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

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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. 

Feminist Theory and Music Conference in San Francisco

This past July, fellow music theory PhD candidate Steve Lett and I attended the Feminist Theory and Music (FTM) conference hosted by San Francisco State University. Featured in the same session, we presented papers centered on rethinking early feminist music theory’s contributions to our discipline. Steve’s paper was titled “Depoliticizing Experience: Music Theory after the Feminist Critique” and mine was titled “Philosophies of the Body in Feminine Endings: Historicizing the Feminist Roots of Music Theory’s Embodied Turn.”

Referencing the 1978 Maya Angelou poem “Still I Rise,” the conference theme “Still We Rise” threaded through diverse topics and formats. We attended papers on autoethnography of queer American spaces, trauma in recent productions of Strauss’s Salome, and indigenous feminisms from the Marshall Islands. In a workshop on South African protest music, we learned strategies for musical activism alongside musicologist Nicol Hammond who draws on her Apartheid-era experiences in her recent work. Two special sessions commemorated the passing of Pauline Oliveros and Geri Allen, two feminist icons in music. A third special session celebrated the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

FTM is a biennial conference organized by an unincorporated group of dedicated scholars. At the end of the conference, attendees were involved in a conversation about planning the next iteration of FTM. While these details are still in formation, Steve and I are already looking forward to attending in 2019!

-Vivian Luong

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The Golden Gate Bridge enveloped in fog.

Vivian Luong is a music theory PhD candidate. She is currently working on her dissertation titled “Rethinking Music Loving with Ethnographies of Music Analysis.”

Steve Lett is a music theory PhD candidate. His dissertation titled “The Psychedelic Listener” explores how ideas about music’s role in psychedelic psychotherapy animated the practice of influential music therapist Helen L. Bonny.


William van Geest, Brandeis Journal of Musicology publication

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.

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.

Meeting Guys & Dolls at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

I recently had a fruitful three-day whirlwind visit to New York, where I spent bulk of my time at the NYPL for the Performing Arts viewing sketches, conductor’s scores, early scripts and lyric drafts, and programs (among other items) from Guys & Dolls, with an eye toward tracing some of the textual changes in the show.

Pictured are a two-voice w/lyric sketch of the tune “Nathan’s Problem” (not included in the final version of the show) and an incomplete lyric sheet for “Shango” (also not included in the final version of the show); the latter also has a lead-sheet and accompaniment part (not pictured). One takeaway from these examples is that these early drafts present characters whose personalities, histories, and actions hew more closely to their manifestations in the source materials for the show, rather than in the final version which opened in November 1950.

Additionally, combing through legal paperwork regarding intellectual property licensing for the show and its subsequent reiterations and adaptations revealed some interesting connections that I had suspected but wasn’t (until then) able to document with any degree of certainty. The writer-collaborators seem happy to tell one story to their biographers but another to their attorneys.


I had lunch with fellow Wolverine Dorian Mueller, and had quite the surprise bump-in with none other than former U of M SMTD Dean of Graduate Studies, Jason Geary, who also happened to be in the reading room doing some research.

When I wasn’t at the library, I was sitting on the balcony of friend’s place at 43rd and 10th, reviewing notes, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, archiving research photos, and enjoying views like this:


– John Edwartowski

John is a Ph.D. candidate in music theory. His dissertation research looks at textual change in Guys & Dolls.

Vivian Luong, MTO article publication

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.