Innovation and Improvisation in São Paulo, Brazil

This July and August, I spent time in São Paulo, Brazil conducting follow-up research for my dissertation, “São Paulo Underground: Musical Innovation and Independent Cultural Production in Urban Brazilian Experimental Music Practice.” The project investigates an independently organized scene of experimentally oriented musicians from a variety of styles, ranging from hardcore punk to free improvisation to electroacoustic composition. Concerts principally feature live, collaborative improvisation (see photos below). Because of the participants’ diverse stylistic backgrounds, this results in an unpredictable, ever-changing series of sounds and performances on a day-to-day basis. This time around, the bulk of my field work consisted of speaking with musicians, conducting follow-up interviews, attending concerts, and seeing how the scene had developed since my primary research period in 2015–16. The real pleasure, however, came in simply spending time with the musicians for the first time in over a year. Much has changed in the Brazilian cultural and political spheres over the past 12 months, but it was good to see the scene going strong.

Márcio Gibson, Thiago Salas Gomes, Mariana Oliveira, and Alex Dias perform at the venue Ibrasotope.
Márcio Gibson, Thiago Salas Gomes, Mariana Oliveira, and Alex Dias perform at the venue Ibrasotope.
Rodrigo Brandão, Rogério Martins, Guilherme Granado, and Tulipa Ruiz perform at the venue Estúdio Fita Crepe. 
Rodrigo Brandão, Rogério Martins, Guilherme Granado, and Tulipa Ruiz perform at the venue Estúdio Fita Crepe.
Carla Boregas and Anelena Toku, members of the duo Fronte Violeta, perform a set at the venue Shuffle Bar. 
Carla Boregas and Anelena Toku, members of the duo Fronte Violeta, perform a set at the venue Shuffle Bar.

– James McNally

James McNally is a sixth-year PhD Candidate in Ethnomusicology. His research investigates the musical cultures of Brazil and the United States, with theoretical focuses on issues of cultural production, race and ethnicity, improvisation, urban studies, and gender and sexuality.  

Re-approaching a Hollywood Film Musical through 1950s Hong Kong Newspaper Advertisements

In early June this summer, I visited the Special Collections of the Hong Kong University Main Library, conducting archival research on the reception of particular Hollywood musical films and their Cantonese remakes through studying Hong Kong newspaper advertisements (in Chinese and English) from the 1950s. I was working on one of my three dissertation chapters on The Sorrowful Lute (Pipa yuan, 1957), a Cantonese remake of Love Me or Leave Me (1955), and I wanted to know more about how the remake made a cultural critique of the original by further moralizing the social status of cabaret singer.

A comparison between the Chinese and English advertisements of Love Me or Leave Me shows how the relationship between Ruth Etting (played by Doris Day) and Martin Snyder (played by James Cagney) is described with reference to different moral understandings of cabaret singers. The Chinese version includes notable elaboration (photo 1, lower half) on what Snyder has done for Etting, how Etting is unfaithful to Snyder, and why Snyder should be sympathized with, whereas the English version focuses on Snyder being exploitative toward Etting, which is best manifested in the caption “SHE WAS A NOBODY—HE WAS ‘MR. BIG’” (photo 2, upper middle), as well as in the depiction of Snyder holding Etting’s neck (photo 2, lower left). This provides some clues as to why, in The Sorrowful Lute, cabaret is viewed by all characters, including the female protagonist and the male antagonist, as morally and artistically inferior to Cantonese opera. Love Me or Leave Me and The Sorrowful Lute share the same Chinese title (i.e., Pipa yuan, see photos 1 and 3). One may wonder what Love Me or Leave Me has to do with the pipa, a Sinicized Chinese instrument; in fact, in early- and mid-twentieth-century Cantonese culture, pipa was a euphemism for those young prostitutes-to-be who sing well. In this sense, the aforementioned details about those advertisements contextualize or even affirm The Sorrowful Lute as a remake that takes culturally specific moral judgment about music performance in addition to textual faithfulness into account.

-Ho-chak Law

Ho-chak Law is a seventh-year doctoral candidate in Ethnomusicology. He is currently finishing a dissertation titled “Cinematizing China Performatively: Film, Chinese Opera, and the Articulation of National Identity.”

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.

 

Exploring Music and Reform at MedRen 2017

Greetings from London, where I’m wrapping up a year of archival research for my dissertation! In early July, I presented some of this work at MedRen, the annual musicological conference dedicated to Medieval and Renaissance music, which this year was held in Prague. My paper, entitled “Negotiating Edward VI’s Reformation: Music and Religious Change in the Parish Churches of London, 1547–1553,” was in many ways a preview of part of my first dissertation chapter, which looks at parish musical practices in the transitional period between the reigns of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I in England’s capital city. This year, MedRen celebrated the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his “95 Theses,” so many of the sessions were devoted to music and the Reformation, which was particularly exciting for those (myself included) who study religious reform. Prof. Stefano Mengozzi also gave a paper at MedRen, so Michigan was well represented this year. The organizers did an amazing job—the conference venue was the beautiful Convent of St Agnes of Bohemia (http://www.ngprague.cz/en/objekt-detail/convent-of-st-agnes-of-bohemia/), and we heard concerts by three wonderful Czech groups: the Tiburtina Ensemble (http://www.tiburtina-ensemble.com), Schola Gregoriana Pragensis (http://www.gregoriana.cz/sgp), and Societas Incognitorum (http://societasincognitorum.cz/)—check them out if you have a chance! Finally, I must express my gratitude to the musicology department, which funded my trip to this fantastic conference.

-Anne Heminger

prague-small-2
A medieval tile mosaic from St. Vitus Cathedral.

 

Anne Heminger is a sixth-year PhD candidate in Historical Musicology working with Stefano Mengozzi. Her dissertation, “Confession Carried Aloft: Music, Sound, and Religious Identity in London, 1540–1560,” investigates the intersections between music, officially sanctioned orthodoxy, and the religious heterodoxy that marked English life under Edward VI and then Mary I.

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.