Saturday, February 6, 2010

Winter Chapter Meeting, February 6, 2010 (Brandeis)

AMS-NE Winter Chapter Meeting
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Brandeis University

Presenters and Abstracts

Jeremy Leong, "The Influence of Kant in Chinese Music Education under the Pre-Communist Regime"
Is there a connection between German music scholarship and Chinese music education? On first glance, it may seem rather implausible. Yet, if one takes a closer look at the contribution of Cai Yuanpei, such an association may not sound so inconceivable after all. Despite his relative obscurity to the Anglophone world, Cai Yuanpei was among the most prominent figures during the Republican era (1911-49) in China.  In addition to being an outstanding educator, he also held key governmental and administrative positions as Minister of Education, Chancellor of Beijing University, and founding member of the music department at Beijing University and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. His achievements were not confined to the boundary of China, as his influence was also felt overseas where he was conferred honorary doctoral degrees from universities in France and the U.S. in recognition of his works. Yet, if one needs to pinpoint the most significant contribution he had made for China, it would be his advocacy of aesthetic education, a German-influenced educational paradigm that had a profound impact on Chinese music education during the Republican era. Heavily infused by Immanuel Kant’s aesthetic thoughts, his model of aesthetic education set out to transform how the process of learning was conducted. In light of the corrupted political environment he found himself trapped in, he believed that an earnest cultivation of aesthetic perception could help transform the citizens and imbue in them ethics and lofty ideals, with the eventual goal of influencing and reshaping the political structure of the Republic over time. So who exactly was Cai Yuanpei? What precisely did this “German” educational model entail? And how did it affect music education in the Republican era? This paper seeks to address these questions in detail.

Matthew Mugmon, "Making Mahler French: Bernstein’s Case for the Composer in 1960"
Gustav Mahler’s music may well be a widely accepted part of American concert life today. But 50 years ago, when Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic celebrated the 100th anniversary of Mahler’s birth with a series of concerts and lectures, Mahler’s place in the American canon was passionately debated and not so secure. Days after the beginning of the 1960 Mahler festival, critic and musicologist Paul Henry Lang outlined a typical evaluation of Mahler’s significance: “A tortured romantic who stems from the Neo-German school... Mahler’s sincerity and integrity impressed the neo-Viennese School at the opening of our century, but to most of us the agonizing conflict of this sorely tried man no longer speaks with eloquence.”

Here, I argue that in his 1960 lectures, Bernstein repackaged Mahler for his audiences by downplaying Mahler’s place in the Austro-German tradition. I demonstrate that Bernstein borrowed and adapted language from Aaron Copland’s 1941 book Our New Music as part of a larger plan to forge unlikely ties between Mahler’s music and a French-based neoclassical aesthetic. This aesthetic defined, for Bernstein, the most vital kind of 20th-century composition because rather than abandoning tonality, its composers were said to have made tonality “fresh” through objectivity, simplicity, leanness, and humor. Strikingly, Bernstein highlighted precisely those qualities in Mahler’s music. Bernstein did so, I suggest, to make Mahler’s music seem relevant to audiences in a way that meshed with Bernstein’s own view of modernism as a response to Austro-German practice.

Mark DeVoto, "Memory and Tonality in Debussy's Prélude à l'Après-midi d'un faune"
Claude Debussy's Prélude à l'Après-midi d'un faune, composed in 1894 when he was 32 years old, is rightly regarded not only as a significant forward leap in his rapidly-maturing compositional technique but also as a pivotal work in the history of expanded tonal harmony. His intent, as stated in a letter to Henri Gauthier-Villars, was to create in music a "general impression" of a dream, paralleling the Faun's effort to recover a memory as suggested in Stéphane Mallarmé's famously complex poem of 1876.

Everyone knows, and many have analyzed, the unaccompanied flute melody that begins Debussy's Prelude, which undergoes an anticlassical thematic development in about two-thirds of the work through successive disintegrations and reintegrations about the pitch-class C sharp. That pitch-class represents the oneiric kernel of the Faun's memory that is so difficult to recapture in sound. The supporting harmony for the thematic development has received less analytical attention, but it forms a necessary and coherent substructure that depends on chords with one common tone (or, more often, paired common tones) and chromatic adjacencies that are often classical and at other times sui generis. All of these are tightly organized into an overall structure of bifocal tonality — loosely describable as C-sharp minor and E major — that is entirely original for its time.

David Schulenburg, "Forged in the Workshop of J. S. Bach: The Divergent Careers and Music of Friedemann and Emanuel Bach"
The two oldest sons of Johann Sebastian Bach led strikingly different lives, yet their compositions tend to be viewed as belonging to the same so-called empfindsamer style. But despite general similarities, their works, like their careers, reveal differences so striking that one wonders whether they received the same training and parental guidance before striking out on their own.

Eric Entwistle, "Martinů and the Saint Wenceslas Chorale"
The gradual adoption of modernist trends in the music of Bohuslav Martinů coincides in a remarkable way with his use of musical elements that could be specifically identified or defined as “Czech”. In particular, Martinů’s use of the Saint Wenceslas chorale melody (“Svatý Václave”), considered to be one of the earliest monuments of Czech music, remains a prominent component of his musical language.

This paper examines the significance of Martinů’s use of Svatý Václave in musical works throughout his career and how it assumes different symbolic meanings in the varied contexts in which it appears. In Martinů’s case, the adoption of a consciously nationalistic aesthetic coincided with his determination to have his music heard on the world stage. Indeed, during his residence in Paris between the two world wars he became an active member of the musical avant-garde with experimental works that incorporated the latest compositional trends. During this time identifiable nationalist elements in a work by Martinů might, for example, become ironically dissected into collage-like textures, juxtaposed with contrasting elements for a deliberately incongruent effect, or even be absent entirely. An exception remains, however, for those works written specifically for the Czech audience back home, in which Martinů’s nationalistic idiom predominates and is enhanced, but not threatened, by modernist methods.

During World War II Martinů, as an exile residing in the United States, consciously returns to a more identifiably nationalistic idiom in his music, with corresponding political overtones. The music becomes stylistically more conservative and thus more readily communicative; these wartime works contain some of the most emotionally charged examples of the use of Svatý Václave. This paves the way for the balanced style of Martinů’s post-war works, in which the national component coexists comfortably with more modern musical characteristics.

Sarah Caissie Provost, "The Early Performed Jazz Retrospective"
Early jazz performers were aware of the development of a stylistic progression, as evidenced by jazz retrospectives offered within the first several decades of the 20th century. These performers were often commercially successful white artists who used concertized jazz retrospectives to fulfill alternative motives. These motives can be summarized in two categories: correction of perceived racial slights and exhibition of talent.

In his 1924 Aeolian Hall concert, Paul Whiteman intended to show a progression from jazz’s perceived vulgar origins through Whiteman’s own proposed future for jazz, which culminated in the premiere of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” His progression, in accordance with his personal views, downplayed the African-American contribution to the style as well as championed his own controversial brand of music.

Benny Goodman presented a five-song collection entitled “Twenty Years of Jazz,” also intended to show jazz’s development, at his 1938 Carnegie Hall concert. While Goodman’s presentation did not suggest a future direction for jazz, it also did not properly indicate jazz’s African-American roots, despite Goodman’s inclusion of the Ellington song “Blue Reverie.”

While the Whiteman performance is recognized as a racially belittling event, the Goodman concert is considered a symbol of racial progress. However, the similarities between the two programs have not been explored. Furthermore, the concertized jazz retrospective is largely ignored in existing literature. This paper considers both jazz retrospectives, exploring the ulterior intentions for the musical selections as well as larger racial and musical issues inherent in performing a retrospective at an early time in a style’s development.

Eunmi Shim, "Charlie Parker’s Influence on Lennie Tristano"
This paper discusses the musical characteristics of Charlie Parker’s 1951 recording of “All of Me,” focusing on how Parker’s use of advanced improvisational concepts influenced the jazz pianist Lennie Tristano (1919-1978). Tristano extended these concepts, especially rhythmic and harmonic displacement, chromaticism, and linear construction of the melody, in his later recordings, which in turn exerted a significant influence on other jazz musicians. Although Tristano forged an original voice during a period when bebop was the predominant style in jazz, he was deeply influenced by Parker, whom he respected as the progenitor of bebop and one of the greatest figures in jazz history.

The recording is known to have been made with Tristano on the piano and the drummer Kenny Clarke playing on a phone book or a stack of newspaper. It is of special importance for the following reasons. First, it is the only complete recording of Parker’s performance of the tune. Second, it is one of the few recordings with Parker and Tristano together. Third, it is in the unusual key of A-flat major instead of the original C major; the former is the key in which Tristano routinely played “All of Me.” On this recording Tristano only plays a supportive role but provides an interesting harmonic background in a style different from bebop pianists’, while Parker plays an exquisite solo displaying advanced harmonic language and rhythmic complexity.

The analytical approach employed in this paper differs from the traditional ones that focus on Parker’s use of motives (Thomas Owens, “Charlie Parker: Techniques of Improvisation,” 1974) or thematic materials (Henry Martin, Charlie Parker and Thematic Improvisation, 1996). A detailed analysis of Parker’s solo on “All of Me” compared with Tristano’s later recordings based on the same harmonic progression shows that Parker’s influence on Tristano was at the conceptual level rather than at the level of duplicating melodic vocabulary. Tristano himself indicated this when he criticized contemporary jazz musicians for imitating Parker’s music: “If I were Bird, I’d have all the best boppers in the country thrown into jail!”