Gerald D. and Norma Feldman Lecture: Music and Work

November 3 marked the day of the highly anticipated Gerald D. and Norma Feldman Lecture, an annual event held to honor the life and work of IES’ beloved former director, Gerald D. Feldman. This year, IES had the privilege of hosting Celia Applegate, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Chair of History at Vanderbilt University, at the Bancroft Hotel, where she gave a talk on music’s vital role in shaping the German nation.

Specifically, she discussed how the history of music and the history of work are intertwined, revealing the affinities between “homo faber” (working man) and “homo ludens” (playing man). Applegate focused her lecture on Germany in the half-century before the Great War, a period in which the precise relationship between music and work interested a myriad of composers, scholars, musicians, and workers. One such example can be found in Richard Wagner’s music drama Siegfried, wherein Siegfried forges a sword to the rhythm of the score, a clip of which Applegate showed to demonstrate music as intrinsic to working and living in the world. Later, music developed a more “sacred” or “transcendent” connotation—as opposed to being associated with labor or play—with the advent of the Romantics and their preoccupation with emotional fulfillment and spiritual transcendence.

Applegate also spoke about the work of German economist Karl Bücher, whose book Arbeit und Rhythmus was critical to the study of labor, music and the human body, and their relation to economic life. Following the talk came a lovely reception for the 120 guests, complete with a luxurious array of hors d’oeuvres and music provided by the student cello group “Celli”—a fitting and beautiful conclusion to a stimulating lecture. You can watch Applegate's lecture on Youtube.