Sensibility and listening in England before and after the Great War

Richards, Fiona (2017). Sensibility and listening in England before and after the Great War. In: Barlow, Helen and Rowland, David eds. Listening to Music: People, Practices and Experiences. The Open University.



This chapter draws on the diaries of two composers born in the latter part of the twentieth century – Frederick Kelly (1881–1916) and William Baines (1899–1922) – to examine a slice of listening history. Kelly was based in London and Sydney, while Baines lived in North Yorkshire, thus between them giving national, international and regional perspectives. Covering a fifteen-year period, the diaries offer very different insights. Kelly, who kept a daily journal, meticulously logs his and others’ musical activities, while Baines focuses on the feelings induced by listening. Kelly records very precise details, telling the reader what he played and to whom, and notes the reactions of his listeners. His is a very different approach to Baines’s descriptive and delicate poeticism, which is also revealed in his many rhapsodic descriptions of nature and weather. Baines tells us what he heard in concert halls and at the seaside, but, more importantly, gives profoundly personal reactions. Kelly’s writings are situated within the broad contemporary context of composers writing diaries and letters, with the main focus of the chapter on the unique perspective of Baines, whose sensibility, isolation and northern temperament profoundly affected his writing and his listening.

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