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Alexander Rehding is the Fanny Peabody Professor of Music at Harvard University, an affiliate of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, and an associate at the Center for European Studies. His work lies at the crossroads of music history and theory. His publications include Hugo Riemann and the Birth of Modern Musical Thought (Cambridge Univresity Press, 2003) and Music and Monumentality: Commemoration and Wonderment in Nineteenth-Century Germany (Oxford University Press, 2009). While his work has focused on European music of the 19th–20th centuries, Rehding is interested in the transfer of music from non-Western contexts during different ages, using different technologies—for instance, as in the group-curated exhibition Transmission/Transformation: Sounding China in Enlightenment Europe (2011)—and more broadly in media archaeology and sound studies.
This year, Rehding explores the tense relations between 19th-century musicians and scientists. Although acoustics offered some penetrating insights into the nature of sound, musicians were often noticeably reluctant to accept these findings. The reason for this reluctance is easy to understand: while romantic aesthetics raised music up to new philosophical heights, the material reality of acoustics threatened to drag it down again.
Rehding holds degrees from the University of Cambridge and has received a number of fellowships and prizes, including from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He was the convener of a John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures, Hearing Modernity, which explored sound studies from an interdisciplinary perspective.