Margaret Fuller, Beethoven, and Revolution in the Minds of Women

According to nineteenth-century concert-goer and early music critic Margaret Fuller, music born of great genius, like one of Beethoven’s symphonies, enters the mind, “develop[s] the spirit to new consciousness” through universal harmonies. Hearing some of the first ever performances of Beethoven on American shores, Fuller believed music has the power to awaken both body and spirit, and inspire a revolution in the minds of women. Fuller was part of a generation of women who were the most widely educated in music up to that time in United States history: American women had more hands on American-made piano keys than ever before, which marks a major shift away from their Puritan forebears who regarded any music outside of psalmodies and hymns as devilish. What separated her from her female contemporaries were her other accomplishments: Fuller was studying Greek, metaphysics, philosophy, and reading French and Italian literature. With a rigorous education, a right almost exclusively reserved for young boys at the time, Fuller would become an exceptionally accomplished intellectual, and she used her education to host a women-only Conversations series to awaken her peers.

In this Olio, we will listen to musical performances by Groupmuse to both feel and think through what Fuller calls the “rapid transition; the spiral and undulatory movement” of music. Fuller’s erotic experiences listening to Beethoven were crucial to her intellectual and sexual awakening. Likewise, playing music was important to many American women in the nineteenth century who were learning to engage their bodies to take up space and be heard. We will think about how music is linked to an awareness of space, body, and self, and how that awareness translates into self-assertion and even social revolution through conversation, listening, and community organizing. How does music act on the individual and the collective to make one feel a part of something greater?

Location: Strand Bookstore

828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

The Rare Book Room at Strand Bookstore boasts an elegant venue for our Friday night residency.

Interdisciplinary Learning with the Best Professors

Think Olio is not about learning a new skill or adding credentials to your resume. It is about getting together with other people and expanding our worldview. It exists as a conduit for fruitful discussions, a dissent from the regurgitation of facts, and an embrace of new perspectives.

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Sep 19

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