Spatial Imageries in Music and Music Criticism. Shifting Aesthetic Paradigms, the Reception of Music, and the Built Environment in Fin-de-Siècle Belgium.
Circles such as Les XX and La Libre Esthétique showed that the consumption of art and music in fin de siècle Belgium was a distinctively private matter, often situated in the domestic and private spaces of bourgeois society, like homes or art studios. Yet, tastes were also part of a swiftly industrializing, modern public space. In this paradoxical context, and precisely because of it, art and music, like the hybrid domestic environment in which they were accommodated, were means to a more radically private, interiorized, subjective sense of individual experience and sociability. Especially against the broader background of symbolism, its aesthetic and societal convictions, this dynamic involved the development of private, personal strategies of distancing, of a search for depth, of withdrawal and even absent-mindedness in the modern world as a problematic 'surface', and of a deep sense of the ephemerality of reality that ultimately only existed in memories. These strategies entailed the exploration of a panoply of spatiotemporal metaphors that were revealing of the complex subjectivity of the modern consumer, caught up between an ideal of interiorisation and the challenges of modern life that prompted this ideal. As for example the villa-studio of Fernand Khnopff shows, these strategies also guided the architectural organisation of the domestic spaces in which art and music flourished, through partitions, circulation, and movement, while triggering highly subjective and inward responses from the part of their visitors. The aim of this project is threefold. Based upon a body of architectural sources, music criticism, aesthetic writings, ego-documents and programs will be studied 1. how, because of its status of symbolism, its ephemerality and connection with memory, music played a prominent role in the development of these strategies, or how music exemplified these strategies; 2. how this evolution influenced aesthetic paradigms, following the legacy of music and spatial language in Romanticism, especially by going into the reception of Schumann in this later period; 3. and how this role intersected with the way music was programmed, lived, and assessed in the concrete architectural environment of the fin de siècle in Belgium.