detailed discussion of Rousseau's political philosophy of music exceeds the scope of this article, but has been the object of increasing attention. See in particular WoklerRobert, Social Thought of J. J. Rousseau (New York: Garland, 1987); O'DeaMichael, Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Music, Illusion and Desire (New York: St Martin's, 1995); ScottJohn T., ‘Rousseau and the Melodious Language of Freedom’, Journal of Politics59/3 (1997), 803–829, and ‘The Harmony between Rousseau's Musical Theory and His Philosophy’, Journal of the History of Ideas59/2 (1998), 287–308; StrongTracy B., Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Politics of the Ordinary (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1994), 59–64; SimonJulia, ‘Singing Democracy: Music and Politics in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Thought’, Journal of the History of Ideas65/3 (2004), 433–454, and ‘Rousseau and Aesthetic Modernity: Music's Power of Redemption’, Eighteenth-Century Music2/1 (2005), 41–56; WaeberJacqueline, ‘Jean-Jacques Rousseau's “unité de mélodie”’, Journal of the American Musicological Society62/1 (2009), 79–143; and StrongTracy B., ‘Rousseau: nature, langage, politique’, in L'institution musicale, ed. BardezJean-Michel and others (Sampzon: Delatour, 2010), 75–87.

32 Burney, Present State of Music in Germany, volume 1, 53: ‘all the present composers of French comic operas imitate the Italian style, and many of them pillage the buffe operas of Italy without the least scruple of conscience, though they afterwards set their names to the plunder, and pass it on the world as their own property’.

33 Burney, Present State of Music in Germany, volume 1, 53–54.

34 On the resistance to musical change, with regard to serious French opera and to oratorios in England, see Burney, Present State of Music in France and Italy, 32. See also Burney, General History of Music, volume 4, 607: ‘Music, during this period, seems to have been patronized in France with as much zeal as in Italy or Germany, though perhaps with less effect upon its cultivation. But the long and pertinacious attachment to the style of Lulli and his imitators in vocal compositions, the exclusion of those improvements which were making in the art in other parts of Europe, during the first fifty years of this century, have doubtless more impeded its progress, than want of genius in this active and lively people, or defects in their language, to which Rousseau and others have ascribed the imperfections of their Music.’

35 Burney, Present State of Music in Germany, volume 2, 234–235 (on the king of Prussia disciplining his Italian troops): ‘in the opera house, as in the field, his majesty is such a rigid disciplinarian, that if a mistake is made in a single movement or evolution, he immediately marks, and rebukes the offender; and if any of his Italian troops dare to deviate from strict discipline, by adding, altering, or diminishing a single passage in the parts they have to perform, an order is sent de par le Roi, for them to adhere strictly to the notes written by the composer, at their peril’.

36 Burney, Present State of Music in Germany, volume 2, 235.

37 Burney, Present State of Music in Germany, volume 2, 235–236: ‘there is’, he added, ‘an air of chearfulness [sic], industry, plenty, and liberty, in the inhabitants of this place, seldom to be seen in other parts of Germany’.

38 Burney, Present State of Music in Germany, volume 2, 248. The metaphor of social harmony is of course commonplace, and appears, for example, in Avison's Essay on Musical Expression (168) in an anonymous ‘letter to the author on the music of the ancients’: ‘there is no harmony so charming as that of a well-ordered life, moving in concert with the sacred laws of virtue’. On its place in British aesthetic and social thought see Caygill Art of Judgement, 49–50 (on Shaftesbury) and 61–62 (on Hutcheson). On its earlier influence on political thought see DalyJames, ‘Cosmic Harmony and Political Thinking in Early Stuart England’, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society69/7 (1979), 3–41.

39 Burney reports C. P. E. Bach's discourse in direct speech in Present State of Music in Germany, volume 2, 252.

40 Burney, Present State of Music in Germany, volume 1, 93. On the army as a model for thinking about the orchestra in the eighteenth century see SpitzerJohn and ZaslawNeal, The Birth of the Orchestra: History of an Institution, 1650–1815 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 515–519.

41 Burney, Present State of Music in Germany, volume 1, 344. Gluck, Burney reported, is ‘a great disciplinarian, and as formidable as Handel used to be, when at the head of a band; but he assured me, that he never found his troops mutinous, though he, on no account, suffered them to leave any part of their business, till it was well done, and frequently obliged them to repeat some of his manoeuvres twenty or thirty times’.

42 Burney, Present State of Music in Germany, volume 1, 118. For this reason, Burney determines to stay ‘but a short time at Augsburg’.

43 In his depiction of Hamburg, his celebration of freedom and his condemnation of French and Prussian absolutism, Burney echoes a common topic of British liberal thought, beginning with the work of Shaftesbury. As the report of Burney's conversation with C. P. E. Bach indicates, however, civil freedom does not necessarily entail a progress in the arts, and Burney's endorsement of court patronage, if not political despotism, allows at best for a restricted scope of self-government. On the notion of freedom in eighteenth-century British thought see MeehanMichael, Liberty and Poetics in Eighteenth-Century England (London: Croom Helm, 1986).

44 Quoted in Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic, 52, from Burke's Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1756).

45BurkeEdmund, Reflections on the Revolution in France, ed. PocockJ. G. A. (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987), 68. See Eagleton, Ideology of the Aesthetic, 52–61.

46 The passage is quoted in full in a footnote; see CollierJoel, Musical Travels through England (London: Printed for G. Kearsley, 1785), 100.

47 Vanessa Agnew studies Bicknell's opposition to Burney's exploration of music's power to affect society in Enlightenment Orpheus, 137–165.

48 See Collier, Musical Travels through England, 45: ‘Tho’ I know Dr. Burney treats all Carillons with sovereign contempt, I confess I was much pleased with these, and taking out my tablets, followed them, and prick'd down the tunes they played, which indeed were full of pretty things.’ The phrase appears on two occasions in The Present State of Music in France and Italy: ‘the music, which had pretty things in it’ (80) and ‘There were many ingenious pretty things in his performance’ (226–227).

49 Collier, Musical Travels through England, 74.

50 Burney, Present State of Music in Germany, volume 1, 99: ‘a rude, and barbarous flourish of drums and trumpets, at the elevation of the host’. Bicknell quotes the phrase in a footnote; see Musical Travels through England, 99. For Collier's Italianized name see Musical Travels through England, 7; Collier is later surprised in bed with a barber's wife, and the jealous husband castrates him (117–119).

51 Collier, Musical Travels through England, 80.

52 On Burney's complex relation to the court, fraught with a desire for social ascension and economic security on the one hand, and a compulsion to maintain scholarly integrity on the other, see Lonsdale, Dr Charles Burney, 292–346.

53 Collier, Musical Travels through England, 99–100.

54 Collier, Musical Travels through England, xi: ‘I am entirely of my Cousin's opinion in this matter, notwithstanding I know that an ingenious gentleman, the author of “The Musical Lady”, has said, “John Bull was made to roar, and not to sing”. But it should be considered, that it is but of late days that John Bull has attempted to sing; that England has hitherto preferred the harsh trumpet to the soft violin; and that she still cultivates, as well in America as in Europe, the arts of ancient, more than of modern Rome’. The quoted text does not appear in printed versions of The Musical Lady, but recalls certain dialogues; see [ColmanGeorge,] The Musical Lady, a Farce, as it is Acted at the Theatre Royal in Drury-Lane (London: Printed for T. Becket and P. S. Dehondt, 1762), 16–17, 32 and 36–37.

55 This patriotic and moralist rejection of Italian opera has a long history and evokes the writings of John Dennis at the beginning of the century. See McGearyThomas, ‘Opera and British Nationalism, 1700–1711’, Revue LISA/LISA e-journal4/2 (2006) <> (15 July 2012). On the cultural politics of opera in eighteenth-century ‘Britain’ see AspdenSuzanne, ‘Ballads and Britons: Imagined Community and the Continuity of “English” Opera’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association122/1 (1997), 24–51.

56 On the correlation between luxury, the refinement of the arts and the moral decadence of modern societies, especially in Rousseau's early work, see HamiltonJames F., ‘A Theory of Art in Rousseau's First Discourse’, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century94 (1972), 73–87; GallianiR., ‘Le débat sur le luxe: Voltaire ou Rousseau?’, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century161 (1976), 205–217; and Wokler, Social Thought, 374–434.

57 The phrase ‘innocent pleasure’ appears in Burney, Present State of Music in Germany, volume 1, 54 (see quotation below), but it is also a topic for the preface to the Present State of Music in France and Italy and the dedication of the General History of Music to the queen (where music is said to bring pleasure and innocence together). ‘Innocent luxury’ appears in Burney's definition of music in the preface to the General of History Music, as quoted above.

58An Essay on Civil Government, or Society Restored, by Means of I. A Preface of Peace, II. A Reform in Mataphysics [sic], and III. A Political Code and Constitution, Adapted to the True Nature of Man, Translated from the Italian MS. of A. D. R. S. with Notes, by the Editors (London, 1793), 24–25. The catalogue of Burney's music library records an ‘Essay on Civil Government’ dated 1793 (lot 1005) that might be the same work; see Catalogue of the Music Library of Charles Burney, sold in London, 8 August 1814, ed. KingA Hyatt (Amsterdam: Frits Knuf, 1973), 40. I thank an anonymous reader for bringing this text to my attention.

59An Essay on Civil Government, 7–10.

60An Essay on Civil Government, 24–25.

61 For a history of this debate see SekoraJohn, Luxury: The Concept in Western Thought, Eden to Smollett (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977); BerryChristopher J., The Idea of Luxury: A Conceptual and Historical Investigation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994); and JenningsJeremy, ‘The Debate about Luxury in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century French Political Thought’, Journal of the History of Ideas68/1 (2007), 79–105.

62 See the Catalogue of the Miscellaneous Library, lot 272. On John Brown's two-volume diatribe against the ‘Spirit of Commerce’ see Sekora, Luxury, 93–95.

63HumeDavid, ‘Of Refinement in the Arts’, in Selected Essays, ed. CopleyStephen and EdgarAndrew (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 175–176. The essay was first published in 1752 under the title ‘Of Luxury’, which was changed in 1760 to ‘Of Refinement in the Arts’. For a history of Hume's thought on luxury see CunninghamAndrew S., ‘David Hume's Account of Luxury’, Journal of the History of Economic Thought27/3 (2005), 231–250.

64 Hume, ‘Of Refinement in the Arts’, 167.

65 See Cunningham, ‘David Hume's Account of Luxury’, 237, 242.

66 Burney, Present State of Music in Germany, volume 1, 100–106.

67 See KasslerJamie Croy, ‘Burney's Sketch of a Plan for a Public Music-School (1774)’, The Musical Quarterly58/2 (1972), 210–234 (229 for the quotation), and Agnew, Enlightenment Orpheus, 136–144, which includes a discussion of Burney's perception of professional excellence in music as a sign of national greatness.

68 Lonsdale, Dr Charles Burney, 152–153.

69 Montesquieu, De l'esprit des lois, book IV, chapter 8: ‘Mais, dira-t-on, pourquoi choisir la musique par préférence? C'est que, de tous les plaisirs des sens, il n'y en a aucun qui corrompe moins l'âme’, translated by Avison, Essay on Musical Expression, 17, misquoted in Present State of Music in France and Italy, 3. Burney owned a 1749 (Geneva) edition of the French text (Catalogue of the Miscellaneous Library, lot 1210) and a 1752 English translation ‘by Mr. [Thomas] Nugent’ (lot 1218). Avison's translation conforms to Nugent's for this sentence. It is impossible to know when Burney purchased these books, whether he was writing from memory and inadvertently altered the text, or whether his correction of certain words was deliberate. But the effet de sens produced by this textual discordance remains, independent of its author's conscious intentions.

70 Most famously, LockeJohn, Some Thoughts Concerning Education (London, 1693), section 197: ‘it wastes so much of a young Man's time to gain but a moderate Skill in it; and engages often in such odd Company, that many think it much better spared: And I have amongst Men of Parts and Business, so seldom heard any one commended, or esteemed for having an Excellency in Musick, that amongst all those things, that ever came into the List of Accomplishments, I think I may give it the last place.’

71 Charles Burney, ‘To the Queen’, in General History of Music, volume 1, iv.

72 Burney, Present State of Music in France and Italy, 6.

73 Burney, Present State of Music in France and Italy, 5.

74 Burney, Present State of Music in Germany, volume 1, iii.

75 Burney, Present State of Music in Germany, volume 1, vi.

76 Lonsdale, Dr Charles Burney, 168 and 285.

77BurneyCharles, ‘To the Queen’, iii–v; and ‘To the King’, in An Account of the Musical Performances in Westminster-Abbey, and the Pantheon, May 26th, 27th, 29th, and June the 3rd, and 5th, 1784, in Commemoration of Handel (London: Printed for the benefit of the Musical Fund, 1785), no page number.

78 The first quotation appears in the dedication to the queen, the two others in the dedication to the king.

79 ‘To the King’, no page number.

80 The relation between monarchy and the common good in Burney's thought, then, is more complex than WeberWilliam suggests in his study of the ideology of ancient music; see The Rise of Musical Classics in Eighteenth-Century England: A Study in Canon, Ritual, and Ideology (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992), 219. Burney's borrowings of republican ideas hardly make him a political disciple of Rousseau, as Mary Wollstonecraft aptly perceived (see below). In a letter to Mrs. Waddington (12 July 1805), Burney also extended his praise to the Prince of Wales: ‘He is an excellent critic; has an enlarged taste admiring whatever is good in its kind, of whatever age or country the composers or performers may be; without being however insensible to the superior genius and learning necessary to some kind of music more than others’; quoted in GrantKerry S., Dr Burney as Critic and Historian of Music (Ann Arbor: UMI, 1983), 45.

81 Burney, ‘To the Queen’, v.

82 I refer here, once again, to ‘Of the Refinement in the Arts’, 168 (‘In times when industry and the arts flourish, men are kept in perpetual occupation, and enjoy, as their reward, the occupation itself, as well as those pleasures which are the fruit of their labour’) and 177 (‘Luxury, when excessive, is the source of many ills, but is in general preferable to sloth and idleness, which would commonly succeed in its place, and are more hurtful both to private persons and to the public’).

83ShustermanRichard, ‘Of the Scandal of Taste: Social Privilege as Nature in the Aesthetic Theories of Hume and Kant’, The Philosophical Forum20/3 (1989), 216; see also MarshallDavid, ‘Arguing by Analogy: Hume's Standard of Taste’, Eighteenth-Century Studies28/3 (1995), 337–338 and 342, note 2.

84 See Shusterman, ‘Of the Scandal of Taste’, 217–220, and WieandJeffrey, ‘Hume's Two Standards of Taste’, The Philosophical Quarterly34/135 (1984), 129–142 (especially 137–142).

85 Marshall, ‘Arguing by Analogy’, 335.

86 Mary Wollstonecraft (signed M), Review of ‘Dr. Burney's General History of Music’, Analytical Review 6 (February 1790), 131.

87 Wollstonecraft, Review, 133.

88 Burney, Present State of Music in France and Italy, 4.

89 Burney, ‘Essay on Musical Criticism’, v. William Weber has given an informative reading of this essay in The Rise of Musical Classics, 215–216. He correctly establishes Burney's ‘elitist principles’ (215) wherein the public sphere and musical taste must be ‘regulated by learned authority’ (221). It is hard to see, then, in what sense Burney showed any ‘sense of how public opinion and professional expertise could work together in shaping an informed order of taste’ (218).

90 David Hume, ‘Of the Standard of Taste’, in Selected Essays, 133. The sceptic takes a similar view of diversity in aesthetic judgment (98–99): ‘You will never convince a man, who is not accustomed to Italian music, and has not an ear to follow its intricacies, that a Scotch tune is not preferable. You have not even any single argument, beyond your own taste, which you can apply in your behalf: And to your antagonist, his particular taste will always appear a more convincing argument to the contrary.’

91 In other words, the sceptic finds no way out of the unavoidable relativity of aesthetic judgment (Hume, ‘Of the Standard of Taste’, 99): ‘If you be wise, each of you will allow, that the other may be in the right; and having many other instances of this diversity of taste, you will both confess, that beauty and worth are merely of a relative nature, and consist in an agreeable sentiment, produced by an object in a particular mind, according to the peculiar structure and constitution of that mind.’

92 I refer here to the turning-point of Hume's ‘Of the Standard of Taste’ (136): ‘It is natural for us to seek a Standard of Taste; a rule by which the various sentiments of men may be reconciled; at least a decision afforded confirming one sentiment, and condemning another.’

93 Burney, ‘Essay on Musical Criticism’, v.

94HillGeorge Birkbeck, ed., Boswell's Life of Johnson, revised and enlarged edition by PowellL. F. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1934; reprinted Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), volume 2, 249.

95 On the notion of ‘negative’ freedom see BerlinIsaiah, ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’, in Four Essays on Liberty (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970), 121–131.

96 Berlin, ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’, 129: ‘liberty in this is not incompatible with some kinds of autocracy, or at any rate with the absence of self-government. Liberty in this sense is principally concerned with the area of control, not with its source.’ For a critique of the oft-assumed disjunction between individual and civic liberty, and the resulting opposition between negative and positive freedom, see SkinnerQuentin, ‘The Idea of Negative Liberty: Machiavellian and Modern Perspectives’, in Visions of Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), volume 2, 186–212.

97 On Adam Smith's contribution to musical aesthetics see GoehrLydia, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992), 152–157; NoirayMichel, ‘Le son et le sentiment’, in SmithAdam, Essais esthétiques, ed. ThierryPatrick (Paris: Vrin, 1997), 123–138; FrithSimon, ‘Adam Smith and Music’, New Formations18 (1992): 67–83, reprinted in Taking Popular Music Seriously: Selected Essays (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), 275–291; and Semi, Music as a Science of Mankind, 93–102.

98 Burney, ‘Essay on’, xi.

99 Burney, ‘Essay on Musical Criticism’, xi. On Burney's difficulty in accounting for direct observations of Polynesian polyphony from this Eurocentric perspective see Agnew, Enlightenment Orpheus, 113–119.

100 Burney, ‘Essay on Musical Criticism’, v.

101 Burney, ‘Essay on Musical Criticism’, v: ‘In this manner, a composition, by a kind of chemical process, may be decompounded as well as any other production of art or nature.’

102 The Latin quotation is from Horace's first Epistle (1.1.14). It translates, according to John Davie, as: ‘there's no master I'm bound to swear loyalty to’, in Horace, Satires and Epistles, trans. DavieJohn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 65.

103de PilesRoger, Cours de peinture par principes (Paris: J. Estienne, 1708). See SteegmanJohn, ‘The “Balance des Peintres” of Roger de Piles’, The Art Quarterly17/3 (1954), 255–261, and McClellanAndrew L., Inventing the Louvre: Art, Politics, and the Origins of the Modern Museum in Eighteenth-Century Paris (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 33–35.

104 De Piles's table appears in RichardsonJonathan's Two Discourses (London: Churchill, 1719) and was further discussed by the French Royal Academy of Sciences in 1755; see GrienerPascal, La république de l'œil: l'expérience de l'art au siècle des Lumières (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2010), 100–105 and 281, note 55. The 1743 English edition of The Principles of Painting, on its title page, advertises the ‘Balance of Painters’ as ‘of singular use to those who would form an idea of the value of paintings and pictures’; see PuttfarkenThomas, Roger de Piles' Theory of Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 42, note 7. For its use in organizing the exhibit of ninety-nine paintings from the royal collection at the Palais du Luxembourg (1750–1779) see McClellan, Inventing the Louvre, 35–42, and TeyssotGeorges, ‘“The Simple Day and the Light of the Sun”: Lights and Shadows in the Museum’, trans. LevineJessica, Assemblage12 (1990), 69.

105 Richardson, Two Discourses, 55–72. Burney owned a copy of this work (Catalogue of the Miscellaneous Library, lot 1504).

106 See ScholesPercy A., The Great Dr. Burney: His Life, His Travels, His Works, His Family and His Friends (London: Oxford University Press, 1958), volume 1, 327, and Thraliana: The Diary of Mrs. Hester Lunch Thrale (Later Mrs. Piozzi), 1776–1809, ed. BalderstonKatharine C. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1942), volume 1, 328–331. Mrs Thrale toys with the idea of making a ‘Scale of Novel Writers’ before making two separate scales for her male and female friends on the model of the ‘Scale of Beauties’ found in Joseph Spence's Crito, or a Dialogue on Beauty, by Sir Henri Beaumont (London, 1752), 43–45.

107de PilesRoger, The Principles of Painting (London: Osborn, 1743), 294: ‘This I have attempted rather to please myself, than to bring others into my sentiments … All I ask is, the liberty of declaring my thoughts in this matter.’

108 Richardson, Two Discourses, 71–72.

109 For a survey of Burney's critical vocabulary see Grant, Dr Burney as Critic, 17–47.

110 Burney, ‘Essay on Musical Criticism’, vi.

111 See PateyDouglas Lane, ‘The Institution of Criticism in the Eighteenth Century’, in The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, ed. NisbetH. B. and RawsonClaude (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), volume 4, 3–31 (especially 22–30).

112 Burney ‘Essay on Musical Criticism’, xi.

113 For the analysis of the ‘voice’ in Hume's essay see Marshall, ‘Arguing by Analogy’, 336–337 and 342, note 27.

114 Marshall, ‘Arguing by Analogy’, 336.

115 Marshall, ‘Arguing by Analogy’, 336.

116 Burney, ‘Essay on Musical Criticism’, xi. My italics.

117 Burney, ‘Essay on Musical Criticism’, xi.

118 Burney, ‘Essay on Musical Criticism’, v.

119 Burney, General History of Music, volume 1, 85: ‘And there is, again, some kind even of instrumental music, so divinely composed, and so expressively performed, that it wants no words to explain its meaning: it is itself the language of the heart and of passion, and speaks more to both in a few notes, than any other language composed of clashing consonants, and insipid vowels, can do in as many thousand.’

120 Lonsdale, Dr Charles Burney, 356. On ‘liberal conservatism’, a twentieth-century oxymoron with some interpretative utility, see ‘Tocqueville, Burke, and the Origins of Liberal Conservatism’, The Review of Politics60/3 (1998), 435–464. On Burke's ambivalence as regards social change and traditional hierarchy see KramnickIsaac, The Rage of Edmund Burke: Portrait of an Ambivalent Conservative (New York: Basic Books, 1977).

121 See his letter to Mrs Crewe in 1792, quoted in Lonsdale, Dr Charles Burney, 370: ‘I shd think I did the world a signal piece of service, if, one night or other, when its inhabitants were all fast asleep, I could, by the wave of a magic wand, wipe away every idea of that kind [that is, ‘democratic’ ideas], smack smooth out of their brains, or send them down forever to the bottom of their dimenticatos; & in their room, pour into their precious noddles, with a large funnel, the love of Music, poetry, & the fine arts, or other good-humoured, amusing, & improving pursuits, ingenious or scientific, as they please. Let them study mathematics, optics, metaphysics, & all the ics & tics in the world, except Politics. How good-humoured & happy they wd all come down to breakfast, the next morning?’

122 On Shaftesbury's and Addison's efforts to define the ‘true Critick’ see, for example, MarshallDavid, ‘Shaftesbury and Addison: Criticism and the Public Taste’, in The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, ed.

Charles Avison (; 16 February 1709 (baptised) – 9 or 10 May 1770) was an English composer during the Baroque and Classical periods. He was a church organist at St John The Baptist Church[1] in Newcastle and at St. Nicholas's Church (later Newcastle Cathedral). He is most known for his 12 Concerti Grossi after Scarlatti and his Essay on Musical Expression, the first music criticism published in English. He composed in a transitional style that alternated between Baroque and Classical idioms.


The son of Richard and Anne Avison, Charles Avison was baptised on 16 February 1709,[2] at St John the Baptist Church, in Newcastle. According to The New Grove Dictionary, he was also born in this city.[3] His educational history, though unclear, could have been at one of the two charity schools serving St John's parish. Some sources claim that Charles was the fifth of nine children, while others claim that he was the seventh of ten children. Regardless, Avison was born into a family with a high rate of infant mortality, as many of his siblings died at a young age.[4] His father was a musician and was likely to have been Charles’s first teacher. When Charles was 12, his father died, leaving his mother widowed with at least one and possibly two children at home.[4] Avison's adolescent and teenage years are mostly undocumented, but they may have included an apprenticeship with a local merchant named Ralph Jenison, a patron of the arts, and later a Member of Parliament, as well as further study of music.[4]

In his twenties, Avison moved to London to further pursue his career as a musician. It was during this period of his life that he met and began to study with Francesco Geminiani.[5] Avison's first documented musical performance was a benefit concert in London on 20 March 1734. This was also his only known concert in London and probably contained some of his early compositions written under Geminiani.[3][4] Avison left London and, on 13 October 1735, was appointed organist of St. John’s, Newcastle.[6] This appointment took effect once the church had installed a new organ in June 1736. Avison then accepted a position as organist of St. Nicholas Church in October 1736,[7] and later was appointed director of the Newcastle Musical Society. He remained at these two posts until his death. Avison also taught harpsichord, flute, and violin to private students on a weekly basis.[3] Much of Avison's income was generated through a series of subscription concerts which he helped organise in the North East region of England.[4] These were the first concerts of their type to be held in Newcastle.[8] Despite numerous offers of more prestigious positions later in life, he never again left Newcastle.[8]

Avison was married to Catherine Reynolds on 15 January 1737. The couple had nine children, of whom only three – Jane, Edward, and Charles – survived to adulthood. Edward succeeded his father as both the director of the Newcastle Musical Society and the St Nicholas's organist after his father’s death. Charles was also an organist and composer.[3] Avison died in May 1770 of unknown causes. According to his will, he had become a very wealthy man between his collection of books, musical instruments, and his stock holdings, which were left to his children. His will specified that he wanted very little money to be spent on his funeral and that he wished to be buried beside his wife at St Andrew's Church, Newcastle upon Tyne where he was buried near the north porch.[4] Avison was one of the subjects in Robert Browning's Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in their Day:[8] "Hear Avison! He tenders evidence/That music in his day as much absorbed/Heart and soul then as Wagner's music now."


Avison was a bold and controversial author. He is said to have had no fear in expressing his strong ideas with elaborate language, an incredible understanding of music, and a sense of humour. One of the ideas which receives much criticism is his preference for Geminiani and Marcello and his lack of preference for Handel. Although he did praise Handel for his genius, he was not afraid to criticise him either.[7] In addition to his published essays, Avison often wrote lengthy prefaces to his compositions, which have been called “advertisements."[3]

Essay on musical expression[edit]

Avison’s best-known writing is his Essay on Musical Expression which was originally published in 1752.[9] This essay was written in three parts. The first discusses the effect of music on character and emotion, as well as comparisons of music to painting. Avison states that "A full chord struck, or a beautiful succession of single sounds produced, is no less ravishing to the ear, than just symmetry or exquisite colours to the eye."[9] Avison also discusses in this section the common thought that music reaches all aspects of human emotion. He disagrees with this belief and instead argues that music evokes positive emotions while suppressing the negative ones.[9]

Part II of the essay is a critique of certain composers and their styles. Avison includes a section criticising the emphasis on melody and neglect of harmony as well as the neglect of melody and focus on harmony. For each condition, multiple composers are named in varying degrees to which they offend the balance between these two aspects of music. It is in this section that Avison defines musical expression as a balance between melody and harmony further stating, "Air and Harmony are never to be deserted for the sake of expression: because expression is found on them."[9] Avison does not hold back in expressing his opinion of the composers whom he is criticising. One such passage in the essay exemplifies this: "In these vague and unmeaning pieces, we often find the bewildered composer, either struggling with the difficulties of an extraneous modulation, or tiring the most consummate patience with a tedious repetition of some jejune thought, imagining he can never do enough, till he has run through every key that can be crowded into one movement; till, at length, all his force being exhausted, he drops into a dull close; where his languid piece seems rather to expire and yield its last, than conclude with a spirited, and well-timed cadence."[9]

The third section includes Avison’s views on how certain instruments should be used in ensemble performances. This section especially focuses on the concerto, as Avison frequently composed them. He lays out certain guidelines for the use of instruments, such as; "Thus, the Hautboy will best express the Cantabile, or singing style, and may be used in all movements whatever under this denomination; especially those movements which tend to the gay and cheerful."[9]

This essay is often viewed as judgemental and controversial, mostly because of the strong opinions put forth in the section critiquing composers. In January 1753, William Hayes anonymously published Remarks on Mr. Avison’s Essay, which was a review criticising Avison’s writing. This writing also contained strong opinions and was more lengthy than Avison's original writing. Avison then published a response to Hayes's writing titled A Reply to the Author of Remarks on the Essay on Musical Expression in February 1753.[3]


Avison's best-known compositions are his concerti grossi. They are similar in style to those of Geminiani and change very little across his career. Some were based on existing works by the Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti.[10] Avison placed a lot of emphasis on the importance of melody in his compositions. They are considered to be "unusually tuneful" because of the value which he placed on melody.

Avison also wrote chamber music. His trio sonatas are modelled after the Baroque style. His later chamber works were inspired by Rameau and are keyboard pieces with accompaniment by flute, violin and other instruments. Avison composed a small amount of sacred music including a verse anthem, a hymn and a chant, and a collaborative oratorio with Giardini[who?] entitled "Ruth".


  • Op. 2 Six Concertos (g, Bb, e, D, Bb, D)
  • Two Concertos
  • Op. 3 Six Concertos – With General Rules for Playing (D, e, g, Bb, D, G)
  • Op. 4 Eight Concertos (d, A, D, g, Bb, G, D, c)
  • Op. 6 Twelve Concertos (g, Bb, e, D, Bb, D, G, G, D, C, D, A)
  • Op. 9 Twelve Concertos: Set 1: (G, D, A, g/G, C, e), Set 2: (Eb, Bb, c, F, A, D)
  • Op. 10 Six Concertos (d, F, c, C, Eb, d)


  • Op. 1 VI Sonatas (chromatic dorian, g, g, dorian, e, D)
  • Op. 5 Six Sonatas (G,C, Bb, Eb, G, A)
  • Op. 7 Six Sonatas (G, g, Bb, d, a, A)
  • Op. 8 Six Sonatas (A, C, D, Bb, g, G)


  • "Hast thou not forsaken us" (verse anthem)
  • "Glory to God" (Christmas Hymn/Sanctus)
  • "Ruth" (oratorio) collab. Giardini
  • "Psalm CVII", chant, Cantico ecclesiastica


Avison continued the Italian-style tradition, which Francesco Geminiani heavily attributed to his popularity in London. In his Concerti Grossi, in particular, he carried on Geminiani's technique of modelling orchestral concertos after sonatas by older composers. His Essay on Musical Expression criticised Handel, who was much admired in England at the time.[8]

Since 1994 the Avison Ensemble of Newcastle has been performing Avison's music using period instruments.[11]

Newcastle's City Library building which opened in 2009 was named after the composer.[12] The Avison Archive is held at the library.[5]

In April 2014 a play about Avison, written by Sue Hedworth from Ovington, was staged at Gateshead. The play, entitled Mostra, was billed as "a play with live music about our very own 18th Century Newcastle composer".[8]



  1. ^"A Brief History of the Church", St John the Baptist Church, 2014, archived from the original on 29 March 2010, retrieved 6 June 2015 
  2. ^
  3. ^ abcdefStephens, Norris L. (2014). "Avison, Charles". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 September 2014. (Subscription required (help)). 
  4. ^ abcdefSouthey, Roz; Maddison, Margaret; Hughes, David (2009). The Ingenious Mr. Avison: Making Music and Money in Eighteenth Century Newcastle. Newcastle upon Tyne: Tyne Bridge Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85795-129-5. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  5. ^ ab"Newcastle Collections – Charles Avison". Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  6. ^Robert Hugill (August 2006). "MusicWeb International". Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  7. ^ abKingdon-Ward, M. (1951). "Charles Avison". Musical Times Publications Ltd. pp. 398–401. doi:10.2307/934970. Retrieved 20 September 2014. (Subscription required (help)). 
  8. ^ abcdeWhetstone, David (2014-04-25). "Play about Charles Avison takes to the stage in Gateshead". The Journal. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  9. ^ abcdefCharles, A; Dubois, P; Hayes, W (2004). Charles Avison's Essay on musical expression: with related writings by William Hayes and Charles Avison. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 978-0-75463-460-7. 
  10. ^"Avison's Scarlatti stylishly delivered | D Scarlatti Album reviews". Classic FM. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  11. ^"The Avison Ensemble". Kings Place. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
  12. ^"City Library | Newcastle City Council". 2014-06-03. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 

External links[edit]

A page from Avison's second workbook


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