Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Tambora Climate Disaster and How It Influenced the Development of Lieder in 1815-1816

John Constable, The Quarters Behind Alresford Hall, 1816

The light in this 1816 John Constable painting seems to be completely wrong. Why?

Over the years I've been fascinated with the second decade of the 19th century, and why musical output changed so much during this time. The list of active composers dropped to a trickle, almost no symphonies were written, just a handful of operas, but plenty of small works. What happened?

I finally figured it out, and my article for the May-June 2021 edition of the NATS Journal of Singing spells it out: in 1815 Mount Tambora erupted in the South Pacific, leading to a global climate catastrophe which seriously impacted the climate and economy of Europe. In the article I make the correlation between the onset of the catastrophe, its fallout across Europe and the development of lieder as a viable artistic genre, specifically in the music of Franz Schubert and Ludwig van Beethoven, living a few minutes away from each other in Vienna (although they almost certainly hadn't met yet). 

I would like to say a huge word of thanks to Margo Garrett for her constant encouragement, and who was instrumental in helping me bring this idea to fruition for her Collab Corner in the NATS Journal. Margo also was kind enough to send me some difficult-to-find German sources from her library that helped me to trace the exact locations of Beethoven in the spring of 1815. 

This Isn’t the First New Normal: Finding Correlations Between the Tambora Climate Disaster and the Development of Lieder in 1815-16 (direct pdf link)

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