“Human voices are alone themselves sufficient”: Protestant and Catholic currents in the listening experiences of an Anglo-Prussian marriage

Barlow, Helen (2017). “Human voices are alone themselves sufficient”: Protestant and Catholic currents in the listening experiences of an Anglo-Prussian marriage. In: Barlow, Helen and Rowland, David eds. Listening to Music: People, Practices and Experiences. The Open University.

URL: http://ledbooks.org/proceedings2017/#sec_32_h1

Abstract

Listening experiences can be an illuminating biographical tool – a source of insight into a life and personality, and of vivid illustrations of an entire framework of values and beliefs. In the case of one Anglo-Prussian couple, Charles and Frances Bunsen, listening experiences cast light on the personalities and spiritual lives of two devout Protestants whose professional life in the Prussian diplomatic service brought them into close contact with the early nineteenth-century Papal Court. The Bunsens lived in Rome for 21 years, frequently attending services in St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. Here they encountered the music of the Roman Catholic tradition and fell under the particular spell of Palestrina. These listening experiences would have a lasting impact on their ideas about sacred music, not least on Charles’s project of writing a German Protestant liturgy. Subsequently, they also lived in London and in Germany; their experiences of sacred music in Catholic and Protestant traditions were thus many and varied. Drawing on the Bunsens’ published letters and on archival sources, this chapter considers the Protestant spirituality that underpinned their listening and the Catholic influences that overlaid it.

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