Please note: Bios & Abstracts will be added as they become available.
The meeting will take place in the Earle Recital Hall (Sage Hall, First Floor) at Smith College. Maps/Directions/Parking info are found under the Upcoming Meetings tab.
9:30-10:00 a.m. Refreshments and Registration
10:00 a.m. Welcome
Morning Session: The Dynamic Canon
"Surface and Depth": Beneath the Reception of Rudolph Reti's Thematic Process, A Mid-Century Interdisciplinary Theory of Music
Eric Elder (Brandeis University)
The place of Rudolph Reti’s 1951 book, The Thematic Process in Music, has been greatly understated in considerations of the history and development of current streams of musical thought. While frequently included in such outlines, the work’s long reception history, stretching from Vincent Persichetti (1951) and Alvin Bauman (1952) to Peter Kivy (1990) and beyond, is marked by a consistently high degree of subjectivity. Indeed, sixty-five years after its initial publication, The Thematic Process in Music has yet to be treated in a manner suggesting any substantial depth or meaningful affinity with trends—past or present—in musico-theoretical understanding. Along the way, Rudolph Reti has become a ready straw man, a veritable “foot-notorious” figure among scholars of music. But Reti, who acknowledged the novelty and crudeness of his study, provided well-placed cues for locating the work in its own intellectual context, thereby supplying an aid for grasping its fuller implications.
The present investigation illuminates these cues, namely, Reti’s prominent references to the English mathematician and father of process philosophy, Alfred North Whitehead. By directly comparing Reti’s words and analytical observations to the fundamental concepts and principles of Whitehead’s cosmological constructs, features of The Thematic Process in Music routinely dismissed as arbitrary gain new significance. Further, reinstating “process” in The Thematic Process in Music by treating it as purposeful within the context of Whitehead’s ontology of becoming points to Reti’s unrecognized role as a pioneer in developing cross-disciplinary approaches to understanding and relating to music. It also finds Reti’s theory in surprisingly sympathetic dialogue with important contributions to the continuing discourse on musical form as process, including Caplin’s concept of retrospective reinterpretation (1998), Hepokoski and Darcy’s sixteen propositions underlying Sonata Theory (2006), and Schmalfeldt’s notions of “becoming” and “the Beethoven-Hegelian tradition” (2011).
Eric Elder is a candidate for the PhD in Musicology at Brandeis University, where his working under the guidance of Dr. Allan Keiler. Eric holds a BM in Jazz and Commercial Music from Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts, an MA in Jazz History and Research from Rutgers University, and an MFA in Musicology from Brandeis. His primary research interests lie at the intersection of theory and analysis, history of theory, philosophy in musical thought, and music and meaning, particularly in the cultural milieux of fin-de-siècle Vienna and mid-century America. Eric is also keenly interested in eighteenth-century Viennese music, the music of Alban Berg, and nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American popular music.
"I hope somebody cares for these minutiae": Women, "Smallness," and the Marginalization of English Music in the Long Nineteenth Century
Lidia Chang (Boston, MA)
Barring a few notable exceptions, English music between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries earns scant notice in music history textbooks, despite overwhelming evidence that England enjoyed a vibrant musical culture, especially during the Georgian era. However, I will argue that the English of this period were, in many respects, even more devoted to music-making than their continental counterparts. The problem, for England, was not that it made no music during this period, but that it made the wrong kind of music, and enjoyed it in the wrong ways. At a time when Germanic critics like E.T.A. Hoffmann and A.B. Marx were establishing grand, large-scale musical masterpieces (and the singular geniuses who created them) as the highest form of art, the English prioritized musical process over the musical work, and remained committed to music that could be played and enjoyed socially, in drawing rooms. I argue that England’s absence from the standard music history is due to three primary social issues: England’s complex and longstanding cultural anxieties regarding music’s supposed ability to feminize men and empower women; the invisibility of England’s most musical citizens (women); and a vibrant culture of domestic music-making (dominated by women) that was incompatible with the new aesthetic values of nineteenth-century Romanticism, which placed greater importance on the autonomous musical product than the malleable musical process.
A versatile musician and well-rounded scholar, Lidia Chang double majored in Flute Performance and Music History at the University of Massachusetts. She went on to earn a Master's in Historical Performance on the Baroque flute at McGill’s Schulich School of Music, and has recently completed a Masters in Historical Musicology at the University of Massachusetts. Lidia has the pleasure of performing as a soloist and with a number of period instrument ensembles including Ensemble Ad Libitum, Arcadia Players, and Ensemble Musica Humana, of which she is a founding member. Recently she has released two albums of Regency era dance music (Twelve Cotillions by Giovanni Gallini, 1770 and Country Dances by Thomas Skillern, 1781), which can be heard on the BBC’s recent adaptation of Poldark. As a scholar, Lidia’s primary focus is on the intersection of literature, gender, aesthetics, and music performance practices in the long nineteenth century. She has presented her research to great acclaim at the Jane Austen Society of North America’s annual and regional meetings, and at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Lidia is currently pursing a PhD in Musicology at the City University of New York.
Hidden in our Publications: New Concordances, Quotations, and Citations in Fourteenth-Century Music
Michael Scott Cuthbert (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
The overwhelming majority of known fourteenth- and early-fifteenth century music already appears in print. Over the past sixty years, using myriad manuscript and facsimile sources, the editors of series such as Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century have identified many quotations and concordances among pieces. Since the completion of the major “M2” series, the vast majority of new concordances and new similarities have come from the discovery of new sources, primarily fragments. Yet with almost 2,500 pieces from the period already discovered, giving over 3 million pairs of pieces which could have connections, is it not possible that many citations have been missed?
This paper says, “Yes.” By pairing a new database of transcriptions of over 80% of the known repertory from 1300–1420 with the music21 software toolkit, I have been able to identify over fifty definitive cases of quotation, citation, borrowing, or previously unknown concordances. The paper begins with a brief explanation of the methodology of identifying citations computationally, but focuses primarily on the implications for musicology of ten of these citations.
Among the most important discoveries are: an unknown use of parody by Ciconia, new polyphony in the Tournai Mass manuscript, new concordances for Zachara da Teramo and Hubertus de Salinis, citations between Credos by Feragut and Tapissier, and five new identifications of earlier repertories on the back of initial letters of the manuscript Bologna Q15. Two new identifications of Italian composers for what were previously assumed to be French works give further evidence to recent theories that much of the anonymous French repertory of the post-Machaut period is of Italian origin.
Michael Scott Cuthbert is Associate Professor of Music at MIT. His work focuses on medieval music, computational approaches to musicology, and occasionally the intersection of the two. Formerly on the faculties of Smith College and Mount Holyoke College, Cuthbert is the winner of the Rome Prize, a Villa I Tatti Fellowship, and the Radcliffe Fellowship.
12:05-1:50 p.m. Lunch Break
1:50-2:10 p.m. Business Meeting
Afternoon Session: The Dynamic Vision
"Reinterpreting the 'Drowned Woman'": Feminist Readings of Isabelle Aboulker's Femmes en Fable
Rachael Lansang (Rutgers University)
“It is nothing, only a drowned woman.” This well-known French idiom is derived from “La Femme Noyée,” one of the fables from Jean de la Fontaine’s famous seventeenth-century collection. The texts of these fables, compiled from international folklore and other fabulists like Aesop, are regarded as morality tales for children, and are often dismissed as archaic and patriarchal. The stories usually feature animals, and sometimes humans, confronting difficult moral quandaries.
Musical settings of these tales abound, and French composer Isabelle Aboulker (b. 1938) wrote no fewer than three large-scale vocal works based on Fontaine’s famous Fables: the first is for children’s voices, and accompanies an illustrated children’s book. The second is a quasi-staged reading for three singers and a small chamber ensemble. The third, Femmes en Fables, is a cycle of four songs scored for a medium female voice and piano; it stands apart from these others as it sets texts featuring only female protagonists. Aboulker’s works are known in France, but the wider musical community would benefit from exposure to her socially conscious, carefully crafted music, which represents a new phase in the tradition of the French modernism encompassing Fauré, Massenet, Les Six, and Aboulker’s own grandfather, Henry Février .
Aboulker’s setting provides stunning feminist insight into the famous stories. I argue that the interpretation of stories about women in settings by a female composer and performances by a female singer enables a new perspective. Aboulker, through various scalar, harmonic, and formal techniques, emphasizes new aspects of the narratives in ways that thwart long-held misogynistic readings. The composer’s approach to the text setting, combined with the interpretive forces of a female voice, provides a musical space that can accommodate multiple, simultaneous, and synthesized viewpoints of the female experiences depicted in the stories.
Rachael Lansang is a PhD candidate in Musicology at Rutgers University. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in vocal performance at the University of Connecticut. Her research interests include the intersection of gender studies and twenty-first century song, as well as opera and musical theater in the United States. An active performer, specializing in operatic and contemporary repertoire, she is a member of the C4: the Choral Composer/Conductor Collective, based in New York City, and has performed with New Jersey State Opera, Regina Opera of Brooklyn, Hartford Opera Theater, the Baltimore Bach Society, and more.
The Topos of Jealousy in Late Sixteenth-Century Ferrarese Culture: Luzzaschi’s Setting of Tasso's “Geloso amante” (1576)
Emiliano Ricciardi (University of Massachusetts-Amherst)
Elizabethan Traces in Appalachia? How Music Critics Interpret Dolly Parton's Songs and Voice
Lydia Hamessley (Hamilton College)
Music critics often find it challenging to describe Dolly Parton’s music. While her straightforward country and pop songs present few difficulties, critics often struggle to find a vocabulary for the distinctive characteristics they hear in songs like “Jolene,” “Down From Dover,” “The Bargain Store.” When they use phrases like “old-world” and “Appalachian ballads,” they are on the right track. Indeed, Dolly makes this link: “My songs come directly from the English, Irish, and Scottish folk songs of old.” However, critics often also use the word “Elizabethan” and phrases like “an antique ‘Greensleeves’ feel” as a way to capture Dolly’s unique sound, calling on “Elizabethan” as shorthand for modal inflections and Dolly’s idiosyncratic vocal quality.
This use of “Elizabethan” is spurious. It is based on simplistic understandings of the Anglo-Celtic roots of Appalachian music as described by folksong collector Cecil Sharp, among others, as well as a lack of familiarity with the range of Appalachian vocal styles. It is also likely a remnant of writings by American nationalist composers such as Lamar Stringfield and John Powell in the 1930s who sought to elevate Appalachian music by conflating it with Elizabethan music. “Elizabethan” maintains its currency through its recuperative status in our culture.
My paper traces and critiques the widespread use of “Elizabethan” in Dolly hagiography from its origin in the 1970s to contemporary writing. I then analyze some of Dolly’s songs and her vocal style, using a musical vocabulary and approach that clarifies, rather than idealizes, her musical influences. Dolly’s vocal style and songs are influenced by Appalachian ballad singers not in the timbre or pitch of the voice, but in the nuanced vocal embellishments that permeate her singing and the modal harmonies she writes. Thus, Dolly does evoke an “old-world sound,” as she says. But it is not specifically “Elizabethan.”
Lydia Hamessley (HAM' ess lee) is Professor of Music at Hamilton College, where she teaches courses in Medieval and Renaissance music, American music, music in film, world music, and country music. She received her Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Minnesota, and she was the coordinator of the first Feminist Theory and Music conference held in Minneapolis in 1991. She has published in Music & Letters, Queering the Pitch, Women & Music, and Ruth Crawford Seeger's Worlds. She is the co-editor, with Elaine Barkin, of Audible Traces: Gender, Identity, and Music. She is currently writing a book about Dolly Parton for the University of Illinois Press Women Composers series. She is also a clawhammer banjo player.