Musicology Events

The Musicology Department sponsors two series of presentations:

  • The Colloquium series offers talks by current faculty and graduate students.
  • The Symposium series presents prominent guest speakers from other institutions.

Both series are open to the Eastman community. All events take place on Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. in NSL 404 (Sibley Library seminar room) unless otherwise noted.


MUY Symposium Speakers Spring 2018

1 March 2018

Olivia Bloechl, University of Pittsburgh
“The Politics of Glory: Angelic Citizenship and Contemplative Choruses in Old Regime Opera”

What can opera’s choral groups tell us about how artists imagined publicness in non-democratic societies? In this talk I broach this question in the context of Old Regime France and its premier opera form, the tragédie en musique. Choruses in praise of authority figures are very common in this genre, and scholars have rightly taken such choruses as evidence for the genre’s ideological nature. However, ideological explanations can’t account for some these choruses’ most salient features or their striking longevity in serious French opera (from the 1670s through the Revolutionary period). In this talk, I’ll draw on Giorgio Agamben’s archaeology of glory as a basis for a new understanding of what I label “contemplative choruses” of praise, celebration, and acclamation, as elaborating a doxological myth of citizenship modeled on the angels. Looking at examples from across the repertory, I propose contemplative singing as the particular vocation of the chorus in Old Regime opera, and an unexpected source of its politicality. While the tragédie’s creators regularly used choruses in support of the Bourbon monarchy, I argue that this political utility represents the genre’s capture of an “inoperativity” proper to contemplative song. Inoperativity, I conclude, is the political core of opera’s contemplative choruses, in which singing with others—and enjoying singing—opens a human potentiality beyond any governing purpose.


29 March 2018

Ryan Dohoney, Northwestern University
“Wandelweiser; or, Friendship’s Silence”

My presentation offers reflections on an ongoing ethnographic project with the Wandelweiser experimental music community. I conducted preliminary research in Düsseldorf, Germany in the summer of 2017 where I attended the Klangraum events at a small art gallery. Antoine Beuger—manager of the publishing and recording outlets of Wandelweiser—curated a week-long gathering of musicians and theater artists affiliated with the collective who presented new work. 

While usually dispersed across several countries (Germany, Switzerland, Canada, the U.S., the U.K. et al.), Klangraum provided an unusual time of close physical proximity and social interaction which materialized a collective otherwise maintained by digital contact and social media. I was struck by Beuger’s insistence that it was friendship, more than any other attribute, that holds the group together. This grounding in intimacy gives Wandelweiser its distinct form as a non-sovereign collective and not the corporate identity of a network.
My study of Wandelweiser’s politics of friendship proceeds from an analysis of my repeated performance of Stefan Thut’s text piecealong (2016) with the assembled musicians. The community of old friends and new collaborators had a palpable sense of ascetic intimacy emergent from the productions of nearly-inaudible sound. This quiet sensibility prompts further reflections on the relationship between friendship and silence in dialog with Arendt, Derrida, Foucault, and Nietzsche.

5 April 2018

Anna Zayaruznaya, Yale University
“You Say You Want a Revolution…”: The Ancients, The Moderns, and Jacobus, c. 1280–1360

The transition between the “ars antiqua” and the “ars nova” in fourteenth-century French music is usually described as the work of a decade or two: first theorized in the Notitia of Johannes de Muris (c. 1319), first applied, in part, in the interpolated Roman de Fauvel (c. 1317–22), the new system is evidently in full force in the Ars nova treatises attributed to Philippe de Vitry (c. 1325), which cite a number of motets in the new style. The papal decretal Docta sanctorum suggests that by c. 1326 there was already conservative backlash against the new, smaller note-values, and this backlash gets it full airing in the final book of Jacobus’s polemical Speculum musice, usually dated c. 1330. By 1330, Leo Schrade long ago suggested, the ars nova was no longer new.

But a close examination of French and English treatises and compositions dateable to the first half of the fourteenth century suggests that this chronology is in need of updating. Although the ars nova treatises and motets cited by them are sometimes used to date Jacobus’s treatise, his seventh book is a linchpin in the chronology of those very treatises and compositions. Much of the received chronology thus rests on circular reasoning. A fresh reading of Speculum musice, book VII suggests that Jacobus was writing at a time when the ars nova was hardly new. It is clear that Jacobus was older than the moderni and that he finished his treatise as an old man, but he also reveals that he wrote over a long span of time and revised repeatedly to take account of changing theory and practice. His notational proclivities are those of a person who came of age in a late-Franconian idiom that was prevalent until c. 1320. Although the earlier books of the Speculum musice probably do date to the mid-1320s, the latest notational developments mentioned by Jacobus are considerably later. A re-dating of Jacobus in turn invites broad reconsideration of the transition between ars antiqua and ars nova and of the underlying periodization schemes involved—schemes that use ars to define aetas.


MUY Symposium Speakers Fall 2017

18 September 2017, 3:00 pm, Hatch Recital Hall

Jeremy Denk
The Glenn Watkins Lecture: “The Ten Worst Things About Being A Musician, and What To Do About Them.”



21 September 2017

Dan Blim, University of Rochester Humanities Center
“Some Issues with Reissues: The Case of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music”

Reissues of older recordings are a mainstay of the music industry, sometimes elaborately produced for fans, sometimes available at a budget price for new listeners. While much scholarship has examined the process of recording music, relatively little attention has been given to the act of reissuing recordings. To shed light on this process, I consider a single album: the Anthology of American Folk Music, released by Folkways Records in 1952. The Anthology was itself a reissuing of older recordings—one of the first—assembled by avant-garde artist Harry Smith from his enormous record collection. Forty-five years later, the Smithsonian reissued the landmark Anthology on CD. Drawing on Smith’s comments about the album and on archival records at the Smithsonian that detail their process of reissuing it, I consider how these twin reissues demonstrate how the act of reissuing does not merely mechanically reproduce, but instead actively edits, revises, and constructs new meanings within the music

5 October 2017

Joan Rubin, Director, University of Rochester Humanities Center
“The Popularization of Classical Music and the Universe of Print in Mid-Twentieth-Century America”

This paper, based on my keynote at the “Music and the Middlebrow” conference last June in London, explores the ways in which the technologies of the phonograph record and the radio intersected with institutions and practices of print culture to shape the terms on which middlebrow mediators popularized classical music in mid-twentieth-century America.  Examples include the efforts of the National Committee for Music Appreciation to support the distribution of recordings by public libraries; the creation of Music Appreciation records by the Book-of-the-Month Club; and the activities of Sigmund Spaeth, David Randolph, and other radio commentators who brought out books on how to listen to classical music.  The paper addresses the inadequacy of the “sacralization of culture” model as a description of these phenomena and suggests that musicologists and cultural historians need to take the universe of print into account in constructing a complete picture of the dissemination of classical music in modern America.

19 October 2017

Danielle Fosler-Lussier, Ohio State University
“Transnationalism Comes Home: UNESCO, USIA, and Women’s Advocacy for Music”

When we think about the musical cold war, we tend to think about powerful institutions. The 1950s and 60s saw the development of conspicuous music programs sponsored by government programs, like the United States Information Agency—and non-governmental organizations, like UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Yet these institutions had limited means. The USIA had a tiny music budget, and its operations were hemmed in by regulations and Congressional investigations. UNESCO made lots of recommendations, but had no regulatory force. Most importantly, these institutions were composed of individual actors and constituent groups, who held different (and often competing) agendas. To a striking extent, the ability of UNESCO and the USIA to enact musical transnationalism depended on people working outside those institutions. The scholarly literature on the “state-private network” has focused on ways in which the US government gained legitimacy by using citizen groups as front organizations. This presentation demonstrates that several non-governmental organizations, operated principally by a network of volunteer women, not only amplified the power of cold war institutions but also shaped the agendas of those institutions.