Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fall Chapter Meeting, October 1, 2011 (Capital Community College)

AMS-NE Chapter Meeting
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Capital Community College

Max DeCurtins, "Changing Contexts for Bach Reception in Israel"

In February 1927, an all-Bach concert at Terra Santa College appeared in the performance series of the Jerusalem Musical Society. The program notes began: “Bach occupies in the musical world the same position as Moses in the religious. He established its Torah on which everything else was subsequently built.” This venerating prose, read by attendees at one of the earliest documented Bach performances in the future State of Israel, offers a glimpse into the beginnings of the reception of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music there. The language is nothing if not charged—with religious ideas as well as ideas of musical heritage. The conflation of the musical and the religious stems from the nineteenth-century German context from which many Zionist movements began.
The program notes almost seem to proclaim the secure position of Bach in Israel a fait accompli. Forty-one years after the Terra Santa concert, the St. Matthew Passion had its premiere there. During the performance, a part of the Israel Festival of 1968 marking the twentieth anniversary of independence, a group of Orthodox yeshiva students broke into the hall in protest and began to quarrel with the performers. The critical commentary and letters to the editor that followed suggest that the Passion had touched a nerve. The St. John Passion—often cited as more ‘openly’ anti-Semitic—would not have its Israeli premiere until 1993 (under a guest conductor). Today, performances of the Passions, such as the St. John Passion given in early 2011 by the young period performance group The Israeli Bach Soloists, are well-attended and praised by critics. This paper will trace the changing contexts for Israeli Bach reception and describe the influence of period performance in shaping them.

David Schneider, "Mad for her Country: Melinda’s Insanity, the Csárdás, and Erkel’s Nationalist Dramaturgy in Bánk bán"

Framed by Béla Bartók’s criticism of Ferenc Erkel’s nationally inappropriate style in his polemic “On Hungarian Music,” this paper examines, on the one hand, the overlap between the conventions of the bel canto Italian mad scene and the structure of verbunkos in act 3, scene 1 of Erkel’s Bánk bán, and, on the other, the dramaturgical and national significance of Erkel’s particular mixture of such international and Hungarian traditions. In particular, I consider the seeming incongruence between the typically celebratory mood of the csárdás and its function as the cabaletta of Melinda’s mad scene as an expression of Hungarian national preoccupation with victimhood (propagated by such foundational national texts as Mihály Vörösmárty’s 1836 Szózat, which has served as Hungary’s “second national anthem”). Melinda’s mad scene takes place on the banks of the Tisza River on the Great Hungarian Plain, a location of central importance to Hungarian national identity. This environment, which Erkel and his librettist invented for the mad scene, reinforces Melinda’s tragic role as a symbol of the nation. With eye and ear attuned to Hungarian traditions on several different levels, a close reading of this scene demonstrates that even when Erkel works within well-worn traditions of the international opera stage, he does so in a manner specifically suited to the spirit of nineteenth-century Hungarian nationalism. 

Klara Moricz, "Symphonies and Funeral Games: Lourie’s Reinterpretation of Stravinsky’s Neoclassicism"

One of the last works of Arthur Vincent Lourié (1892-1966) is his Funeral Games in Honor of Chronos for 3 flutes, piano and cymbals (1964). A little known Russian composer, Lourié was one of Stravinsky’s most influential confidants in the 1920s and early 1930s in Paris and a propagator of his new neoclassical aesthetics. Lourié dedicated his Funeral Games to the memory of Abbé Roger Bréchard, a Catholic priest who, like Lourié, was a member of Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain’s circle in Paris in the 1920s. Aspects of Lourié’s preoccupation with the passing of time, with Greek themes, with Maritain’s neo-Thomist philosophy, and with his Russian past are all present in his Funeral Games.
In this paper I explore Lourié’s musical references to his Greek topic; the work’s neoclassical characteristics that show how closely Lourié modeled his Funeral Games on Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Winds Instruments, which he arranged for piano at Stravinsky’s request in 1926; and the last slow section’s relation to the closing part of the Russian Orthodox memorial service, the panikhida, which, as Richard Taruskin has shown, Stravinsky also recalled in his Symphonies.
Yet as I show in this paper, Lourié is not simply an epigone of Stravinsky: despite the clear parallels between the two, Lourié’s music sounds decidedly different from that of his compatriot. There is a spiritual quality, an uncompromising sincerity in this music that meditates on the passing of time honoring, and at the same time defying Chronos by making the leap from measurable human time to eternity. The difference between the music of Lourié and Stravinsky show that after their break-up in 1939 Lourié reinterpreted neoclassicism, bringing it closer to the neo-Thomist beliefs of Maritain, whose ideas inspired neoclassicism in the first place.

Elinor Frey, "The voice of the violoncello: The musical context of the first great cellist-composers of Italy" 

The first unaccompanied cello works originated in Italy at the end of the 17th century. The immense creative output for the cello during those decades echoed into later eras, making Italy a critical center for the fueling of new cello compositions. Italian Baroque cello works respond to period changes in tuning and technology (such as winding metal around gut strings), heightened performance demands, the emergence of virtuosos, and the needs of cellists’ employers and concert venues. Indeed, some of the best-loved Baroque works for cello were written by performers whose titles often extended beyond that of violoncellist. Several of these performers had storied careers and even earned distinctive nicknames. More importantly, Italian cellist-composers contributed some of the most original and celebrated Baroque works for the instrument. Virtuosos who performed their own works also indicated their approach to physical aspects of performance through their written compositions. Listening to these pieces, one can freshly explore the incredible achievements of Baroque cellists in search of a voice for their instrument, meeting new demands that, in turn, become features of solo music and indicate a repertoire always in flux. In my performance-based presentation, I will show how many of the first composer-cellists contributed to the development of the solo role and unique voice of the violoncello. Among these cellists, one rarely-performed example is the Modenese musician Domenico Galli, a versatile craftsman who presented Duke Francesco II d’Este, an amateur cellist, with an ornately carved cello along with twelve companion sonatas, his Trattenimenti or “entertainments” for violoncello alone. I will also perform and discuss unaccompanied repertoire by G.B. Vitali, G.M. Dall’Abaco, Francesco Paolo Scipriani, Domenico Gabrielli, and Giulio Ruvo.

Emily Richmond Pollock, "The Opera Underneath: Carl Orff's Oedipus der Tyrann"

The score for Carl Orff’s Oedipus der Tyrann (1959) is a monument to severity. Orff’s second Sophocles setting, even more so than its predecessor Antigonae, eschews ornament and lyricism in favor of a stripped-down accompaniment, long stretches of monotone declamation, and spoken dialogue. Orff (as well as his present-day advocates) used this profound absence of traditional operatic machinery to support the idea that Oedipus der Tyrann was more authentically “Greek” than any previous musical theater. On the other hand, contemporary reviews show critics questioning not only whether it could properly be considered an opera, but whether Orff’s apparent lack of compositional intervention resulted in a piece of music theater “without music.” 

As a result of both its studied lack of operaticism and its Classical roots, Oedipus der Tyrann lays claim to an aura of naturalness and universality. The piece’s seeming self-evidence, however, is contradicted by the intense effort it took to achieve this composerly pretense of non-presence. The sources for Oedipus der Tyrann held by the Orff-Zentrum München reveal a multitude of elaborate alternative settings for nearly every passage in the piece, featuring more rhythmic variation, more melismatic vocal lines, and a more active orchestra. These sketches and drafts reveal a consistent pattern of changing priorities over the decade of the opera’s composition, manifesting a process of gradual but radical reduction of means: in the final version, melodic passages were instead declaimed on a single pitch, passages that had been declaimed were spoken instead, registers were shortened overall, and orchestral accompaniment was erased or filtered down. The earlier, more “operatic” materials show that behind Orff’s studied severity lay a lyrical impulse, a fundamental change in aesthetic orientation, coming only over time and with great effort, that occasions a reconsideration of the piece’s relationship to the genre of opera.

Gabriel Alfieri, "War, Intertextuality, and Pop Art: Reassessing Cumming’s We Happy Few"

We Happy Few is a cycle of ten songs for voice and piano by American composer Richard Cumming, united around the theme of war. It was written for bass-baritone, Donald Gramm, as part of the Ford Foundation’s Program for Concert Soloists, a major commissioning and performance project launched in 1962, when the Cold War was at its height and U.S. military involvement in southeast Asia was (again) looming. Often forgotten today, We Happy Few is, nonetheless, an important example of the large American song cycle, and a complex, elegant musical comment upon its subject matter that both reflects its time and transcends it in striking ways. This essay examines Cumming’s work in the contexts of its original commission, its reception history, its function as social commentary, and its position within mid-twentieth century American art and ìartî music.
Milton Babbit’s Philomel, perhaps the best-known work to come out of the Program for Concert Soloists, serves to contrast the high-experimentalism of the period with Cumming’s heavily referential, pop-influenced tonalism. The concept of intertextuality and devices of collage/pastiche are used to illuminate processes of signification in We Happy Few, and its relation to larger aesthetic trends of the mid-twentieth century, especially ìpopî art. Because the dominant aesthetic of the early 21st century relies heavily upon these same techniques, modern audiences are particularly adept at processing intertextual meaning; this, coupled with our current state of war/State of War, may allow the "pop/art" signification of We Happy Few to speak even more meaningfully today than when it was written.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Spring Chapter Meeting, April 30, 2011 (Providence College)

AMS-NE Chapter Meeting
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Providence College

Molly McGlone, "Experimental Urban Musical Spaces: a case study of the Electric Circus in the late 1960s"

Exploring the little-known history of the Electric Circus, a New York music and dance space in the late 1960s, this paper reveals the inherent contradictions in one social, economic, and musical environment as a case study for understanding the historic cultural geography of a Lower East Side music community.  The Electric Circus space was unique as a commercial endeavor that both restricted its clients to participating in an already formulated social structure—one involving hippies, yippies, children, composers and “beautiful people”—that at the same time gave them license to come into the “think tank” to take charge of their own social order.  Bringing together university-trained composers such as Morton Subotnick and multiracial rock groups such as The Chamber Brothers, the Electric Circus management hoped to challenge social and economic hierarchies. At the same time, the venue aimed to create a commercially successful space by drawing on popular trends in fashion, visual art, and music.In contrast to the well-known Fillmore East just two blocks away, participants and artists at the Electric Circus co-created a particular musical and social space that sought to define youth and freedom through an aesthetic of artistic experimentation and pop simplicity.  Spatial-theoretical frameworks from Lefebvre and Bourdieu provide further insight into music’s significance in these spaces as both a tool of resistance and a method of creating and maintaining social and economic networks.  Drawing on ethnographic interviews and archival documentation, this paper analyzes how capital was created and exchanged in this sixties musical space, uncovering the cultural logic of how individuals use music, experimental sounds, and the popular arts to challenge the dominant social and economic order.

Patrick Wood Uribe, "Written Music Examples in the Nineteenth Century: Imagined Sound and Virtual Performance"

The music example, a silent invocation of sound, presents a range of virtualities. At one extreme, models merely await physical implementation in sound, while at the other, whole scores are represented by a pair of lines, sketches jog the reader’s memory of a work, and graphs lay bare what the analyst believes to have uncovered. Drawing on treatises and music criticism of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, my paper focuses on perhaps the most telling change in the function of music examples: the move from explanatory theoretical models akin to diagrams toward quotations from existing works that amount to fragmentary virtual performances that interrupt the writer’s text.

Through an examination of critical writings by E. T. A. Hoffmann, Gottfried Weber, A. B. Marx and Robert Schumann, my paper proposes that these unsounding quotations of sound not only enact a virtual mimicry of the real, but also testify to a set of changing relationships: of works to performances (real and imagined), of music to the other arts, and of readers and listeners to music itself. When placed in a wider context these changes demonstrate the dramatic transformation of music in early Romantic aesthetics from craft to art, from decorative arabesque to the one truly Romantic form of expression. The presence of a mere four notes from Beethoven opens a new perspective on the social and aesthetic status of music in the nineteenth century.

 Mark DeVoto, "Schubert through his Symphonies and Overtures"

My new Schubert book is chiefly an analysis of the 'Great' Symphony in C major, D 944, with some historical and stylistic correlations through the prism of his own orchestral music, principally his earlier symphonies and his usually neglected overtures.  Most of my presentation at our meeting will be informal, and based on one or two of my forthcoming chapters.

SPECIAL SESSION: Teaching Music in/and/as History : A symposium

Tabitha Heavner, "It's 2011. Do you know who your students are?"

Whether for personal or financial reasons, in the twenty-first century more adults are making the decision to return to school, or to pursue higher education for the first time, than ever before. As a result, the profile of a typical student is changing, and the statistics are staggering. Today, the Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education reports that students over the age of 24 make up 47 percent of the student population on college campuses. The subject of non-traditional students, their needs, and expectations is one more often researched in the United Kingdom and Australia. Still, we can apply much of the research to our own students in an attempt to better understand them. This paper will attempt to identify who those students are and what makes them unique, what their expectations are, and what possible outcomes might await them. I will conclude with a few informal case studies taken from interviews with some of my own students.

Steve Saunders, "The ‘Music Appreciation Lecture-Course’ as Musicology in the Age of Student Engagement"

This presentation explores ways of approaching the “music appreciation” lecture-course so that it introduces students to the discipline of musicology and to significant ideas in the philosophy and aesthetics of music.  It will also provide an opportunity for chapter members to exchange successful techniques for involving students in active learning within the strictures of the large-lecture course.

Kennett Nott, "Teaching the Loss of Musical Innocence, or Seminar in Critical Editing"

In a book co-authored with the Julliard String Quartet, Lewis Lockwood describes an "invisible city" of music where performers and scholars "typically inhabit different neighborhoods." Prof. Lockwood considers the book, Inside Beethoven’s Quartets, as "an attempt to link musical scholarship and performance." At the Hartt School, where I teach, we in the Music History Department see ourselves favorably positioned to attempt a similar linkage between scholarship and performance. 
At the suggestion of a department colleague and as a way to celebrate the publication of my critical edition of Handel’s Jephtha by the Hallische Handel-Ausgabe, I offered during the spring ’10 semester a seminar on critical editing, despite misgivings about such a potentially "hard core" musicological topic. Still, I thought an examination textual criticism as it applies to musical performance could open up for these students (mainly performance and music education majors) a valuable perspective on what most consider a fixed and very stable continuum of composer→score→performer→listener. 
Most musicians give little serious thought to the composer→score stage of the process. After all, that’s what the inhabitants of another musical neighborhood are supposed to do. The loss of innocence that I hoped to initiate would encourage students to adopt a healthy and informed skepticism about the fixity of this first stage after studying how it operates in several "case studies" from different historical periods: Handel’s Jephtha, Mozart’s Gran Partita, Beethoven’s Ninth, Chopin’s Etudes and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. 
Each "case study" would exemplify its own unique set of text-critical problems, created by the composers’ work habits, their conception of what constitutes a finished work, plus various stylistic, social, commercial and technological factors. Teaching this course was greatly enhanced by the online availability of autograph facsimiles, manuscript copies and early editions, which facilitated students’ access to important sources. From the perspectives of both teacher and students the seminar was a fruitful endeavor and successfully achieved its goal.

Michael Scott Cuthbert, "Teaching Music History with Technology (But not for Technology’s Sake)"

In this presentation I show how students at MIT use interactive timelines, software for studying large repertories of music, and monochord software to better understand the narratives and problems of Early music and other periods.  I will also show how Wikipedia has formed a major part of student research and writing (in a positive way, but not without its pitfalls), and talk about the peril of letting technology overwhelm traditional content.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Winter Chapter Meeting, February 19, 2011 (Wellesley)

AMS-NE Winter Chapter Meeting
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Wellesley College

Erinn Knyt, "Ferruccio Busoni and the Absolute in Music: Nature, Form, and Idée"

“Absolute music! What the lawgivers mean by this is perhaps remotest of all from the absolute in music.” With these enigmatic words, Ferruccio Busoni opened his second aphoristic essay in The Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music. Although he could be called an advocate of absolute music because of his frequent description of music as “absolute” and his discussion of music as consisting of pure tones found in the vibrating universe, Busoni nevertheless developed idiosyncratic theories about the term, its usage, and its ideal manifestation in Tonkunst that remain largely unexamined in scholarly literature. True, Carl Dahlhaus noted Busoni’s use of the concept to refer to music unconstrained by traditional forms, but this is merely one aspect of Busoni’s views, which also allowed for and included the visual and explicit connections to culture.

In my paper I seek to delineate Busoni’s understanding of “absolute music” through analyses of his aesthetic texts and compositions. Allowing for the composer’s multi- faceted use of the term and the inevitable maturation of Busoni’s theories over time, my discussion also takes into account his reference to other related concepts, such as the nature of music, the essence of music, and “Ur-Musik,” all of which can be seen as integral to his understanding of absolute music.

In addition, I place this discussion in the context of current musicological debates about the importance of absolute music as a regulative concept in the early 20th century and as an aesthetic paradigm for studying compositions.

Claire Fontijn, "Hildegard’s Ordo virtutum: From Vision to “Opera”?"

Might the paraliturgical morality play Ordo virtutum (The Play of the Virtues) composed by Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) represent the first “opera”? In its final guise, copied posthumously into the Riesenkodex (Wiesbaden, Hessische Landesbibliothek, Codex 2), it appears to be one of the first through-composed sung dramas of music in history. Laying aside for now the question of genre, this paper examines the genesis of the Ordo. It appears first in Vision 13 of Hildegard’s treatise Scivias (c. 1140s) in texts without neumes to heighten the characters’ speech into song. By contrast, the texts of twelve shorter musical compositions precede the majority of the dialogue: psalm antiphons such as O splendidissima gemma for Mary, votive antiphons such as O successores fortissimi leonis for the confessors, and responsories such as O nobilissima viriditas for the virgins.
The version of the Ordo from the Scivias vision shows every sign of being a sketch for a work whose notation would only be complete after Hildegard’s death, in the Riesenkodex; the Ordo does not appear in the Dendermonde manuscript (Abdij St. Peter en Paulus, Codex 9), which was prepared under her supervision in the 1150s. The fact that several of the antiphons and responsories mentioned in Vision 13 are contained in Dendermonde suggests that a performance of the Ordo without them may be historically inaccurate, if the Vision indeed represents a plausible performance indication.
Using the two extant manuscript sources, as well as research by Stühlmeyer, Dronke, Newman, and Davidson, this paper brings the nascent Ordo into confrontation with the posthumous end product. A very different artistic project emerges, with illuminated miniatures, spoken proclamation, and sung dialogue connecting the psalms and antiphons to the fabric of the paraliturgical play. Ultimately, this paper presents historical evidence for more vivid—and perhaps even operatic?—twenty-first-century performances of the Ordo virtutum.

 Karrin Ford, "Wellesley and Female Interpretive Communities: Patterns of Reception"

Female interpretive communities based on social networks of shared values have typically operated beyond the reach of the professional music critic, establishing independent cultural traditions and practices. The numerous women’s colleges prominent by the close of the nineteenth century in America offer rare opportunity to examine the response of audiences comprised largely of one gender, a community functioning cohesively in ways that reflect prototypical modes of reception.

Because of its early commitment to musical instruction for women, Wellesley was among the first institutions in the nation to feature concerts incorporating works by female composers. In particular, Wellesley held special significance for Amy Beach, since Beach’s only formal music training occurred with Junius Hill, who later became head of the Wellesley music faculty. Beach appeared several times in recital at the school during the 1880s and 1890s, including an 1894 recital, which marked the first time she had appeared in a concert devoted exclusively to her own works. Other women who appeared at Wellesley at the fin de siècle included Helen Hood, Helen Hopekirk, and Margaret Lang.

This paper examines reviews of works by women composers presented at Wellesley during the closing years of the nineteenth century and considers how such reviews may have differed from those intended for mixed audiences. Since most reviews were written by male critics, the absence of a female voice in assessing women’s works shaped how audiences responded to their music. The multiple presentations of women’s works at Wellesley and similar institutions suggests that rich and diverse interpretations of women’s music exist and that considering such music from the hegemony of a male-dominated culture alone may lead to diminished appraisal of their music.

Wellesley College Collegium Musicum: Natasha Roule, viola da gamba; Ian Pomeranz, baritone, Elizabeth Bachelder, harpsichord. Works by Monsieur de Machy, Cadéac, and J. S. Bach,
Wellesley Blue Jazz Members: Ali Rucker, piano; Marie Leclair, bass; Emily Sessler, saxophone; Stephanie Newton, saxophone. Music of Duke Ellington.

Sarah Caissie Provost, "“Easy Money Blues:” Commercialism in the Swing Era"

The Swing Era occupies a precarious place in the history of jazz. As the most successful form of jazz and the predominant musical style of the 1930s, swing was as much popular music as it was jazz. This existence within two spheres had benefits as well as detriments. Firstly, a wide variety of music often appeared under the heading ìswing.î These styles ranged from improvised, loosely structured instrumental pieces to entirely structured vocal pieces with no improvisation. Critics responded to this disparity in several ways: some accused certain artists of being too commercial, while others decried swing as a whole. The artists themselves responded to charges of commercialism with their music. Of particular interest is Benny Goodman, whose orchestra was one of the most popular of the time, making him particularly susceptible to accusations that he altered his music for business reasons. However, at certain times, Goodman’s music was seen as an alternative to commercialism, and he consciously attempted to distance himself from types of music that he deemed too commercial. Secondly, the issue of commercialism and style in the Swing Era was also closely tied with swing’s interracial nature. For many reasons, black artists were immune to commercialism allegations, while white artists were accused (sometimes rightfully) of stealing a black style for the purpose of capitalizing off of a white audience. In this paper, I will examine the causes and effects of commercialism in swing music, focusing on Benny Goodman as well as discussing several other prominent swing musicians.

Andrea Bohlman, "Reconsidering the “Popular”: Nineteenth-Century Polish Religious Song at the End of the Cold War"

In May 1985, the Academy of Catholic Theology in Warsaw hosted a seminar at which intellectuals assessed a popular trend in Polish music: the performance of religious music outside of liturgical contexts. The discussants -- theologians, musicologists, and priests -- observed two musical strands of religious revival, each devoted to congruent repertories of patriotic religious hymns from the nineteenth century. On concert stages, large-scale symphonic and chamber works by Polish composers incorporated hymns that had been the anthems of the independent trade union known as Solidarity. At the same time, in churches across the nation, the Traugutt Philharmonic performed lesser known tunes that had been excavated from archival sources and arranged for a Liederabend ensemble by music critic Tadeusz Kaczyński.

In this paper, I situate the revivals that the seminar foregrounded with respect to the historiography of nineteenth-century Polish history as well as Polish politics of the 1980s. I argue that while both fundamentally advocated for “Polish” music, the composers and arrangers diverged through their location of the “popular” in revival. In his Polish Symphony, Krzysztof Meyer referenced the recently popular tunes to assert the transcendent commemorative potential of nineteenth-century genres, but the Traugutt Philharmonic sought to popularize forgotten patriotic religious songs in order to create historical continuity with the discourse of spiritual and national freedom that defined Polish romanticism.

Political dissent, the Roman Catholic Church, and the “popular” were inextricably linked in Poland from the election of the Polish Pope, John Paul II, in 1978 until the end of the People’s Republic of Poland. From 1980 onward, the populist Solidarity labor movement united workers, clergymen, and intellectuals in unifying the opposition: unifying the public, or the “populus.” In anchoring the opposition in Polish romanticism and religious song, musicians constructed an image of Polishness that foregrounded community and spirituality. I argue that the revivals attempted to model the opposition through music by linking the cultivated discourse of the Polish academy with the popular in symphonic works and by popularizing religious song among Poland’s elite intellectual class in sacred spaces.