Rémy Campos

Propositions pour une histoire des pratiques théoriques: le cas de François-Joseph Fétis

Historians of music have long adopted a definition of ‘theory’ that tacitly recapitulates its traditional conception as “knowledge that remains pure speculation and does not pass over into practice” (Dictionnaire de l’Académie française, 1835). Throughout the 20th century, the historiography of music theory has generally taken notions, concepts, or successions of ideas as its object. Long ignored, the practical dimension to theoretical exertion is a field of study that remains almost blank. Thanks to the considerable collection of publications and archival materials that Fétis left behind, the study of his theoretical activities allows us not only to raise the principal questions that a pragmatic approach to music theory poses but also to bring supporting evidence to bear on answering them. This paper juxtaposes documents of differing kinds (treatises, articles, letters, library catalogues, etc.) in order to imagine theoretical production as thought constituted by activity.