Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Year-End Review: AMS-NE in 2015

As the year draws to a close, I thought I'd take the opportunity to summarize and comment upon chapter activities and events that have marked this past year for us in the AMS-NE.

We had a very successful Winter meeting at Boston University on February 21, 2015, which was not only well-attended, but featured particularly good feedback and questions from the audience. I make special note of this as one of the people in attendance that day is no longer with us--Dr. Joel Sheveloff, who left us on November 8, 2015. There have been many beautiful remembrances of Dr. Sheveloff, but I include one from chapter member Fred Thornton at the end of this post. I hope you will take the time to read it, as we lost someone who was an inspiration, mentor, and friend to so many in our chapter.

Early May 2015 brought us to a meeting at Yale, which, despite an unexpected campus-wide power failure, was a lively and enlightening gathering! We look forward to being back in Connecticut at The Hartt School on February 20th! (CFP here).

Our Fall 2015 chapter meeting was held October 3rd at Amherst College, where we were so graciously received by our hosts, and enjoyed a wonderful variety of papers.

We have almost finished migrating the website over to http://ams-ne.blogspot.com, where you can find tabs for the Chapter Bylaws, the Schafer Memorial Award, the Meeting Archive dating back to 2009-10, and quick access to Upcoming Meeting info and Chapter News. At the end of the landing page for the blog/website, you'll find the New England Musicology Conference calendar--a new initiative to help music departments and other music-related organizations in the chapter in their event planning. We are fortunate to have so many institutions in our chapter that offer thought-provoking conferences and symposia, so this is a small effort to try and prevent too many calendar conflicts. To list an event, please e-mail Rebecca Marchand directly: rmarchand at bostonconservatory dot edu

Lastly, a reminder that we are also on Facebook and Twitter, if you are inclined to use social media.


The CFP for our Winter 2016 meeting has been issued and we are looking forward to gathering at The Hartt School on February 20, 2016. We are hoping to have a special event as part of this meeting, so please stay tuned. As always, please watch this website for the most up-to-date information.

In April, we are having our first ever (??) joint meeting with the New England Conference of Music Theorists! This conference will take place at MIT on Friday, April 8 and Saturday, April 9, 2016. We are really looking forward to this joint endeavor and hope that there will be plenty of "infiltration" in all the sessions. ;-)

2016 promises to be another exciting and fulfilling year for AMS! We look forward to your attendance at meetings and invite you to help strengthen our chapter by participating in discussions! The Q & A at these meetings can be just as important as the papers themselves.

As promised, I end with this remembrance of Dr. Joel Sheveloff written by AMS-NE member Fred Thornton, printed here with permission.


By J. Fred Thornton (Boston University, SFAA/CFA, Mus.B. 1970, Music History and Literature)

            For both my wife, Sylvia (Vogel) and myself, Dr. Joel Sheveloff was the most important single influence regarding music in our lives. As Boston University undergraduates, through 1969 in my case and through 1971 in Sylvia’s, we took a number of his courses in music history subjects as wide-ranging as the Music of Joseph Haydn, The Art Song, and Music under the Tsars and Soviets. An infectious, enlightening, dynamic, and vastly informative teacher and lecturer, as well as an entertaining raconteur (as good as Isaac Asimov!), students signed up for his classes first for their next term in order to avoid getting shut out. We just couldn’t get enough. I sat in on a number of his other classes to the point where I can’t always be sure which courses of his I took and which ones I semi-audited. Eventually, both of us changed our majors over to music history, Sylvia from applied piano and myself from music education. And when both of us began graduate school part-time in musicology in 1974 (after my four years in the Navy and our marriage in 1971), we continued to take his courses whenever possible.

            Joel’s popularity occasionally had interesting consequences. Sylvia recalls the first day of one course when the classroom was full to practically overflowing, and Dr. J. (as I liked to call him --- he was a Julius Erving fan) decided to split the class up. Half the class would stay with him and the other half would go to another room with the graduate assistant. Naturally there was much grumbling when the victimized half left. But at the next class two days later, virtually everybody was back in Joel’s classroom, and they wouldn’t budge. Naturally, Joel, who always relished an audience, gave in.

            In recent years, I occasionally saw Joel at AMS conferences, and whenever there was a break he would always be holding court, with at least a half dozen people hanging on to his every word. And most recently, during 2011-2013, I was able to attend his last three sets of daytime lectures for the BU Evergreen program (for alumni 58 years and up), on music of Ravel, Mussorgsky, and finally (on October 23rd and 30th, 2013) the clarinet music of Mozart.

            As an analyst, Joel had no peer. His diagrams of such things as the opening movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in C (K. 503) were legendary. I remember him spending a whole class on just the first 18 measures of the finale of Haydn’s “Drum Roll” Symphony (No. 103 in E-flat). And he loved to skewer flawed compositions that didn’t quite work. He once referred to an “idée fixe” by Berlioz as being “best characterized by my singing of it”! His most celebrated lecture in this regard was on Liszt’s “Festklaenge” (“Festival Noises”), whose grand theme, he pointed out, was the inspiration for “O, Canada”, Canada’s national anthem. I tried to talk him into doing another Evergreen lecture on “Festklaenge”, but no, he said the Mozart would be his “swan song”.

            Of course, Joel had many strong opinions. He would rail against recordings of 18th- and 19th-century orchestral music that did not split the violins left and right, which, during the 60s and 70s, were virtually all of them. He would play a recording of an early Renaissance piece by the Pro Musica Antigua of Brussels, or some such (this was before H. I. P.), and preface it by saying, “This is dead music, and this is why it died”! But even if he disagreed with you, he would respect your opinion if you could defend it. When I took his Research and Bibliography course in 1977, I wrote a 95-page paper (with Joel, you didn’t want to leave out anything that could possibly make your case) on: “The Practice of Double-Dotting in the Baroque”. Now normally, every assignment one submitted to Joel would come back with a myriad of red ink corrections, suggestions, and the like. But this time, there was nothing! Nothing, except for a slip of paper tucked under the title page which read: “I think both you and Michael Collins are wrong, and that Frederick Neumann is right. Pedantic as usual, but well-researched: A”.

            Newton and Kepler had their “Three Laws of Motion”, and Isaac Asimov had his “Three Laws of Robotics”. I’ve come up with Joel Sheveloff’s “Three Laws for the Performance of 18th- and early 19th-century Music”:

            1. The printed music is not the piece; it is merely the map to the piece.

            2. Never repeat anything exactly.

            3. Articulation and phrasing are paramount in determining a proper tempo.

            In my own concerts as director of the Mayflower Chorale and Chamber Orchestra, and most recently with the Mayflower Camerata Vocal Ensemble, even with non-professional singers I have endeavored to put these principles into practice as much as possible.

            In one course, perhaps it was either Music of the Classic Period, or Music of Mozart, Joel had the class compose and write out a variation for each repeat of the Minuet of Mozart’s Piano Sonata in A Major (K. 331). When he handed them back, he held back three (one of which was mine) to play through “in his imitable fashion”, subjecting each in turn to intense scrutiny. When he came to the third example, he said at one point that this person had incorporated a truly imaginative harmonic change. So at the end of the class someone asked who wrote the three choices, and he identified the first two. “But who wrote that third one?” the student asked. “Oh, that one?” he replied. “That one was mine!”

            Naturally, encouraging students along these lines was bound to come to a head. Joel loved to tell the following story: One day, a student of the celebrated piano teacher Bela Nagy was preparing for her senior recital, and she asked Joel if he could coach her on the side in preparing varied repetitions for a set of Mozart piano variations. At the recital, Joel sat behind Dr. Nagy, and as she began to vary first the repetitions of the theme, and then of each variation, Joel could see that Nagy was becoming increasingly agitated, as he had no inkling that his student was going to do this, and he was afraid she might not be able to carry it through. But carry it through she did, and when she finished, Nagy turned around and blurted out, “Joel, you are a bastard!”

            As I mentioned earlier, Joel was a great raconteur, but I will close with just one more, and leave so many additional stories, including his Army escapades involving outwitting his “superiors”, to the legion of other contributors. When Joel was growing up in New York City, one day he sat riding the subway while studying a pocket score he had bought of “Le Sacre du Printemps” by Stravinsky (his “god”, as he once put it). All of a sudden, an imposing man in his mid-fifties sat next to him, and, pointing to the score, said, “Give me that!” Without a word, Joel handed it over and watched amazedly as this mysterious stranger proceeded to mark up various pages of his score in different colors of ink --- red, blue, green, and black. Finally, without a word, he gave the score back to Joel, got up, and exited the car. Joel didn’t forget his face, but he had no idea who this man could have been.

            Some years later, Joel bought a copy of the recently published “Lexicon of Musical Invective”, and saw a photo of its author. “It’s him!” Yes, that indelible, incredible character was none other than Nicholas Slonimsky!

            Rest in peace, Dr. J.  Your legacy will live on in the many thousands of lives you enriched through your own love of great music.

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