Center for Humanistic Inquiry (CHI)
Robert Frost Library, 2nd floor
Amherst, MA 01002
Amherst, MA 01002
The entrance to the Library is from Quadrangle Drive (south end of the building).
More info regarding parking HERE
More info regarding parking HERE
Details as to specifics (hall/rooms, parking) will be posted as they become available.
Bios, photos, and abstracts are posted as available.
9:45-10:15 Refreshments and Registration
Morning Session10:15 Welcome
10:20 From Poem to Dance via Music: Departures and Convergences in Jonathan Taylor’s
Nona Monahin (Mount Holyoke College)
Richard Dehmel’s 1896 “Verklärte Nacht” (Transfigured Night), a poem centered on a crisis of
confidence in a couple’s relationship, inspired composer Arnold Schoenberg’s string sextet of
the same title (1899; arranged for string orchestra in 1917 and revised in 1943), which in turn
inspired numerous choreographic versions. In this paper I focus on an unjustly neglected
masterpiece: the neo-classical ballet, Transfigured Night, choreographed by the late Jonathan
Taylor (1941 – 2019) and first performed by the Australian Dance Theatre in 1980. Drawing on
music theorist Kofi Agawu’s concept of the “structural highpoint,” my paper shows how the
concept can be fruitfully applied to an intermedial analysis to underscore the shared structural
qualities and divergent tensions inherent in the five stanzas of Dehmel’s poem, Schoenberg’s
thirty-minute composition, and Taylor’s ballet for twelve dancers. I examine ways in which the
hierarchical qualities of a work’s multiple “highpoints” play themselves out in the different
media. Whereas Dehmel’s short poem features only two characters and moves fairly
straightforwardly from conflict to resolution, Taylor utilizes the breadth and harmonic richness
of Schoenberg’s score to create a longer trajectory that involves the collaboration of all twelve
dancers — the couple at the center of the conflict, and ten dancers in ostensibly abstract but
implicitly supportive roles. The turning point in Taylor’s ballet occurs earlier than in Dehmel’s
poem, and later than in Schoenberg’s composition, and coincides with the musical portrayal of
the actual “transfiguration” of the night, as suggested by all three works’ common title.
Melbourne, Australia. Her current research focuses on the relationship of music and dance in contemporary choreography.
10:50 Africa, Guitar Dance-Songs, and the (Early) Modernization of European Music
Brian Barone (Boston University)
Scholarly attention in several areas of historical and cultural research has increasingly alighted on the African presence in early modern Europe. From the time of the Portuguese opening of the Atlantic slave trade in the 1440s, increasing numbers of Africans—typically enslaved people—became resident in Europe, especially in urban centers. By the mid-sixteenth century, one observer of Seville described the city through the metaphor of a chess board: peopled equally in white and black. In truth, the Afro-Sevillian population was probably only ten or eleven percent of the whole, but the over-estimate may testify to the size of the social role played by this group in the life of the city.
One domain in which early modern Afro-Europeans appear to have been particularly prominent was music. This paper engages a hitherto underutilized set of sources for studying this historical moment: sixteenth- and early-seventeenth century guitar tablatures (mostly Italian) that notate Iberian dance-song genres making topical reference to Africa or an emerging Afro-America. A few such genres, particularly chacona and zarabanda, have been previously recognized for their role in the emergence of tonality. This study re-opens such lines of inquiry, but analyzes a larger network of “African” genres—guineos, canarios, zarambeques, moriscos, and so on—as well as the ideological freight they carried. I argue that African musics and European ideas about them were key to precipitating European musical “modernization” around 1600, not only along technical axes such as tonality, but in conceptual terms as well. In this way I add a musical dimension to the critical consensus—long emerging but still insufficiently absorbed at large—that exploitation of Africa and Africans has been at the heart of the construction and maintenance of global modernity.
11:20 Theinred of Dover as a Key to Understanding the State of Music Theory in the [?]
Solomon Guhl-Miller (Rutgers University) and Elina Hamilton (Boston Conservatory at Berklee)
The dating of Theinred of Dover's treatise De legitimis has been debated for over a century because its teachings do not seem to be consistent with a single period: on the one hand his arguments on how to notate non-diatonic notes seem to stem from a time before the staff, on the other, his teachings regarding the acceptance of thirds and sixths in polyphony seem to be more consistent with treatises written around 1300. In this session, Elina Hamilton and Solomon Guhl-Miller will examine the main arguments presented by Reaney, Katayama, and Snyder by contextualizing De legitimis with both treatises from the eleventh century and those from the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.
This session will be in three parts. First, building on Snyder’s work, a case for an early date will be made by connecting De legitimis to a group of Germanic chant treatises from the eleventh century, particularly those by Aribo and William of Hirsau. The authors of these treatises present similar ways of labeling non-diatonic tones, through their discussions of monochord tunings and species of hexachords, that were rarely used after the twelfth century. Second, the case will be made for dating Theinred to the turn of the fourteenth century, examining the discourse of thirds and sixths by Walter of Evesham Abbey and Anonymous IV, while assessing the placement of the Euclidean algorithm and the applied use of Aristotelian logic within De legitimis to reveal late medieval aspects yet to be examined. These will ultimately show that De legitimis is more consistent with a date closer to the fourteenth century than with earlier teachings. Finally, the speakers will enter into a jeu parti in which they will offer a point-counterpoint exchange on each of their arguments in an attempt to settle the date of the treatise.
12:15-2:15 Lunch Break
2:15-2:40 Business Meeting
Afternoon Session2:40 “The Landscape Is Empty”: The Lateness of Pastoral Conventions in the Music of
Frank Bridge and Ralph Vaughan Williams
Philip Bixby (Yale University)
English pastoral music of the early twentieth century tends to conjure sentiments that appear antithetical to modernism. Indeed, pastoralism’s associations with tranquility, the countryside, and uncritical nostalgia make it an unlikely locus for an investigation into modernist aesthetics, aesthetics that tend to favor a critical response to inherited traditions. Dismissals of pastoral music often fixate upon the musical surface – its harmonic consonance and dynamic quietude. However, if one ventures further into the relationship between pastoral conventions and musico-formal expectations in early twentieth-century English music, a different picture begins to emerge. After the First World War, composers such as Frank Bridge and Ralph Vaughan Williams began to reformulate their approaches to pastoralism in many of their works. Rather than incorporating pastoral signifiers into goal-oriented formal designs, these composers subvert formal expectations by fragmenting and isolating pastoral conventions.
Building upon the ideas of Theodor Adorno and J. P. E. Harper-Scott, I argue that Adorno’s concept of lateness and Harper-Scott’s “reactive modernism” provide a fruitful interpretive framework for understanding the kind of critical function that pastoralism exercises upon and within musical forms in these compositions by Bridge and Vaughan Williams. These composers fracture the conventions of the pastoral topic, divorcing them from their traditional relationships with teleological formal structures. This post-war pastoralism, rather than resting comfortably in the well-established associations of the pastoral, instead expresses the fragmentation and alienation of the subject in modernity. This reveals a surprisingly modernist sensibility where one might not have been originally suspected. After briefly delineating musical pastoralism and the lateness discourse, I analyze a handful of pieces by these two composers. I conclude that the subtle subversion of formal processes via pastoral conventions is an intelligible signifier of the modernist attitudes embodied in these works, attitudes that disclose a distrust towards the pastoral’s previous meanings.
3:10 Sinophonic Discords: Musical Hatred and the Negotiation of Sonic Difference
Samuel Chan (New York University)
Adopting Shih Shu-mei’s (2011) concept of the “Sinophone” for music studies, Tan Sooi Beng and Nancy Rao (2016) proposed “Sino-soundscape” for rethinking musical circulations across Sinitic spheres. While their unsettling of the homologies between nationality, ethnicity, language, and culture has inspired productive theorizations of trans-local sonic hybridities and heterogeneities, one can also observe the sustained prominence of sonic and musical discords within the Sinophone, where listening is increasingly mobilized to reinforce existing aesthetic, social, and political antagonisms.
In this paper, I foreground Sino-soundscape as a contested space for negotiating sonic difference by examining musical hatred in contemporary Hong Kong. Specifically, I focus on damas, middle-aged female Chinese immigrants who, since the 2000s, have been singing and dancing every night on the streets of urban Hong Kong. Their joyful performances not only led to numerous noise complaints from local residents, but spiraled into violent conflicts between anti-China and pro-China protesters, the former of which saw the phenomenon as a sonic manifestation of the aggravating trans-border cultural and political infiltrations by the Chinese government since Hong Kong’s handover in 1997.
By analyzing governmental policies, documentaries, and news reports on this incident, I ask: Why is it that these performances, perceived by these different listeners as sound, music, and/or noise, lend themselves particularly well to the polarization of the listening public? How do the persistent aversion, ridicule, and criticism of these gendered and aged bodies intersect with the political labor of negotiating sonic territorialization, cultural incompatibility, and economic exclusion? How do the interactions between the ephemerality of sound and the enduring existence of urban spaces produce meanings, limitations, solidarities, and traumas within the Sinophone? I argue that, to address the polyphonic richness of Sino-soundscapes, we need to listen not only to their concordant harmonies, but, equally importantly, to their discordant cacophonies.
Samuel Chan is a PhD student and Henry MacCracken Fellow in Music at New York University. He received his MA in Music/Integrative Studies at UC San Diego, and his BA in Music with First Class Honors at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has presented his work on musical aversion, vocal failures, and digital circulation in conferences in Finland, Hong Kong, and the US. His current research focuses on musical cosmopolitanism, Sinophone studies, and media anthropology.
3:40 Resonating Intimacy: Small Sounds Amplification in Contemporary Music and
Giulia Accornero (Harvard University)
Take your hand to your ear, and gently brush a finger from the earlobe up to the ear cartilage,
spiraling down towards the canal. What do you hear? Michel Chion (2015) would call these
examples of “small sounds”: besides an extreme sense of closeness and relative loudness, the
sounds you experience conjure up small sources. To even complicate Chion’s definition, small
sounds can be taken as an index of what E.T. Hall defined in his theory of proxemics, the study
of how humans use space as a non-verbal elaboration of culture, as the “intimate zone”. But how
could intimacy resonate with us outside of a contained, private sphere—in a concert hall, for
example? Or what is intimacy when sounded out for millions of people? Taking two recent works
of contemporary music—Intent on Resurrection (2014) by Clara Iannotta, and Hearth Chamber
(2019) by Chaya Czernowin—and the recent YouTube phenomenon of ASMR (Autonomous
Sensory Meridian Response) as case studies, I explore how different assemblages of mediators
could bring small sounds to public settings and thus rearticulate intimacy. If small sounds are to
be understood at the intersection of verberation and auditum (Chion, 2015), i.e. materiality and
immateriality, I argue that a distributive understanding of agency is necessary. By positing small
sounds as an actor network, it will be possible not only to understand them as relational entities
but also to offer an alternative to the mind-body dualism that often underlies our theorizations of
the listening experience. Finally, given these methodological premises, small sounds will provide
us with an acoustemology of contemporary intimacy.
Islamicate mathematical sources might have played. Her secondary research area focuses on the technology and aesthetics of sound amplification in ASMR and recent musical objects. In Spring
2020 she will be a Graduate Fellow at I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. Before coming to Harvard, she graduated in Economics (BA), and Musicology (BA, MA).
4:10 Virtuous Virtuosity: The Concerto and the Topic of Quiet Transcendence
David Schneider (Amherst College)
What happens when the first or last movement of a concerto ends softly? The present paper
attempts to answer this question by examining the endings to the first and/or last movements
of four works relevant to the topic: Berg’s Violin Concerto, Dohnányi’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E
minor, Busoni’s Piano Concerto, and Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1.
At issue in these concerti is a tension between virtuosity—at once a sine qua non of the
concerto genre and a quality that has left it open to criticism as empty—and a desire to evoke
meaning through gestures of transcendence, which would seem the perfect antidote to such
criticism. Such endings replace the dazzle of technical display with depth of feeling. Yet denying
a soloist of finger-busting fireworks at these points in the form has been a step few composers
were willing to take in the “golden age” of the concerto (ca. 1800–1945). Exploring such
transcendent moments in a handful of exceptional works provides a useful perspective for
engaging critically with fundamental aspects of the dramaturgy of the concerto—the nature of
virtuosity, the relationship of soloist and orchestra, and the expressive capabilities of the solo
In the spirit of Joseph Kerman’s concept of virtú, I read select passages of the works in question
as moments that allow us to unpack the original meaning of the word virtuoso as virtuous (from
the late Latin: virtuosus). In these high, soft concluding passages, I hear a reflection of this
etymology: virtuous virtuosity, a subjective aesthetic category that for me constitutes one of
the concerto’s highest aspirations.