Musicology

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 2019

28 February 2019

George E. Lewis, Columbia University
“New Music, New Subjects: The Situation of a Creole”

Sir Donald Francis Tovey’s 1949 essay “The Main Stream of Music” posited an end to the history of music. “At the present day,” Tovey lamented, “all musicians feel more or less at sea,” foreshadowing theorist Leonard Meyer’s 1967 notion of “fluctuating stasis,” an absence of stable canon that Tovey, at least, evidently hoped would be a temporary condition. However, by 2004, experimentalist Alvin Curran’s buoyant 1994 prediction of a New Common Practice “freed of all rules, stylistic conventions, codes, and even ethics” appeared to musicologist Benjamin Piekut in 2004 to amount to no common practice whatsoever–and this is to say nothing of the vast changes in both musical practices and audiences occasioned by immigration, the World Wide Web, and globalization. Now that we’ve been in the new century for a while, we can see that Sir Donald’s eschatological interregnum has been actually rather welcome to many–though by no means all. But will the metaphor of limbo suffice, or have some more purposive tropes or features appeared that already mark the musical condition of the new century’s musical experimentalism?

George E. Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University, and Area Chair in Composition. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, Lewis’s other honors include a MacArthur Fellowship (2002) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015). An Honorary Member of the American Musicological Society (2016), his book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008) received the American Book Award and the American Musicological Society’s Music in American Culture Award. Lewis is the co-editor of the two-volume Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies (2016). A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, Lewis’s work in electronic and computer music, computer-based multimedia installations, and notated and improvisative forms is documented on more than 150 recordings, including his opera Afterword (2015), which has been performed in the United States, United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic. Lewis holds honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Edinburgh, New College of Florida, and Harvard University; his music is published by Edition Peters. (https://music.columbia.edu/bios/george-e-lewis)


4 April 2019

Cormac Newark, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London
“The Operatic Canon”

Most musicological considerations of canon-formation seem to derive either from the discipline’s enthusiastic engagement with critical theory (when canons began to be seen as instruments of cultural hegemony) or from historical research focused on the notion of the work-concept. But neither body of work can satisfactorily explain the canonic discourses of what for most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was easily the most economically and culturally significant form of Western music-making. Opera, though surely culturally hegemonic in some ways, occupied a unique position for much of that period, close to court culture on the one hand and to commerce on the other, which meant that it rarely underwent the process of bourgeois sacralization that could elevate concert music (including the entire oeuvres of certain composers) to permanent greatness. As for the work-concept, opera was frequently difficult to think of in terms of fixed, finished works at all. Generally, the operatic canon appears an awkward conceptual mixture of musical genius as it was understood by the nineteenth century, socio- or even geopolitical function, and sheer staying-power in the theater.

More recently, amid concern that art music in general is now so arthritically canonical that it has ceased to be a living tradition and must therefore be dying, one hears more and more desperate pleas on behalf of the Western musical patrimony—and those specifically to do with opera are the most desperate of all. But the art form’s prognosis is complex. The repertory has, on balance, expanded (more Handel, Donizetti, early Verdi, and so on), and it is propagating itself in more flexible production formats and through a broader range of technological means (DVD, outdoor relay, live HD broadcasts in cinemas). Yet opera house administrations the world over seem in constant difficulty; what is more, in some industry definitions the canon now amounts only to a handful of titles, and is shrinking further.

These definitions and their history will form the object of this paper, which draws together the results of a collaborative research project, involving more than thirty scholars and industry professionals from Europe and North America, due to be published later this year as The Oxford Handbook of the Operatic Canon. It will consider a range of factors in the distinction between opera’s repertory and its canon, including the role played by institutions, the libretto as literature, nationalism, audience affection (and nostalgia) for the stars who created or otherwise took ownership of roles, the status of highlights, and opera’s particular dialectic of progress and reform. Finally, it will show how the tension between the qualitative and quantitative aspects of canon formation change from place to place and at different times.


11 April 2019

Farzaneh Hemmasi, University of Toronto
“Encounters with Iranian Pop Stars: Reflections on the Ethnography of Elites”

This paper views my research with and about well-known Iranian pop musicians and media producers in diaspora in relation to the issues and methods for the ethnomusicological study of elites. Elites, which I define as individuals and social groups with prodigious cultural, social and/or economic capital in relation to the general population in which they live or from which they emerge, have been central to ethnomusicological scholarship. Respected tradition bearers, master musicians, and musical celebrities have all played important roles in researchers’ knowledge acquisition and in the recordings and texts ethnomusicologists produce. At the same time, musical elites and/or experts may be underpaid, face social exclusion, or be targeted for the very outstanding qualities which attract attention in the first place. Portraying musical elites in scholarship may also be challenging given celebrities’ commitments to narratives of their own marginality. “Encounters with Iranian Pop Stars” will explore these issues while introducing audiences to the “Tehrangeles” pop, the products of the post-revolutionary Southern California Iranian popular music industry.

Farzaneh Hemmasi is Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at University of Toronto. Her interests concern popular music, celebrity, transnational media publics,  the politics of popular culture, and music in urban environments. Her general research area is Iranian popular music, transnationality, media, and politics, and her publications cover topics including the postrevolutionary political metaphorization of the Iranian female singing voice; Iranian twentieth century “New Poetry” and popular music; and the Iranian expatriate cultural industries in Southern California. In 2017, she began a collaborative ethnographic project on music scenes and cultural policy in Toronto’s Kensington Market.
 
Prof. Hemmasi received her doctorate, with distinction, from Columbia University in 2010. She has held fellowships with the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Humanities Forum and Columbia University’s Middle East Institute as well as its Institute of Social and Economic Policy and Research. Her publications have appeared in the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (2017), Popular Music (2017), Popular Communication (2017), Ethnomusicology (2013), and Mahoor Music Quarterly (2008). She also contributed to the edited volumes Vamping the Stage: Female Voices of Asian Modernities (University of Hawaii Press, 2017) and Muslim Rap, Halal Soaps, and Revolutionary Theater: Artistic Developments in the Muslim World (University of Texas Press, 2011).  Her book manuscript Tehrangeles Dreaming: Intimacy and Imagination in Southern California’s Iranian Pop Music, is forthcoming on Duke University Press.


18 April 2019

Michael Gallope, University of Minnesota
“Alice Coltrane’s Negative Grammar”

Alice Coltrane’s early musical experiences were as a pianist in a Baptist church in Detroit, though as her career matured, she increasingly drew on the mystical traditions of Hinduism. Following her husband’s death, Coltrane travelled to India and became close with the Indian guru Swami Satchidananda. During this period, Coltrane’s music changed rapidly from bebop into an almost cinematic musical fusion of a droning tanpura, string arrangements, a harp, and an electric organ. At the same time, she began to write many of her own liner notes, while publishing four volumes of devotional diaries. In these writings, Coltrane’s newfound Hindu beliefs facilitated a mystical ascent to registers of universal consciousness, while her music perplexingly ran in the opposite direction; it was often highly ornamented, dissonant, jagged, and stylistically inaccessible. This talk argues that Alice Coltrane’s mysticism stems from the way she joined opaque musical idioms to similarly obscure explanatory language—resulting in what I call a negative grammar. Her approach fractured Afro-modernist styles of bebop, while also, like Ornette Coleman, using language in ways that enhanced audiences’ sense of perplexity about her innovations. In dialogue with writings by Baraka, Mailer, Cavell, and Adorno, this talk draws broader conclusions about the ways Coltrane’s adoptions of mysticism exploited and transfigured the longstanding philosophical question of music’s ineffability.

 


MUY Symposium Speakers Fall 2018

13 September 2018

Colin Tucker and Ethan Hayden
Place-Situated Music: Contextualizing David Dunn’s PLACE

Abstract:

As experimental music discourse has frequently invoked tropes from modernist experimental science, science studies has offered productive tools for interrogating this music’s worldly entanglements. Recent writings by Benjamin Piekut have examined the discourse of John Cage in this fashion, linking its claim to be Nature’s transparent amanuensis to constructions of objectivity in modernist science. Piekut thus understands Cage’s discourse as breaking from certain tenets of modernist aesthetics while shoring up numerous assumptions of modernist science discourse.

While Piekut’s scholarship clarifies the limits of Cage’s project, the present paper approaches science studies as a way to contextualize the significance of later experimental music, elucidating its breaks with Cage and with modern science discourse. Taking Donna Haraway’s notion of situated knowledges as a point of departure, the paper outlines a case study of a neglected 1975 work, David Dunn’s day-long outdoor performance-installation PLACE, whose belated 2017 premiere was curated by the authors. Through a sequence of ten installations wherein performers imitate ambient sounds and trigger acoustic resonances with voices, bodies, instruments, electronics, and environmental materials, the piece does not objectively represent a place, nor organically integrate music into a place, but rather situates human sound making technologies’ mediations in relationship to the sonic and material environments of a place. When a Cultured violin attempts to imitate the Natural sound of the wind, acoustic distinctions between the two entities move unpredictably in and out of focus, underlining the contingency with which Culture is distinguished from Nature.

Drawing on the authors’ hands-on involvement in the piece, the paper considers how PLACE imagines experimental music as a catalyst for the collective construction and contestation of embodied knowledges of a particular place. Translating between a variety of embodied perspectives—performance practice, curatorial practice, phenomenological analysis, and cultural studies—the paper connects Haraway’s epistemological speculation to actual practices of situated music-making.

 


20 September 2018

Tammy Kernodle, Miami University
“Before I’d Be a Slave: Black Women Composers and the Promotion of Resistance Narratives in the Cold-War Era Concert Hall”

As America shifted its political consciousness in the advancement of the Cold War with Russia in the 1950s, African Americans displeased with the lack of progress in relation to civil rights and social justice began engaging in different forms of public protest.  The overt nature of this protest and the promotion of a new type of black consciousness altered the narrative and performative nature of black popular culture during the late 1950s and 1960s. This has been widely explored by scholars in relation to jazz, blues, and soul music and encompassed the contributions of both male and female performers.  However, in reference to art music, the exploration of black protest culture and post World War II black consciousness has been largely male-centered and focused on the late 1960s and early 1970s when the Black Power and Black Nationalist Movements were at their height.  Close examination of the post war activity of black composers and artists reveals that a generation of black women advanced narratives of resistance and protest in American concert halls a decade before Black Nationalism informed the works of Olly Wilson, TJ Anderson and others.  Using selected compositions of Undine Smith Moore, Margaret Bonds, and Dorothy Rudd Moore, this presentation seeks to historicize how black women composers represented the evolving consciousness of black America as it transitioned from a mantra of assimilation to activism during the 1950s and from the rhetoric of non-violence to more direct action during the late 1960s.  It examines how these composers’ post-modern interpretations of Negro spirituals and gospel hymns paralleled the burgeoning cultural awareness of traditional black folk song practices that framed the use of music by Movement organizations such as SNCC and CORE during the 1960s Southern campaigns.

 


4 October 2018

Anna Zayaruznaya, Yale University

Anna Zayaruznaya received her Ph.D. in historical musicology from Harvard University in 2010. She taught at New York University (2010–2011) and Princeton University (2011–2013) before coming to Yale in 2014. Bringing the history of musical forms and notation into dialogue with medieval literature, iconography, and the history of ideas, Zayaruznaya’s recent publications have focused on French and northern Italian music of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Her first book, The Monstrous New Art: Divided Forms in the Late Medieval Motet, explores the role of monstrous and hybrid exempla in the musical aesthetics of fourteenth-century French motets. A second book currently in progress will focus on poet, composer, and public intellectual Philippe de Vitry (1291–1361).

Zayaruznaya has published articles and reviews in venues including the Journal of the American Musicological Society, the Journal of MusicologyEarly Music HistoryDigital Philology, and Speculum, and has served on advisory and editorial boards for the Journal of Musicology and Music Theory Spectrum. In 2011 she was awarded the Van Courtlandt Elliott Prize from the Medieval Academy of America for her article “She has a Wheel that Turns…’: Crossed and Contradictory Voices in Machaut’s Motets” (Early Music History, 2009). Zayaruznaya has also received awards and fellowships from the American Musicological Society, the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton University, and the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies at Harvard University, where she spent the academic year 2013–14 as a fellow.

Selected Publications:

The Monstrous New Art: Divided Forms in the Late Medieval Motet. Music in Context. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

“Qui musicam in se habet”: Essays in Honor of Alejandro Enrique Planchart, co-ed. with Bonnie Blackburn and Stanley Boorman. American Institute of Musicology, 2015.

“‘Sanz note’ & ‘sanz mesure’: Toward a Premodern Aesthetics of the Dirge,” in Voice and Voicelessness in Medieval Europe, edited by Irit Kleiman, 155–75 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

“Hockets as Compositional and Scribal Practice in the ars nova Motet—A Letter from Lady Music,” Journal of Musicology 30 (October 2013).

“What Fortune Can Do to a Minim,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 65 (2012): 313–81.

“‘She has a Wheel that Turns…’: Crossed and Contradictory Voices in Machaut’s Motets,” Early Music History 28 (2009): 185–240.


18 October 2018

Alexis VanZalen, “‘French Classical’ and the Politics of Periodization” (Presser Award talk)


25 October 2018

AMS Preview: John Kapusta, Danielle Osterman and John Green


8 November 2018

AMS Round-up


12 November 2018

(Monday 4:00-5:30 in MC320): SEM paper run-through (MC320) featuring Anaar Desai-Stephens, Stephen Johnson, and Wenzhuo Zhang


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.


 

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