Sunday, February 8, 2015

Winter Chapter Meeting, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 (Boston University)


AMS-NE Winter Chapter Meeting
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Marshall Room, College of Fine Arts
Boston University

10:00-10:35 Refreshments and Registration

Morning Session
10:35   Welcome

10:40   “As Obscure and Unintelligible as the Warbling of Larks and Linnets”: Latent Agendas in C. P. E. Bach’s C-Minor Trio, Wq. 161/1 (H.579)
Yonatan Bar-Yoshafat (Cornell University)


ABSTRACT:

Ever since its publication in 1751, C. P. E. Bach’s famous program trio (‘Sanguineus und Melancholicus’) has generated much debate. A quintessential example of eighteenth-century dialogue-in-tone, the work nonetheless received mixed reviews and Bach refrained from repeating it. It would be unfair to pass judgment on Bach’s contemporaries, however, since the work is not devoid of ambiguities. And yet, with only one notable exception (Mersmann, 1917), most modern reviewers tend to take Bach’s program at face-value, and interpret the work as an allegory of moderation by means of conversation (Will, 1997; Keefe,1998; Schulenberg, 2014). This reading is in keeping not only with the “master-narrative” of the Enlightenment, but also with the moralities and aesthetics of sentimentalism, with which – especially in its German dialect (the Empfindsamer Stil) – Bach’s music is so tightly connected. Nonetheless, there are other, darker and more skeptical sides to that era as well. In fact, more than a few literary and intellectual works of the mid-eighteenth century manifested an objection to the possibility of tempering human sentiments and passions by rational means.

This paper suggests a somewhat revised (or complementary) approach to mid-eighteenth century music sentimentalism. It explores some pertinent examples of anti-sentimental manifestations in the works of Fielding, Hume and Hogarth, and reexamines the reception of British skepticism in the Prussian court, before turning to Bach’s trio. As the paper goes on to show, even if many of the musical events follow the work’s program, others nonetheless display some intriguing aspects that ironically subvert its meaning. These telling incongruities between the “diegetic” and “mimetic” levels of the work shed some light on Bach’s oeuvre in general. Bach’s penchant for the unexpected and the uncanny can thus be understood in a broader context, as bespeaking not only the aesthetics of Empfindsamkeit, but of “counter-sentimentality” as well.


Dr. Yonatan Bar-Yoshafat is a Fulbright grantee and a visiting scholar at Cornell University, where he conducts his post-doctoral research with James Webster. He is also a faculty member at the Open University of Israel. His research interests include 18th and 19th century instrumental music, aesthetics and sociology of music, Formenlehre, topic and narrative theories and analyses, music historiography and critical theory.

Bar-Yoshafat’s current research demonstrates in what ways Bach’s significant works extend beyond the framework of musical wit and sentimentality, embodying ironic detachment and self-reflexivity through the medium of sounds and their significations.

Yonatan Bar-Yoshafat has presented his research in colloquia and international conferences at the University of Oxford, Cornell University, The RMA annual conference and elsewhere. He has published both academic and learning materials, in Hebrew and English. His article “Kenner und Liebhaber – Yet another Look” (nominated for the AMS ‘Einstein Award’ 2014) was published in the International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music (44/1, 2013).
                  

11:20   Society as Cure: Moral Treatment in Brunetti’s Il Maniatico Symphony 
Mohammed Pasha (Corpus Christi, TX) 
 ABSTRACT
 The late eighteenth century marked a shift in the conception of mental illness and its
treatment. Moral treatment of the insane was foremost a recognition of the dignity of mental patients. Literary works likewise began valuing singularity in the portrayal of madness. Meanwhile, composers such as Haydn and others begin using music to depict a variety of  phenomenon in their symphonic works, thereby singularizing the orchestral narrative of the individual's relationship to his surroundings. 
One such composer, Gaetano Brunetti, was remarkably prolific but his output has garnered little attention. Drawing on historical, medical, literary, and philosophical research, I will provide a full analysis of Brunetti's neglected Il Maniatico symphony, one of the first programmatic works in the genre and unique in its unconventional use of the sonata principle.  Foregoing the typical method of extensive motivic development to show the inner turmoil of an individual at odds with society as in Beethoven's Fifth symphony, Brunetti instead used the “maniac” motive as a curiosity and a problem to overcome for society's sake. He achieves this by only rarely building themes with the maniac motive.
The maniac is largely confined to the outskirts of civilization, responding to the themes but not 
necessarily interacting with them. Society itself is also represented by motives of its own, including reason, reconciliation, and sympathy. In this way, the symphony is less about the individual's journey than society's reaction to him. This method mirrors the newly emerging conception of illness where society wished to cure the insane but was bound by the notion that the ill were victims of their ethical choices.  



Mohammed Pasha graduated from UC Berkeley in 2003 earning a BA in music. He then attended the University of Houston, graduating with a MM in Music Literature in 2011. His thesis investigated variation technique in Mozart and Haydn. He plays clarinet and piano and studies Hume and Rousseau's aesthetics, galante music, and the Neapolitan school of opera. He is also interested in the aspects of music that were valued by connoisseurs during the eighteenth century.

12:00-2:00   Lunch Break

2:00-2:20     Business Meeting


Afternoon Session 
             
2:20     Mendelssohn’s Scottish Sentiments: A New Look at Music, Meaning, and Contemporary Nationalism in Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony 
Beth Abbate (The Boston Conservatory)

ABSTRACT:
The last movement of Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony, described by the composer as “Allegro guerriero” (warlike allegro), has been variously interpreted as absolute music, programmatic music, and as something in between, while its contrasting “Maestoso” coda is often heard as a somewhat overdone—and stylistically Germanic—celebration of victory after battle. However, the movement can be better interpreted as a different kind of narrative, or “esoteric Program,” to use Constantin Floros’s phrase. With several references to Beethoven’s Fifth—especially to the C major theme opening its last movement—and with a melody taken from the opening theme of the symphony, first composed by Mendelssohn as he contemplated the story of Mary Queen of Scots at the Holyrood ruins, Mendelssohn explores the contemporary Scottish idea of nationalism as a celebration of historical heritage, linking it with the post-French Revolutionary concept of freedom as “ideal” and as originating from within. It is certainly not coincidental that the idea of confining nationalism to a celebration of the past was vigorously promoted by pro-British-union author Walter Scott—whom Mendelssohn admired and met briefly just before beginning the “Scottish” Symphony in 1829, nor that the Mary Stuart in Schiller’s historical drama on Mary Queen of Scots was depicted as imprisoned but free through her strong inner moral compass. The coda, too, can be reinterpreted. As a part of the tradition of instrumental hymnic endings stemming from Beethoven’s Sixth, it can be heard as a natural outgrowth of the movement rather than as an odd appendage, and as a paean to new concepts of unification and nationalism, for which the United Kingdom served as a model. 


Beth Abbate completed a BA at Yale College, an MM in violin performance at the Yale School of Music, and, after playing for several years with the Fort Worth Symphony and Chamber Orchestra, her PhD in Music History at Harvard, with a dissertation on Myth, Symbol, and Meaning in the Early Symphonies of Gustav Mahler. She has taught a wide variety of courses at The Boston Conservatory since 1998, with particular emphasis on 19th-and-20th-century symphonic traditions as well as music of Webern, Berio, and Messiaen. She continues to perform as a free-lance violinist in the Boston area.
  





3:00    “Steady Gradients” and Scenic Designs: Leonora’s Lyric Narrative 
Dana Dalton (Brandeis University)
ABSTRACT:  
A remarkable dramatic attribute of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore is the polarity that exists between the two female characters, the gypsy Azucena, a mezzo-soprano, and the soprano/heroine Leonora. Azucena’s temperament is visceral and obsessive. The core of the opera’s libretto resides in the bizarre (and unbelievable) tale of her mother, accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake. Her eccentric character is revealed through non-normative, earthy, one-movement aria types. Laden with pitch repetition and recurring motives, this music is suggestive of her rule-bound thinking and her fixation with obtaining vengeance.
Leonora, on the other hand, is purely lyrical. In a famous description, Julian Budden claimed, “Her melodies are minted from the purest gold of the Italian lyric tradition.”  In keeping with operatic convention, Verdi provided the soprano with two arias: “Tacea la notte placida—Di tale amor” and “D’amor sull’ali rosee—Quel suon, quelle preci—Tu vedrai che amore in terra,” the latter scene more commonly known as the Miserere. As the ingénue with normative two-movement designs, she seems the archetypal prima donna.
This soprano, however, is less conventional and more integral to Trovatore’s dramatic structure than has previously been assumed. For although she may be the one character who stands outside the sphere of Azucena’s narrative, her tale is neither irrelevant nor is it secondary. Drawing on Budden’s concept of “steady gradient,” I chart a melodic course through her two scenes, uncovering a compelling psychological narrative that summarizes the tragedy of Trovatore. Verdi’s strategic use—or denial—of lyricism in Leonora’s music amounts to a large-scale, melodic/dramatic structure. Accordingly, I present an analysis that goes beyond the mere assertion of the composer’s “gift for melody” that furthers our investigation of Verdi’s lyric drama.


Dana Dalton holds a BM in Piano and a BA in German from Carson-Newman College, a MM in Piano and Music History from Rice University, and a PhD from Brandeis University. Her research interests include nineteenth-century opera, historical recordings of the character piece for piano, and the relationship of poetry and music in the work of women singer-songwriters.









3:40     “Too Much Carbon Monoxide for Me to Bear”: Irony and Criticism in the Music of Cake 
David Ferrandino (SUNY Buffalo)
ABSTRACT:

Cake emerged on the alternative rock scene in 1993 with its disjointed mix of musical styles and genres, serving up ironic critical commentaries on American culture. In response, critics have accused the band of being some sort of novelty act that promotes an aesthetic of disinterest typical of Generation X. However, such criticisms belie the musical integrity of the band and innovative spirit of the post-Baby Boomer generation. In this paper, I argue for a rethinking of how irony functions in popular culture in order to address the complex musical aesthetics at play in alternative rock music. For those Americans coming to age in the late 20th century, irony has become both a standard critical tool and a general mindset. Cake utilizes irony to offer contradictory portraits of America’s glory days of the post-WWII era, simultaneously glamorizing and criticizing American suburbia in order to express an entire range of experiences from nostalgia to condemnation.
    Drawing from the insights of multimedia theorist Lars Elleström and musicologist Michael Long, I propose a formulation of irony which takes into account the layers of contextual information embedded in a song. Rather than a simple reversal of meaning or a humorous farce, irony provides a means of creating a network of experiential resonance — an array of disparate and simultaneous interpretations formed by the listener. The irony in Cake’s music results from the juxtaposition of stylistic markers from various musical genres which force fans and critics to reevaluate their previous listening experiences. For people with a shared musical background, the irony in Cake’s music embodies the shift in American culture from the cynicism of the '80s to the indifference of the '90s.


Mr. Ferrandino is a doctoral candidate in musicology at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. He is studying post-1945 American music under Dr. Stephanie Vander Wel, with an emphasis on minimalism and popular music. He is currently completing his dissertation on the function of irony in popular music entitled “Irony, Mimicry, and Mockery: American Popular Music of the Late Twentieth Century.”







4:20     Meeting Adjourned and Refreshments

1 comment:

  1. Great to know about winter chapter meeting!! I was excited for the day but unfortunately I had some work on that day and I did not attended the meeting. Anyways I love to attend corporate events, so please update me with upcoming events.

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