Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spring Chapter Meeting, Saturday, April 20, 2013 (Northeastern University)

**PLEASE NOTE: Due to the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013, this meeting was cancelled. Papers that were read at the following Fall Chapter meeting are marked below.***

The abstracts for the papers are included here, but the meeting did not take place.

Melanie Lowe, "Topics of Consumer Identity in the 1780s: Pleyel’s op. 1 and Mozart’s op. 10 String Quartets"

By considering the role of topics in the musical experience of late eighteenth-century amateur musical consumers, this paper addresses: 1) the role of burgeoning consumerism in the formation of taste and consumer identity; and 2) relationships between patterns of consumption and musical style. While there is frustratingly little documentation that reveals the listening experiences of amateur consumers, the music itself offers a rich source of information. As practitioners of a rhetorical art, eighteenth-century composers tailored their music for a specific audience. Given the commercial realities of the musical marketplace, most of the music that was published was marketed to non-professionals for private performance. The commercial success of a publication therefore greatly depended on how well the composer accommodated the musical competencies of Liebhaber.
Examples from two sets of string quartets composed and published in the 1780s will serve to explore the intersubjective stylistic knowledge of musical consumers: Pleyel’s Op. 1 which enjoyed tremendous commercial success and were clearly composed with Liebhaber in mind; and Mozart’s Op. 10, which were notoriously “Liebhaber unfriendly” and far less successful commercially. 

My analyses of Pleyel’s and Mozart’s quartets take up questions of topical enrichment and parametric density; mechanisms of topical coding; interactions between topical content, syntactical function, and formal articulation; and associations with social, cultural, and musical life. [abstract abbreviated]

Lester Zhuqing Hu, "“Sing with Me a Sweet and New Song”: Chromatic Tournament in Lasso’s “Opus One”" [READ AT Fall 2013 Chapter Meeting]

The first printed collection of Lasso’s work (Antwerp: Susato, 1555) ends with two of the earliest chromatic polyphonic compositions of the sixteenth century: Lasso’s “Alma Nemes,” and Rore’s “Calami sonum ferentes.” Lowinsky reads Rore’s “Calami” as an “antichromatic manifesto,” the sound of which satirized Vicentino’s advocacy for chromaticism. Most scholars accept Lowinsky’s interpretation, but I question his reading of Rore’s motet as a mockery of chromaticism. Both Rore’s “Calami” and Lasso’s “Alma” set texts that call for a “new and sweet sound”—a cue for chromaticism, commonly associated with the soave affect and the resurrection of ancient Greek music.

Although Lasso’s “Alma” seems to emulate Rore’s work, I demonstrate that there are crucial differences between the two composers’ approaches to chromaticism. Rore employs numerous melodic chromatic semitones; Lasso uses only a few. Rore takes advantage of contrasting interval affects within the chromatic idiom; Lasso employs an unusually large number of major sonorities. Both pieces are set in the E-durus tonal type, but “Alma” follows the conventional course of E-Phrygian with cadences on E and A while “Calami” ventures to B and F-sharp as local tonal centers.
I argue that these two motets suggest that already in its earliest examples in the sixteenth century chromaticism was adapted to serve different musical functions and styles. In the tradition of Venetian madrigals, Rore’s chromaticism responds to the text with local expressive effects. The trajectory of interval affects and local tonal centers follow the psychological journey of the text. Influenced by Roman-Neapolitan madrigals, Lasso’s chromaticism eschews local drama but creates a peculiar ambience for the whole. Homophonic progressions of major triads embody the “new and sweet” sound called for by the text. Rore’s dramatic effects and Lasso’s otherworldly atmosphere provide the foundation for two distinct legacies in the history of Renaissance chromaticism.

Eric Rice, "Regret in Gombert’s Mass for the Coronation of Charles V"

On 24 February 1530, Pope Clement VII crowned the Habsburg ruler Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor in Bologna. It is clear from what we know of Charles’s personality that the ceremony — and especially its music — was important to him. A surviving mass by Nicolas Gombert, who was master of the emperor’s choirboys at the time, bears the title “Missa A la incoronation” in its earliest printed source, and its use in the coronation has never been questioned.
There were three main influences on the choice of texts and music sung at the event: first, the prescribed texts of the imperial coronation ritual; second, the political situation in Europe at the time; and third, the relationship of the first and second of these with the celebration of mass, including plainchant propers and at least two motets. This paper will touch on each of these in an effort to understand the context in which Gombert’s mass was heard and in what ways it might have been understood by its listeners. The work is a parody mass based on a chanson by Jean Richafort titled Sur tous regretz. This chanson — and therefore Gombert’s mass — has a somber character, and it is tempting to associate the choice of the mass’s model as representative of Charles’s feelings of regret following the 1527 Sack of Rome, which was undertaken by his own troops against his wishes. A more plausible explanation, one suggested by contemporaneous sources, is that Charles was particularly enamored with chansons of this kind and associated them as much with solemnity as sadness. Indeed, it may have been a family tradition: Marguerite of Austria, Charles’s aunt, was known to have owned a manuscript full of such “regret” chansons.

John Forrestal, "“Always is Always Forever”: The Musical Trajectory of the Process Church of the Final Judgement" [READ AT Fall 2013 Chapter Meeting]

The Process Church of the Final Judgment (1964-1974) was a Scientological offshoot created by two former members of the London branch. Their experimentations with psychotherapy led to the development of an incredibly tight-knit group of followers, who subsequently made a pilgrimage to the Yucat√†n peninsula of Mexico where a natural disaster imbued their collective spirituality with apocalyptic reinterpretations of Christian theology. Upon returning to London and the States, the Process took their eschatological message to the streets. The Process' religious canon contained a large musical output; rock bands within the cult developed out of collective musical energies, in addition to hymns and chants that served a Utilitarian purpose. Members of the Process were contiguously in the same social circles as many famous musicians, such as Mick Jagger. Thus, their influence can be seen in the popular musical idioms of their time, although there’s little mentioned in biographical accounts about their influence.
Over three decades since the schism that marked the end of the Process, their teachings ostensibly live on today, through a musical collective known as Holy Terror, and through a band “the Sabbath Assembly” reinterpreting the hymns of the Process. My intention is to recreate the historical framework of this unique religious movement, especially the cross-relationships between it and the popular music of their time. Upon providing a solid foundation, my intent is to explore the lineage and re-adaptation of Processean ideology in this contemporary musical milieu, and the processes of change that take place in the religious tenets intrinsic to Processean thought and the mindsets of contemporaneous re-interpreters. I also intend to explore Holy Terrorism within its subcultural context, and its relation to a larger global narrative–particularly the over sensationalized eschatological concepts that are inextricably intertwined in the moral, political, and sociological fabrics of mainstream contemporary society.

David Ferrandino, "Pop at the Symphony: The Reciprocal Influence of Philip Glass and David Bowie"

Philip Glass's career has been deeply impacted by his collaborations with other musicians, artists, dancers and cinematographers. Some of these, most notably Koyaanisqatsi (1982) and his opera trilogy, are widely discussed and appreciated while other pieces remain overlooked. Glass's symphonic efforts remain a neglected aspect of his work, overshadowed by the visibility of his theatrical productions. According to Glass Biographer Robert Maycock, "symphonies were something that a progressive artist just did not do...nobody who wanted to be taken seriously by the leaders of opinion would touch it.” Perhaps because of this stigma, Glass chose to base his first symphony, Symphony No. 1 “Low” (1993), on a popular album written by David Bowie and produced by Brian Eno. Pleased with the results, the three artists collaborated again on Symphony No. 4 “Heroes” in 1996. In contrast to such albums as Symphonic Rock by the London Symphony Orchestra, Glass's symphonies are not simply arrangements of rock originals. Themes are extracted from the selected tracks and then composed out through the usual techniques of Glass's style. The end result is more of a commentary on the originals than anything approaching faithful reiteration: the formal constructions are modified, the thematic material is reworked and transformed, and the resultant affect of each piece is altered. In this paper I explore the musical details of Glass's “Low” Symphony and “Heroes” Symphony in order to reveal the web of artistic intersections that make these projects stand out from the rest of Glass’s output and to show how these pieces really are mutual creative acts. It is no accident that Glass chose to work with materials from these specific popular artists as he and Reich both had a strong influence on the popular music of the 1970s. Both Bowie and Eno were at the London premiere of Music with Changing Parts by the Philip Glass Ensemble in 1971 and both of their musical pieces began to exhibit the drones and repeated figures of minimalism after that. These symphonies become more complex when compared with the source albums, revealing the reciprocal influence between the minimalist and popular music spheres. Within this dialogue are points of synchronization as well as moments of disjunction and when the symphony breaks away from the album, Glass’s music becomes a commentary on Bowie’s original piece and a true collaboration between compositional voices emerges.

Michael Uy, "Staging Catfish Row in the Soviet Union: Porgy and Bess as “Cultural Exchange”"

For three weeks between 1955 and 1956 – only several months after the important Geneva Summit of “The Big Four” – the Everyman Opera Company staged George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in Leningrad and Moscow. In the previous two years, the Robert Breen and Blevins Davis production had toured Europe and Latin America, partly subsidized by the U.S. State Department Cultural Presentations Program. Yet when Breen negotiated a tour to perform in Russia, the American government withdrew funding, stating that a production would be too “politically premature.” U.S. officials perceived the opera’s poor, black characters and dilapidated, rural setting as an unrepresentative depiction of the country and too controversial to support in light of the growing Civil Rights Movement. Surprisingly, however, the production was performed because at the last minute, the Soviet Ministry of Culture agreed to pay the tour costs in full.

This paper examines the performances in Leningrad, as chronicled by Soviet and black American periodicals, interviews with surviving cast members, and Truman Capote’s extraordinary account in The Muses are Heard. Archival evidence from the Robert Breen Papers, including American and Soviet government correspondence, reveals how Porgy was caught between competing personal and institutional interests in both countries. Officials in the United States Information Agency and the American National Theater and Academy were wary that the Russians would use Porgy as proof of minority oppression in a capitalist system. In the Soviet Union, Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev, who were still consolidating political leadership after Stalin’s death, responded with skepticism and questioned American commitment to “cultural exchange.” These documents uncover the myriad difficulties of staging an opera during the Cold War that was performed by black artists, written by white authors, rejected by the American government, and sponsored by the Soviet Union.

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