Anna Rose Nelson, summer research in Basel

This summer, theorist Anna Rose Nelson was awarded a one-month stipend from the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel, Switzerland to conduct research pertaining to her dissertation on miniature forms in modernist compositions. While she was there, she spent the bulk of her time carefully analyzing the sketch material available for Brian Ferneyhough’s Sonatas for String Quartet (1967), which was conceived in five large movements but exists in published form as 24 short “fragments.” Thanks to help from Dr. Simon Obert, she was also lucky enough to study sketches for Anton Webern’s Sechs Bagatellen (1911/1913) and a small book the composer kept with a record of the items in his library, complete with two preserved four-leaf clovers!

Alyssa Wells: summer archival research

Alyssa Wells, a fifth-year PhD candidate in Historical Musicology, has spent the Summer of 2019 doing archival research in Chicago. Funded by a new summer research grant from the U of M Musicology department, she visited the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois Chicago, the Chicago Historical Society, the Newberry Library, and the Chicago Public Library to access materials from their archives and special collections. While seeking out information about the brass, concert, and marching bands of German-American societies and organizations in interwar Chicago, she stumbled upon many amusing documents, including but not limited to:

  • Records of Big Bertha
    (a colossal, radioactive University of Chicago bass drum)
  • Accounts of a “monkey pie eating contest”
    (fortunately, monkeys ate banana pies in this event)
  • Photos of pigeon races
    (exact details still unknown)
  • Press releases for the time Mussolini’s “Black Shirts”
    (marching band) accidentally interrupted an outdoor concert by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Oddities aside, this exploratory research has allowed Alyssa to make plans for the more in-depth research she will conduct during the upcoming academic year.

Also while in Chicago, Alyssa managed to catch up with alum James McNally!

(photo credit: James McNally)

William’s Research and Language-Study in Germany

Enjoy learning about what SMR member William van Geest was up to this past summer while away researching and studying in Germany.

This summer, I spent two months in Germany studying German and researching. For the latter, I completed a four-week course at the Goethe Institute in Berlin (see photo). My participation in this course was funded by a Rackham Language Training Award, a new award from the Rackham Graduate School. After this course, I remained in Berlin for two weeks to work at the at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz (see photo), examining pedagogical materials, compositions, compositional exercises, and other archival materials relating to my dissertation research. This research was funded by a Rackham Graduate Student Research Grant, which supports a variety of research activities for doctoral candidates. After my time in Berlin, I spent one week divided between Stuttgart, where I spent some time at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Stuttgart and the Württembergische Landesbibliothek (see photos), and Leipzig, where I visited the archives of the Hochschule für Musik und Theater „Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy“ Leipzig and the Stadtbibliothek Leipzig (see photos). The aim of my research was above all reconnaissance—that is, to learn what materials were available to me—and to begin examining them systematically. When not in archives, I also researched the local fare (see photos), and indeed made substantial headway in this realm.




Ryan McCulloch: Shostakovich Research in Moscow

IMG_4058I am currently finishing up research funded by a Fulbright grant for the 2017–18 academic year. The research I conducted focuses on the composition and reception history of D.D. Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87. During my time in Moscow, I looked at over three-hundred pages of manuscripts for Op. 87 to analyze Shostakovich’s compositional process. Prior to arriving in Moscow, I was hoping to find evidence that Shostakovich sketched and planned his materials extensively for Op. 87. I discovered that he did plan out his compositions, but in a very intuitive and unsystematic manner.




I also looked at hundreds of orders, stenographs, and other official documents from the Composers’ Union, the Committee of Artistic Affairs, and Muzgiz (the Moscow based publishing company) covering the post-war period. The purpose of looking at these documents was to better understand the “music industry” in the post-war Soviet Union. I conducted research at the Shostakovich archive, the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (RGALI), and the Russian National Museum of Music (RNMM-formerly the Glinka archive).

Right: An order from the Soviet Ministers of the USSR for statistical information on the Union.


ryan4 061418Pictured at top: The wall memorial to Shostakovich just outside the archive (the plaque reads: “Here from 1962 to 1975 lived and worked the hero of socialist labor, National Artist of the USSR, composer Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich”).

At left: My daughter Layla taking her first guitar lesson at 2 months old in our apartment in the Khoroshovo-mnevniki district.

Ryan McCulloch’s Research in Moscow

I was awarded a Fulbright for the 2017–18 academic year to research D.D. Shostakovich’s sketches of his 24 Preludes and Fugues, op. 87. This project has allowed me to work in three archives in Moscow: the Shostakovich Archive, the Glinka Museum, and the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (RGALI). In addition to the Fulbright, I was awarded a Critical Language Enhancement Award (CLEA) grant to continue to study Russian. This opportunity will allow me to work closely with notable scholars Levon Hakopian and Philip Ewell, as well as to exchange my ideas with fellow Russian and Eastern European researchers in various institutions across Moscow.