Favorite Harmonia Episodes: Alfred C. Kinsey’s ‘Music and Love’

28

October
2010

After five seasons as writer for Harmonia and with over one-hundred and fifty programs produced, there are several episodes that stand out in my mind as having been unusually rewarding to put together. This is one in a series of my favorite Harmonia episodes.

It started with a friend telling me that Alfred C. Kinsey was an early music fanatic. I can’t say whether or not he was (even now), but that’s all I needed to make a special visit to the Kinsey Institute library. There I discovered a copy, or, more accurately, a proof of an 1950s article Kinsey wrote for High Fidelity magazine on which the entire program is based. He gave the article a suggestive title, “Music and Love.”

There was one little detail, however, that I was preoccupied with as the show began to take shape.

How do you write about the world’s most famous (and controversial) sex therapist and not mention the word “sex”? (This was a program for a general audience, after all.)

Here’s the introduction.

The famed biologist and behavioral scientist Alfred C. Kinsey revealed a life-long love of music in a 1956 article for High Fidelity magazine. Published in the same year he passed away, Kinsey’s love was previously known only to close friends, colleagues, as well as his family. He began the article by posing a question:

“There is a science of sound and an art of music. As a scientist I am supposed to be interested in the science of sound and not in the art of music – or am I?”

We go on to learn that Kinsey’s high school years were spent amassing a record collection, the first of three he would have throughout his life. Given that his family had little money to spend on such luxuries, he managed to acquire records by requesting them as gifts for birthdays and Christmases. He also bought them himself from the money he earned teaching piano lessons.

For the rest of the article, Kinsey writes about the music and the type of records that made up each collection. We discover that music from the Renaissance, baroque, and classical periods was an integral part of them.

The music in the show called for historical recordings of music he owned—Mozart (Leon Goossens), Beethoven (Flonzaley String Quartet), and Scarlatti (Wanda Landowska)—which was doable, but there were only three (out of four) segments worth of music. Kinsey gave some detail about which composers and ensembles he loved, and which pieces he enjoyed most, but I still needed a closing segment.

The solution was to use the music of and pose a question about a composer he mentioned but gave no details: Imagine what his reaction might have been to a recording of the German baroque ensemble Musica Fiata performing pieces by Giovanni Gabrieli on period instruments?

Listen (click through): Alfred C. Kinsey’s “Music and Love”

(A detail from a 1953 Time Magazine  cover featuring Kinsey; photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Learn More: Visit the Kinsey Institute website.

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