One of our freshly-minted PhDs, Anne Heminger, has an article in the most recent issue of Early Music History—and in line with the ecumenical spirit of SMR, it includes both music-theoretical and more conventional musicological themes. The article is entitled, “Music Theory at Work: The Eton Choirbook, Rhythmic Proportions and Musical Networks in Sixteenth-Century England” and can be found here. Congratulations, Anne!
Abstract: “Music Theory at Work: The Eton Choirbook, Rhythmic Proportions and Musical Networks in Sixteenth-Century England”
Whilst scholars often rely on a close reading of the score to understand English musical style at the turn of the fifteenth century, a study of the compositional techniques composers were taught provides complementary evidence of how and why specific stylistic traits came to dominate this repertory. This essay examines the relationship between practical and theoretical sources in late medieval England, demonstrating a link between the writings of two Oxford-educated musicians, John Tucke and John Dygon, and the polyphonic repertory of the Eton Choirbook (Eton College Library, MS 178), compiled c. 1500–4. Select case studies from this manuscript suggest that compositional and notational solutions adopted at the turn of the fifteenth century, having to do particularly with metrical proportions, echo music-theoretical concepts elucidated by Tucke and Dygon. These findings impinge upon the current debate concerning the presence of a network between educational institutions in the south-east of England during this period.
Recently, SMR member Elizabeth McLain had an article published in the Journal of Musicological Research. The article, entitled “In Tempore Belli: George Crumb’s Black Angels and the Vietnam War” (see abstract below), includes in appendix an interview with Crumb himself. Incidentally, connections
between this piece and U-M run deep: a fellow Wolverine, Crumb received
his DMA from the University of Michigan in 1959. He wrote Black Angels a
decade later, during his tenure as composer-in-residence at U-M, and
indeed the piece was a commission by U-M for the Stanley Quartet, an
ensemble comprised of U-M faculty.
Crumb describes “dark currents” and “musical vibrations from the surrounding world” of the Vietnam War as crucial to shaping Black Angels. Beyond its unearthly sound palette, Crumb’s work depicts the horrors of war through spiritual symbols that permeate the work, from its architecture to foundational motives. Secularization theory is useful for exploring the work’s historical precedents and identifying Crumb’s revolutionary surrealist poetics. A comparative analysis with Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time repositions Crumb’s Black Angels as part of a larger twentieth-century trend of embracing spirituality to understand, memorialize, and heal from the collective trauma of war.
This past academic year was a productive one for SMR members, not least of all for their publications. The below are a few of them (but see also our post on Vivian’s MTO article).
Jessica Grimmer had a review of the book Playing for Their Lives: The Global El Sistema Movement for Social Change Through Music, authored by Tricia Tunstall and Eric Booth, appear in Notes 74, no. 3 (link).
James McNally had two articles come out. The first, entitled “Favela Chic: Diplo, Funk Carioca, and the Ethics and Aesthetics of the Global Remix,” appeared in Popular Music and Society 40, no. 4 (link).
James’ second article is entitled “Azealia Banks’s ‘212’: Black Female Identity and the White Gaze in Contemporary Hip Hop” and appeared in the Journal of the Society for American Music 10, no. 1 (link)
And finally, Austin Stewart had a review of Bach and the Organ. Bach Perspectives, vol. 10, edited by Matthew Dirst, appear in The Society for Eighteenth-Century Music Newsletter, no. 31 (Spring 2018).
Alyssa Wells was recently featured on the Brass Chicks blog—on International Women’s Day, no less—in a piece she wrote about her path to her current research. You can read all about it here.
Early this summer, William van Geest had an article, entitled “New Perspectives on Meter in Webern’s Opp. 5, 11, and 29,” published in the inaugural issue of the Brandeis Journal of Musicology. William originally presented this paper at the 2015 Musicology Conference of the Brandeis University Department of Music Graduate Student Society. A summary of the article is found below. William also recently had the opportunity to visit the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel, Switzerland, where he examined Webern’s sketches for his Op. 28 String Quartet for use in a paper that explores meter in this piece.
While several earlier analysts have explored meter in Webern’s music, most of these investigations seek to answer the question, “Is it metrical?” The results of this line of inquiry, while often interesting, are frequently inconclusive or otherwise unsatisfactory. My aim is to discover Webern’s operative notions of meter, and to situate these within his larger aesthetic goals. Given our lack of extensive comment by Webern on meter, I here rely on analytical means. I begin by assuming that meter as notated is meaningful for Webern and that conventional notions of meter play some role; beyond this, I allow the problem of metrical projection and discrepancies between notated meter and the musical surface to define the character and shape of his metrical practice.
This article explores Webern’s notions of meter as suggested by the analysis of three pieces. In the fourth movement of the Op. 5 Pieces for String Quartet, I discuss suggestive connections between meter and form, as well as Webern’s conception of written meter as exerting a force on the musical surface. In the first movement of the Op. 11 Three Little Pieces, I show Webern’s extension of the connections between form and meter, both via denser formal units and to mark formal initiation or closure, as well as his careful employment of metrical activation to dramatic ends. In the first movement (“Zündender Lichtblitz”) of the First Cantata, Op. 29, I discuss a reversal of the foregoing, whereby Webern closely adapts the notated meter to the musical surface, yet also discuss his treatment of visual cues for meter as barriers in the musical surface, as well as his abrogation of typical distribution of energy. This survey of Webern’s metrical practice shows the composer both grappling with metrical conventions but also reinterpreting them in original and productive ways.
-William van Geest
William van Geest is a fourth-year Ph.D student in Music Theory at the University of Michigan. While his current research focuses on rhythmic theory in thirteenth-century France, his interests include the history of music theory, rhythm and meter, the music of Anton Webern, and medieval grammar. He has presented work on these topics at a variety of conferences in North America and Europe.
Earlier this week, Vivian Luong had an article published in Music Theory Online (see abstract below). According to the Editor’s Message, Vivian’s article is one of five essays on feminist music theory “that help to question the moulds and patterns of our system of indoctrination.” The CFP for this special half-issue on feminist music theory was developed in conjunction with the Society for Music Theory’s Committee on the Status of Women. Congratulations, Vivian!
“Rethinking Music Loving”
Building on an implicit ethical critique of music theory in the writings of Marion A. Guck and other feminist music theorists, this paper seeks to displace an implicit moral commitment that pervades music-theoretical practice in favor of an ethics in the Deleuzian sense of the term. First, I demonstrate how established music-theoretical approaches remain focused on defining and policing a musical morality—a strict delineation of what ought to count as proper ways of doing music theory, of lovingly engaging with music professionally. Second, taking up Guck’s call for an open-ended and diverse disciplinary ethics centered on music loving, I explore how the Deleuzian ethical concept of love as a positive and productive force might intervene in our discipline’s moralistic investments and facilitate the creation of new feminist music-theoretical concepts and practices.
Vivian Luong is a PhD candidate in music theory. Supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan, Vivian is currently completing her dissertation titled “Rethinking Music Loving with Ethnographies of Music Analysis.” This project weaves together her interests in Schenkerian theory, new materialist philosophy, and queer theory to elucidate an implicit music-theoretical ethics centered on loving relationships between listeners, analysts, and music.