Skip to main content

James Q. Davies


I was born in Cape Town, taking my first degree (majoring in piano performance) at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, the city of my upbringing.Commonwealth scholarships allowed me to spend time in the UK: first at the RNCM in Manchester and then at the University of Cambridge where I began a doctoral dissertation. This historiographic project, completed at Gonville & Caius College, involved the study of a single year: 1829. I was later awarded a Junior Research Fellowship in Music, also at Caius.

Articles on colonial melodrama, diva-concepts, aging castrati, histories of pianistic touch, township opera and danced Beethoven symphonies was published in 19th-Century Music, Opera Quarterly, Keyboard Perspectives, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Cambridge Opera Journal, and elsewhere. An article entitled “Julia’s Gift: The Social Life of Scores” won the Jerome Roche Prize in 2007. Essays on vocal belonging and objectivity appear in Journal of the American Musicological Society (2015) and Representations (2015).

My book, Romantic Anatomies of Performance, was published by the University of California Press in 2014. This monograph addresses immersive modes of music making in the European nineteenth century, exploring music’s role in the political cultivation of bodies. It describes a historical phase wherein, in the words of one reviewer, “new norms about music’s relation to the body emerged and began to organize new relations of social power.”

Current research extends from the book’s focus on “personal voice” (which works to denaturalize liberal certainties about “creativity” and “expression”) to larger questions of materiality writ large. Sound Knowledge: Music and Science in London is a book co-edited with Ellen Lockhart for the University of Chicago Press. My chapter in this volume moves in the direction of a second book project, which addresses musical knowing and being in the “global nineteenth century.” The aim is to interpret the emergence of transcendental, globalist, or idealist aesthetics in Europe as a byproduct of the material contingencies of imperial expansion. This means documenting the social placement, not just of political anatomies, but of political geographies. The study explores how people engage in the active placement of land through the active use of musical instruments.

Music 128A/AM (Opera); Music 70 (Music History); Music 150C (Piano Performance); Music 98/198 (Piano Rep Class); Music 49A (Thinking about Music); Music 179 (Voice); Music 179 (Pianism); Music 27 (Introduction to Western Music); Music 170 (Schubert to Brahms); Music 220 (Material Romanticism); Music 220 (Brain Music: Deep Listening); Music 220 (Political Anatomies of Voice); Music 220 (19th-Century Music Tech)

Sound Knowledge: Music and Science in London, 1789-1851, co-editor Ellen Lockhart (University of Chicago Press, 2016)
Romantic Anatomies of Performance (University of California Press, 2014)
Reviews: Dana Gooley, Journal of the American Musicological Society 68/3 (2015), 687-692; “’Hands’ and ‘Voices’,” Elisabeth Le Guin, Sound Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 1/1 (2015); Stephen Brown, “No Hands,” The Times Literary Supplement (3 April 2015).

“Pneumotypes: Jean de Reszke’s High Pianissimos and the Occult Sciences of Breathing,” Opera and Science in the Long Nineteenth Century, eds. Benjamin Walton and David Trippett (Oxford University Press, forthcoming); “Instruments of Empire,” Sound Knowledge: Music and Science in London (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming in late 2015); “Gautier’s Diva: the first French uses of the term,” The Arts of the Prima Donna, eds. Rachel Cowgill and Hilary Poriss (Oxford University Press, 2012), 123-46.

“‘Ah! non pensar che pieno’: The Progress of an Aria,” Cambridge Opera Journal (2016); “On Being Moved/Against Objectivity,” Representations 132/1 (2015), 79-87; “Voice Belongs” in Colloquy: “Why Voice Now?,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 68/3 (2015), 677–81; “Going for a Song,” Early Music 41/1 (2012), 163-4; with Sheila Boniface Davies, ‘“So Take This Magic Flute and Blow. It Will Protect Us As We Go”: Impempe Yomlingo (2007–11) and South Africa’s Ongoing Transition’, The Opera Quarterly 28/1 (2012), 54-71; “Struggling with the Order of Things: SASRIM 2011,” SAMUS: South African Music Studies 30 (2011); with Lindiwe Dovey, “Bizet in Khayelitsha: U-Carmen eKhayelitsha as audio-visual transculturation,” Journal of African Media Studies 2/1 (2010) 39-53; “Reflecting on Reflex, or Another Touching New Fact about Chopin,” Keyboard Perspectives II (2009), 55-82 ; “Julia’s Gift: the social life of scores, ca. 1830,” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 131/2 (2006), 287-309 [awarded the Jerome Roche Prize]; “Melodramatic Possessions: South Africa, The Flying Dutchman and the Imperial Stage,” The Opera Quarterly 21/3 (2005), 1-19; “Veluti in Speculum: the twilight of the castrato,” Cambridge Opera Journal 17/3 (2005), 271-301; “Dancing the Symphonic: Beethoven-Bochsa’s Symphonie pastorale,” 19th-Century Music 27/1 (2003), 25-47.