Research

Keri’s main research interests in musicology include Joseph Haydn, 18th-century sensibility, keyboard music – especially the keyboard fantasia and its changing aesthetics and ideological associations – as well as Leo Tolstoy and Vaughan Williams’ philosophies of music. 

Keri’s dissertation “Interpreting Sensibility in Haydn’s Keyboard Sonatas” explores the intersection of Joseph Haydn’s keyboard music and the 18th-century culture of sensibility. It seeks to hear Haydn’s keyboard music in accordance with the 18th-century understanding of sensibility. It grew out of two concerns: the reception history of Haydn’s keyboard music and the problematic categorizations of sensibility (Empfindsamkeit) as a musical style and a historical period. Reluctant to treat sensibility or Empfindsamkeit as a musical-stylistic or periodized term, the dissertation scrutinises 18th-century philosophical, moral, religious, aesthetic, physiological, medical, and musical writing to establish sensibility as primarily a human disposition central to the life in the century. It adopts an interdisciplinary approach consisting of music analysis, archival research, textual analysis, and cultural studies.

The dissertation examines sensibility’s self-forgetful and self-reflexive attributes through Hob. XVI: 46 in connection with the German clavichord culture of improvisation, hears sensibility as religious melancholy through Hob. XVI: 20 in light of Haydn’s Catholic faith, and studies sensibility’s “anti-mechanical” and flexible nature through Hob. XVI: 35–39 in view of the contemporary physiological theory that perceives the body as a musical instrument saturated with medical meaning for sensibility.

It also examines the embodiment of contemporary ideals of sensibility such as innocence and politeness in Hob. XVI: 40–42 in reference to not only the aristocratic culture of the Esterházys but also Richardsonian sentimental novels, operatic works, and female conduct-books; contextualizes Hob. XVI: 50 and 52 in the 18th-century English culture of satire which seemingly contradicts the decorum of courteous sensibility; and interprets the Adagio movements of Hob. XVI: 49 and 52 through the lens of Novalis and E. T. A. Hoffman’s writing on romantic sensibility. 

It uses musical tools such as topic theory and sonata theory, draws from the early biographies of Haydn and Haydn’s letters, and analyses contemporary visual arts (August Freidrich Oelenhainz, Angelika Kaufmann, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, and George Romney). It further integrates the philosophical frameworks of Nelson Goodman (the status of style) and Michel Foucault (technology of the self, panopticon theory, hierarchical observation) as well as Herman Bavinck’s critique of Pietism. It also refers to and analyses philosophical writing such as those by Adam Smith, Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacque Rousseau, David Hume, Edmund Burke, and Mary Wollstonecraft; sentimental novels such as those by Samuel Richardson, Laurence Sterne, Henry Mackenzie, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Frances Burney; musical and aesthetic writing such as those by Johann George Sulzer, Heinrich Christoph Koch, Daniel Gottlob Türk, Johann Mattheson, Friedrich Daniel Schubart, C. P. E. Bach, William Hogarth, Novalis, and E. T. A. Hoffman; memoirs, travel accounts, biographical articles by Charles Burney; religious writing by Christian Fürchtegott Gellert, Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, Edward Young, and Gerhard Tersteegen; poetry by Hannah More and Robert Burns; physiological and medical treatises such as those by Théophile de Bordeu, Josef Leopold Auenbrugger, and Seguin Henry Jackson; and English jestbooks and satirical work such as those by Jonathan Swift. It also covers the receptions of Haydn by figures ranging from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, John Keats, Robert Schumann to pianists like Sviatoslav Richter, András Schiff, and Alfred Brendel.

Keri’s next musicological research examines the relationships between the fantasy as a musical genre and the fantastic as an aesthetic or ideological category in the early 20th century. It focuses specifically on Scriabin’s piano fantasies and fantastic works to examine the transformation of the referential universe of both the fantasy and the fantastic. It explores the emergence of the concept of fantasizing as a mode related to intoxication in light of Scriabin’s fascination with Nietzsche’s philosophy and theosophy.