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Musical Sociability in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. Students from within the specialization the course belongs to have right of way. It is not accessible for BA students.


Personal exchange, discourse, and sociability characterized a number of cultural practices in the Age of Enlightenment: playing theater in small private circles, reading together, collecting art and natural history objects, as well as listening to and making music. In addition to entertainment, there was always a moment of learning and social positioning. Regardless of whether one gathered in an aristocratic, monastic, or bourgeois setting, making music together had social implications: It was an expression of a particular habitus. Provided that the music played and sung was publicly available, the participants were part of the musical public, even if such gatherings took place in private homes. Moreover, social gatherings were a forum for a rational-critical debate (Habermas: ‘kritisches Räsonnement’), whether it concerned music, theater, or politics––in times of political restrictions more so than coffee houses and newspapers.

Over the decades, more and more people participated in such gatherings, which fostered a growing market for sheet music, instruments, and music lessons. The development of the musical public sphere that linked the 18th and 19th centuries is characterized by both an expansion of the number of participants and a process of institutionalization. While initially chamber music in the salon was the predominant mode of musical sociability, soon amateur orchestras and later also choirs appeared, both often organized by music societies, which were founded in large numbers to strengthen and expand bourgeois musical culture.

The seminar consists of the reading and joint discussion of individual book chapters and professional articles. In addition, students are required to write and present a paper from their own area of interest that relates to the seminar topic. In addition to musicology, points of connection in a wide range of disciplines are conceivable, such as cultural studies, history, sociology, architecture and art, literature, performance studies, and others.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;

  2. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;

  3. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  4. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  5. The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;

  6. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;

  7. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;

  8. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  9. The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;

  10. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student has acquired:

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subtrack as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
    -in the specialisation Politics, Culture and National Identities, 1789 to the Present: political practices, symbols and perceptions, nationalism, and national identities in a cultural and societal context from 1800;

  2. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation Politics, Culture and National Identities, 1789 to the Present: international comparison and transfer; the analysis of the specific perspectives of secondary studies; a cultural-historical approach of politics and a political-historical approach of culture.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:

  1. Has acquired basic knowledge and understanding of the social functions of making music;

  2. Has acquired a thorough understanding of the concept of (musical) sociability;

  3. Has acquired in depth knowledge of one particular case study;

  4. (ResMA only): Has acquired the ability to use a more complex corpus of sources in comparison to regular MA students; and/or the ability to set up and carry out original research which raises new questions, pioneers new approaches and/or and points to new directions for future research.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)

This means that students must attend every session of the course. Students who are unable to attend are required to notify the lecturer beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the lecturer will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, the student will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Participation in group discussions pertaining to the reading material
    measured learning objectives: 4, 7, 9, 11-12 (ResMA also: 10)

  • Presentation of the paper (ca. 25 minutes)
    measured learning objectives: 1-9 (ResMA also: 10)

  • Final paper (ca. 7.500 words, based on research in primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 1-9, 13-15 (ResMA also: 16)


  • Participation: 20%

  • Presentation of paper: 20%

  • Written paper: 60%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised. 

Reading list

  • Anja Bunzel, Natasha Loges (eds.), Musical salon culture in the long nineteenth century (Woodbridge / Rochester: The Boydell Press, 2019)

  • Caryl Leslie Clark, Sarah Day-O'Connell (eds.), The Cambridge Haydn encyclopedia (Cambridge / New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019)

  • Mary Sue Morrow, Concert life in Haydn's Vienna: aspects of a developing musical and social institution (Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon Press, 1989)

  • Nancy November, Beethoven's symphonies arranged for the chamber: sociability, reception, and canon formation (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2021)

  • Jim Samson (ed.), The Cambridge history of nineteenth-century music (Cambridge / New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001)

  • W. Dean Sutcliff, Instrumental music in an age of sociability : Haydn, Mozart and friends (Cambridge / New York: Cambridge University Press, 2020)

  • Paul Watt, Sarah Collins, Michael Allis (eds.), The Oxford handbook of music and intellectual culture in the nineteenth century (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020)


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.


  • For course related questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.