Musical Instrument Museum Trip

On the opening weekend of spring break, Alyssa, Ho-Chak, Casper, and I had the great fortune of visiting the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, as arranged by Professor Lester Monts and the Stearns Collection.

The museum operates on the slogan “Music is the Language of the Soul,” and the bulk of the museum is devoted to geographical regions of the world and their instruments. These regions include (1) Africa and Middle East, (2) Asia and Oceania, (3) Europe, (4) Latin America, and (5) United States / Canada, and the majority of the regions are broken up by country. Each subsection within these areas shows instruments, captions, and a monitor that wirelessly connects to museumgoers’ headphones, playing for them the video material shown on screens.

Picture2Fig. 2: Indonesia, which is represented by a full gamelan (right front) and a demonstration of how gongs are made (left back). The gamelan includes instrument descriptions and a monitor that plays short excerpts of gamelan, Indonesian dance, and shadow puppet theatre.



Fig. 3: Casper x 9000 years of continuous history

Additional galleries included one devoted to famous musicians who have performed in the museum, a room devoted to mechanical instruments, an interactive room with somewhat child-proof instruments, and the special exhibition devoted to ancient instruments from central China, curated in partnership with the Henan Museum.



There were also, of course, ample opportunities for us overworked graduate students to goof off. The museum had a Steinway in the lobby that was open for anyone to play, and the museum gift shop had a handful of instruments available for purchase.


Special thanks to Professor Lester Monts and the Stearns Collection for arranging the trip, and to Stearns curator Ted Lottman for setting up a behind the scenes tour of the museum.

– Conner VanderBeek




Fig. 4: Conner and Ho-Chak quit the band.


Summer in Prague

This summer I was awarded a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship by the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies to take an intensive two-month Czech language course at Charles University in Prague. The course was extremely helpful for me, as a heritage speaker, to round out my knowledge of Czech. Through the course I also got to know a number of other scholars interested in Czech studies from a number of different disciplines. Additionally, while abroad I had the opportunity to forge connections with the music theory community in the Czech Republic. Through discussions with Czech theorists I gained a perspective for how music theory in the Czech Republic was shaped by both its early 20th century authors in music theory and its more general political history, distinguishing it from both the United States and Germany.

-Kája Lill

Czech lang class
The 2017 Summer FLAS Prague class.


Kája Lill is a second-year PhD student in music theory. His interests include 20th century music and the history of music theory in early 20th century Central Europe. 

U-M Music Theory PhDs at EuroMAC 2017

Music Theory PhD students James DiNardo and William van Geest recently participated in the Ninth European Music Analysis Conference (EuroMAC). James DiNardo, in his paper entitled “Grappling with Form and Function in Mozart’s ‘Great’ C-Minor Mass,” adopted both sonata-theoretic and form-functional perspectives to shed light on two movements from Mozart’s mass, suggesting how approaches to instrumental form might be applied favorably to sacred music in the late-eighteenth century. In his paper entitled “Two Metrical Problems in Webern’s String Quartet, Op. 28,” William van Geest proposed a view of meter that both accounts for the metrical difficulties of this music and aligns with Webern’s broader aesthetics and poetics. Several U-M faculty members also presented papers.

The conference, which took place at the University of Strasbourg from June 28 to July 1, featured over 350 speakers representing approximately 45 countries, and involved several European music analysis societies. Talks were given in four languages (English, French, German, and Italian) on a number of music-analytical topics, including schema and partimento studies, musical form, meter and rhythm, twentieth-century music, modal theory, and approaches to pedagogy. One of the overarching themes for the conference was the epistemological status of music analysis, including some of the external and intrinsic challenges facing the discipline in the twenty-first century. In addition to spoken papers and poster sessions, the conference featured professional development workshops and evening concerts for attendees.

-James DiNardo

James DiNardo is a candidate in music theory, whose interests include the analysis of form and the music of Mozart. Jim will be teaching at the University of Notre Dame as an adjunct assistant professor of music starting Fall of 2017.

William van Geest is a pre-candidate in Music Theory. He specializes in the history of music theory, rhythm and meter, and the medieval grammar tradition.

Summer Latin in Toronto and Historical Notations at Yale

I spent six glorious weeks in what at times seems like a terrestrial civitas Dei—Toronto, of course—studying medieval Latin at the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto. In addition to grinding through a variety of texts with a variety of provenances, we also spent a day every week on paleography, the apex of which was some quality time spent with a tenth-century manuscript from Tours.

I also had the privilege of attending the Historical Notation Bootcamp at Yale University, organized and led by Professors Anna Zayaruznaya (Yale University) and Andrew Hicks (Cornell University) in mid-August. The course was a three-day blitz of notations ranging from the ninth century to the fifteenth, and our work ranged from discussing music-theoretical issues to singing works representative of the notations studied. Good times were had by all.

–William van Geest


William van Geest is a third-year PhD student in Music Theory at the University of Michigan. While his research focuses on rhythmic theory in thirteenth-century France, his interests include the history of music theory and a range of music-theoretical questions. He has presented work in Canada, the United States, and Britain on rhythm and meter, the music of Anton Webern, and medieval grammar.

Germany and the Czech Republic

This summer, my wife and I spent two months in Dresden studying German at the Goethe Institute on a grant from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst. Before returning to the United States, I also spent some time at the Janáček Archives in Brno, Czech Republic.

-Kája Lill


Kája Lill received his M.A. in music theory from the University of North Texas in 2015, and his B.A. from Grand Valley State University in 2013. His paper, “Serial Organization in Krzysztof Penderecki’s Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima: Rotation, Multiplication, and Contour” won the Colvin Student Paper Award at the 2015 Texas Society of Music Theory Meeting in El Paso. His current research includes translating and interpreting Leoš Janáček’s writings in music theory.