In conceiving the ideal of the man or woman of sensibility, many eighteenth-century philosophers and writers described the human body as a living instrument. The Austrian physician Josef Leopold Auenbrugger, who wrote the libretto for Salieri’s Der Rauchfangkehrer (1781), held just such a view. Auenbrugger’s musical sensibility led to his invention of the percussive technique as a diagnostic method for cardiac and respiratory diseases, a method that has received little attention by music historians despite widespread recognition in medical studies. This article reassesses the significance of Auenbrugger’s work, arguing that his musical-medical understanding of sensibility, as demonstrated in his treatise Inventum Novum (1761), effectively reinforces the eighteenth-century idea that the responsive body functions like a sensitive string and percussive instrument. Not only so, but Auenbrugger’s theory also offers applications to Haydn’s “Auenbrugger” sonatas, dedicated to Leopold Auenbrugger’s daughters, Caterina Franziska and Marianna.
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