Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Stravinsky and the Futurists

by Mark DeVoto

I have just returned from a short visit to New York where, at the Guggenheim Museum, I saw the exhibition called Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe, which will remain until September 1. I had hoped to see some items that would expand a bit on Stravinsky's remarks in Conversations with Igor Stravinsky (1959), thus:
[Robert Craft:] Do you remember Balla's set for your Fireworks?
Giacomo Balla (1871–1958):
Sketch for Stravinsky's Fireworks (1915)
La Scala, Milan
[Stravinsky:] Vaguely, but I couldn't have described it even at the time (Rome, 1917) as anything more than a few splashes of paint on an otherwise empty backcloth. I do remember that it baffled the audience, however, and that when Balla came out to bow there was no applause: the public didn't know who he was, what he had done, why he should be bowing. Balla then reached in his pocket and squeezed a device that made his papillon necktie do tricks. This sent Diaghilev and me—we were in a box—into uncontrollable laughter, but the audience remained dumb.
Balla was always amusing and always likable, and some of the drollest hours of my life were spent in his and his fellow Futurists' company. The idea of doing a Futurist ballet was Diaghilev's but we decided together on my Fireworks music: it was “modern” enough and only four minutes long. Balla had impressed us as a gifted painter and we asked him to design a set.
I made fast friends with him after that, visiting him often in his apartment in Rome. He lived near the zoo, so near in fact that his balcony overhung a large cage. One heard animal noises in his rooms as one hears street noises in a New York hotel room. ...
On one of my Milanese visits Marinetti and Russolo, a genial, quiet man but with wild hair and beard, and Pratella, another moviemaker [sic], put me through a demonstration of their “Futurist Music.” Five phonographs standing on five tables in a large and otherwise empty room emitted digestive noises, static, etc., remarkably like the Musique concrète of seven or eight years ago (so perhaps they were Futurist after all; or perhaps Futurisms aren't progressive enough). I pretended to be enthusiastic and told them that sets of five phonographs with such music, mass-produced, would surely sell like Steinway grand pianos.
Some years after this demonstration Marinetti invented what he called “discreet noises,” noises to be associated with objects. I remember one such sound (to be truthful, it wasn't at all discreet) and the object it accompanied, a substance that looked like velvet but had the roughest surface I have ever touched. Balla must have participated in the “noise” movement, too, for he once gave me an Easter present, a papier-mâché Pascha cake that sighed very peculiarly when opened.
The exhibition at the Guggenheim includes two of Russolo's own paintings (I hadn't realized he was also a painter, and the two examples are quite good), plus several photographs of his intonarumori and assembled loudspeakers that I hadn't seen before; but even more interesting was the small exhibition of “Futurist Theatre” just off the fifth-floor ramp. This was a recreation of the 1917 Fireworks, which was in fact not a ballet at all but a light show with music; no dancers or singers were involved.

  • Preview of digital reconstuction.
Stravinsky's description above doesn't do justice to Balla's efforts, which included some 40 pages of ink sketches with elaborate geometrical designs and measurements; these sketches are part of the exhibit. The flashing colored lights in the exhibit are all oblique and indirect, and I can't say whether they represent original intentions, but they are certainly attractive; the Fireworks music displayed is Stravinsky's own recording, probably from around 1960. (I suppose that “discreet” in Stravinsky's memoir, above, probably should be “discrete”—at least the first mention.)

Giacomo Balla:
Abstract Speed + Sound
(Velocità astratta + rumore)
Guggenheim Museum

Mark DeVoto is Professor of Music, emeritus, at Tufts University and author of Schubert's Great C-Major: Biography of a Symphony (Pendragon, 2011). His website is a locus of consistent delight.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Fate Knocks at the Door of London’s
Institute of Musical Research

by James Parsons

Music scholars around the world owe a considerable debt to the Institute of Musical Research (IMR). Established in 2005 with operations commencing in 2006, the institute is one of ten, as of this writing, comprising the University of London’s School of Advanced Study. Although its mission is ambitious, at heart and true to its name, the IMR exists to advance understanding of the field “and to establish relationships with other disciplines across the humanities and social sciences, both in the UK and beyond.”

From the start the institute has done this exceedingly well with the appointment of its first director Professor Katharine Ellis, then Professor John Irving, and, at present, Professor Paul Archbold. (The latter’s secondment from Kingston University ends 31 July 2014; applications for the new full-time post as director are invited, though see below.) Since 2005 Valerie James has served as manager, since 2010 responsible for a combined administrative office serving the IMR, the Institute of Philosophy, and the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies.

Senate House, University of London
Home of the Institute of Musical Research
Even if you have never heard of the IMR, chances are good you have participated in a conference supported by it or know a colleague who has. One of these might be the 4th Annual Conference of the Royal Musical Association Music and Philosophy Study Group (in collaboration with the Music and Philosophy Study Group of the American Musicological Society) forthcoming in late June 2014. During its history, the IMR has financially supported the collection and submission of details of UK publications to RILM, Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale. The institute also maintains ten research networks, a great many of which overlap with performance, as is the case with the SongArt Performance Research Group and DeNOTE. (The latter bringing together scholars and practitioners in the field of eighteenth-century music.) Both have produced videos; see HERE and HERE.) A recent publication of an IMR supported conference includes the 354-page The Impact of Nazism on Twentieth-Century Music, edited by Erik Levi (Vienna: Böhlau, 2014).

The IMR has been in the news lately, and that news is worrying. An article by Matthew Reisz in the 17 May 2014 Times Higher Education carried the headline “University of London ‘plans closure’ of Institute of English Studies” (IES). One also learns that the “financially fragile” IMR likely will find itself merging with one or more SAS institutes. Given the IMR’s sponsorship or hosting of numerous conferences each year, and its ties to the American Musicological Society’s United Kingdom sister organization, the Royal Musical Association, the institute’s future ought to concern all readers of Musicology Now and AMS members.

Not only is the IMR in trouble—most obviously the IES; so, too, is the SAS. As Reisz spells out in his article, the problem is money. In a 15 May letter Professor Roger Kain, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) University of London and Dean and Chief Executive, SAS, explains that the vice‐chancellor’s executive group is “recommending a concentration of funding into a smaller number of institutes.” This follows from the decision by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), effective 2014–15, to cut SAS funding by 3%. According to Kain, “in real terms this amounts to around 5% which will have a significant impact on our ability to continue to operate at current levels. With inflation running at 2–3%, and library inflation at 7–8%, we are in a very difficult economic climate.”

A week later, on 22 May 2014, The Guardian ran a story by James Meikle, “University of London plan to close Institute of English Studies condemned.”  As Meikle observes in his opening paragraph, “Academics from across the UK have condemned University of London’s proposals to close its Institute of English Studies . . . as a ‘direct assault’ on national and international collaboration which threatens to ‘rip the heart out’ of the biggest arts and humanities subject.” Moreover, some of the IES’s “work, and that of the university's Institute of Musical Research, is to be split between other bodies under a plan by university administrators not to ‘salami slice’ 3% cuts to state funding in the new academic year this autumn. The university says this amounts to a 5% cut in real terms.”

The on-line version of The Guardian article includes a number of links. Arguably the most interesting is a electronic petition to Professor Sir Adrian Smith, FRS, Vice-Chancellor, University of London that, as of 25 May 2014, has garnered 3,617 supporters. The day after the appearance of The Guardian article, on 23 May, Professor Kain issued another letter. In this document he writes that he is “delighted” to report, “following discussions at Wednesday's [22 May] meeting of the University’s Board of Trustees,” that more time is needed “to explore a wider range of options regarding the structure of SAS. We still, of course, need to work towards achieving long term financial sustainability but we are now able to approach this on a more extended timescale.” Doing so “will enable us to engage more fully with all relevant stakeholders, identify options and work them through, beginning the discussion process with the meetings of the SAS Board and the Strategic Advisory Group next month [June] and continuing into next academic year.” Most pertinently, “in the meantime, we will continue to run the Institute of English Studies and Institute of Musical Research in their current form.”

It is good that the IES and IMR have been spared—but for how long? As historians know, when an organization disappears it seldom returns. Most telling in Professor Kain’s 23 May letter is his admission that “the response to our published proposals has revealed a hugely gratifying level of support for what SAS English Studies and Musical Research contribute to the academic humanities community. I hope the community will be fully supportive of our efforts to reverse the HEFCE cuts.”  Few would disagree with the sentiment of this last sentence. The quick action of two journalistic articles and of scholars using social media and a electronic petition would appear to have been enormously effective. In the meantime, both the IES and IMR have director vacancies the searches for which have, as The Guardian remarks, “been postponed.”

Thanks are certainly due Professors Kain and Sir Adrian Smith. They need to be encouraged, too, to fill both positions and to maintain the IMR. Their e-mail addresses are and

James Parsons is Professor of Music History at Missouri State University.  His work focuses on German song from the eighteenth to the twentieth century and Beethoven.  He edited and contributed two essays to The Cambridge Companion to the Lied (Cambridge UP, 2004).

Friday, May 23, 2014

Forensic Musicology

by Sandy Wilbur
NOTE: as part of our ongoing series on professional activity in musicology, we asked Sandy Wilbur to summarize her work. 
As a forensic musicologist, I have a wide variety of projects, potential or ongoing music litigations, public domain research, preventative problem solving (avoiding infringement issues when using reference tracks in films, for instance), and tracking down the origins of songs. One of my favorite projects was working with the Coen Brothers and T Bone Burnett on the songs used in O Brother Where Art Thou, which won a Grammy for best album of the year in 2002.

The Coen Brothers had built their entire script on songs that they assumed were “traditional” because that is what the CDs they bought stated. But that was hardly correct. After a year and a half researching field recordings in the Library of Congress and consulting experts, I discovered that some songs published for years were really in the public domain while another assumed to be traditional had been created in the 1950s. There were many original arrangements of public domain songs, and I had to determine which of these arrangements was closest to the one used. The version of “Man of Constant Sorrow” used in the film, was a version that was very different from the one many of us knew. This one, however, had not been copyrighted. It was used in the film.

The research paid off. There were no claims made against any of these wonderful songs.    

Sandy Wilbur is a forensic musicologist and composer/producer in New York City.  She has been a full time forensic musicologist for 25 years and has testified in numerous cases.  More information can be found at  She has also created educational music videos to help children learn history through music; see   

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

On Nino Pirrotta

by Anthony M. Cummings
NOTE: Anthony Cummings's intellectual biography of the distinguished musicologist Nino Pirrotta (190898) won the 2013 John Frederick Lewis Award from the American Philosophical Society for the best book published by that organization during the year. Here are some lightly adapted excerpts chosen by Prof. Cummings.

An accurate and illuminating word picture of Nino Pirrotta would be a complex and richly colored one. He was dignified and aristocratic in manner and on occasion could appear severe, but was never actually so. On the contrary, he was warm, gracious, humane, generous-spirited, modest to the point of self-deprecation, whimsical, verbally playful, and appreciative of life’s ironies. His manner was serene and reserved, and he seemed continually absorbed in reflection. 

But he was also adventurous, courageous, and open to opportunity, both personal and professional. Deeply and broadly learned, he was exacting in his mastery of the pertinent source data and impressively in command of the findings and methodologies of more than one established discipline. ... He also inclined toward the judicious exercise of insight and intuition; he was intellectually refined and Apollonian in his sensibilities, and his historical imagination was vivid and fertile.

How did Nino Pirrotta come by such qualities of intellect and character? His intellectual sensibilities were a consequence to some degree of his early family life. Pirrotta’s parents and grandparents were members of the Palermitan upper middle class, which afforded him material advantages; he benefited from his family’s cultural interests and activities; and he profited from the vital artistic and intellectual life of early-twentieth-century Palermo. Pirrotta’s paternal grandmother Giulia was the daughter of Felice Pirandello. Her first cousin Stefano was the father of Luigi Pirandello, the 1934 Nobel laureate in literature and one of the most celebrated literary figures of the twentieth century. Nino Pirrotta [was thus] his second cousin once removed.

His education consisted largely of training in Latin and Greek languages and literatures, Italian language and literature, and history. ... It was very much an education designed for a tiny social, economic, cultural, and intellectual elite, at a moment in Italian history when almost 100% of Sicilians and some 95% of Italians generally were effectively illiterate.

Nino Pirrotta’s intellectual profile is to be understood as a synthesis of the practices and traditions of the conservatory and the university.  The absence of an opportunity to study music history at the university when he was a student compelled—indeed, liberated—him to develop a personal vision of the discipline based directly upon his experiences as conservatory licentiate in history of music and diplomate in organ and organ composition, and university laureate in art history:  he applied the rigorous scholarly methods of art history as practiced at Florence to the primary materials of music history. His two-volume thesis, 31 October 1931, is entitled Fonti iconografiche e stilistiche della pittura su maioliche del Rinascimento (“Iconographic and Stylistic Sources of the Painting on Renaissance Maiolica”).

Music history as then taught at the Italian conservatory was not only limited in scale, but also designed with an applied objective in mind:  to provide composers and performers with a (rudimentary) understanding of historical context. Pirrotta’s studies in art history at the University helped him develop a more intellectually-refined sensibility. He came to appreciate that besides its utilitarian, applied value, the history of the arts was also intrinsically meritorious, in intellectual terms, in its own right. Understanding the innate intellectual viability of the history of the arts was critical to the development of his authorial voice and vision of music history as a fully legitimate university discipline. ... A northern Italian (even Germanic) philologistic, Positivistic, fact-drenched epistemology is tempered with a southern Italian (even Sicilian) Spiritualist, Idealist, intuitive epistemology.

As early as Il Sacchetti e la tecnica musicale del trecento italiano (“[Franco] Sacchetti and Musical Technique in 14th-century Italy,” 1935, with Ettore Li Gotti), Pirrotta reveals what will become his signature approach as an historical-musicologist.  While fulfilling his obligations as a “Positivist” paleographer—he accompanies transcriptions of the music and musical analyses with a detailed critical apparatus—he declines to limit his engagement with the material in that way, to abstract the music from its setting(s). Rather, the paleography is merely preparatory to the ultimate objective:  a full and revealing re-situating of the music, its re-location within ramified contexts, whether philosophical, literary, social, or intellectual. His writings leave his readers with an enhanced understanding of the place of music in the culture of which it is an oft-elusive expression. ... He created his own independent vision of the fledgling discipline of historical musicology, one that relinquished pride of place to neither of the two underlying academic traditions, but, rather, amalgamated the musical microcosmic and the historical/contextual macrocosmic into an illuminating synthesis.

The Roman years were extremely productive for Pirrotta’s scholarship. ... Rome had a wealth of sources for other phases of the history of Italian music, and Pirrotta took advantage of them to inaugurate his series of studies of the origins and early development of that most characteristic of Italian musical genres, the opera.

Sergio and Nino Pirrotta in the US
It was during his Harvard years (195672) that Pirrotta began to make substantial contributions to the scholarly literature on the music of the Italian Renaissance, complementing the earlier publications on the music of the Trecento and seventeenth-century opera.

The particular achievement of the retirement years was a series of articles on eighteenth-  and nineteenth-century Italian opera. What is notable about these writings is the broad and deep contextualization of important developments in operatic history. One had assumed that one was reasonably familiar with Beaumarchais’s spoken comedies Le mariage de Figaro and Le barbier de Séville and Mozart’s and Rossini’s operatic masterpieces based on them, but Pirrotta’s article on Beaumarchais situates various elements of the plots and music of both musical masterpieces within the long history of Italian comic opera, illuminating their composers’ use of compositional convention and providing fresh understanding of age-old practices in the comic tradition. We now apprehend Mozart’s Figaro and Rossini’s Barbiere not only as singular masterpieces but also as the products of decades—of operatic compositional practice. ... Although Pirrotta would never give the development of Italian opera per se the kind of systematic monographic treatment that he lavished upon the pre-operatic theatrical uses of music in Li due Orfei (1970, Eng. as Music and Theater from Poliziano to Monteverdi, 1982; winner of 1970 Otto Kinkeldey Award), his many articles on post-1600 opera, when read as a group, furnish a panoramic account of the evolution of the genre from its beginnings until 1800, and even beyond.

  • “Nino Pirrotta” in Wikipedia
  • Harvard memorial, 19 May 1998 (Lewis Lockwood, with Rheinhold Brinkmann, Eliott Forbes, and Christoph Wolff)
  • Lafayette College press release, 30 October 2013

  • Anthony Cummings is Professor of Music at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. He writes: “Pirrotta is, by anyone’s reckoning, one of the most celebrated figures in the history of the discipline, and, when I first began graduate training in music history and first read his writings, they impressed me immediately as being among the most learned, most incisive, most sensitive and revealing of any musicological writings. I became interested in the figure who produced these writings, the human being behind the writings.”

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Vienna Full: The Vienna Philharmonic in Berkeley

by Nicholas Mathew

Over a long weekend, 69 March 2014, the Vienna Philharmonic was resident at Cal Performances—UC Berkeley’s venerable performing arts series—in a larger-scale reprise of their residency back in 2011. This time, Matias Tarnopolsky, the director of Cal Performances, and his dynamic new associate director, Robert Bailis, made sure that the orchestra was even busier, with a high-calorie Sachertorte of events in addition to three concerts in Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. There was an ambitious two-day public symposium on Viennese musical culture and the Great War, itself including a further chamber-music recital, then there were the pre-performance talks and a long list of classroom appearances—including individual master classes and an extended public session coaching the string section of the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra. One consequence of all this collateral activity was that the Vienna Phil showed up with quite an entourage: their president Clemens Hellsberg came, plus a small crowd of Vienna-based scholars and historians. And this in turn meant still more events and functions and parties and what-have-you. For many on campus, the week was replete with all things Vienna Phil.

Members of the Napa Valley Youth Symphony
after an open rehearsal of the Vienna Phil at Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley
The whole shebang was a huge success—inevitable, on the one hand, given the personnel involved, and that, for many, merely the idea of the Vienna Phil still guarantees an Earth-moving experience. On the other hand, the most important success of the residency wasn’t nearly so easily won. Given the cash, the clout, and the contacts, many presenters can hire the Vienna Philharmonic, after all—audiences will generally show up and swoon, whatever happens. Cal Performances, by contrast, is a university body with an explicit campus-based mission, and so has a more complex (and interesting) set of questions to grapple with. What should an orchestra such as the Vienna Philharmonic be doing on the Berkeley campus anyway? What demands, if any, should a leading American research university make of an august European performing institution in its midst? What should such an extended visit strive to accomplish, besides some lovely concerts? And especially: how should such a residency be organized to ensure that it involves genuine campus-wide involvement? The main risk of any such high-profile event in a big-budget university concert series is obvious: that a world-famous orchestra is merely housed on campus, but is ultimately heard only by a handful of clued-in faculty and emeriti, plus the great and the good of the local community. This would be good PR, but a poor show from the perspective of any educational mission. It seems to me that the importance of the entire Vienna Phil program was that it was formulated in part as an attempt to surmount precisely this challenge.

Cal Performances has been doing programming of this sort for many years, of course. But it has been given new impetus of late by a substantial award from the Mellon Foundation, aimed at expanding its educational mission—part of which focuses on meshing concert programming more closely with courses in the Berkeley curriculum. I have a special interest here, since I have been teaching a class this semester under the auspices of this new program, on Vienna 1900. This has meant, among other things, bringing 50 or so undergraduates, most of whom are not music majors, to around ten major events. For my class, having the Vienna Philharmonic in town was obviously a high point in the semester, and we had as much interaction with the visiting artists as we could have wanted.

The concerts were excellent, of course—if variable in character. On the opening night Lorin Maazel appeared (the surprise super-sub for the sick Daniele Gatti) to a feverish reception, but turned around and waved his baton with the calm satisfaction of a man sliding his key into the ignition of a Rolls Royce. With an irresistible purr, Schubert’s “Unfinished” got going—a touch slow and metronomic for me: plush comfort-modernism, with all the precision engineering you might expect. Mahler’s Fourth was similarly burnished—and far from grotesque in the contortions of its second movement. But the next day, Andris Nelsons (now standing in for Franz Welser-Möst, who became unwell at the last moment) drew something quite different from the same players: Brahms’s Third played with real clatter, verve, and gestural animation. Then, on the Sunday matinee, I found myself enjoying Bruckner’s Sixth (conducted by Nelsons again) perhaps more than anything else I’d heard over the weekend. Certainly, if you were craving a great wodge of Viennese late Romanticism, you’d come to the right place.

The accompanying symposium, coordinated the help of the eminent Berkeley historian Thomas Laqueur, was pitched at an informed general public—the “campus community” in the widest sense.  It was ultimately so popular that its Saturday session had to be relocated from a room in the Berkeley Art Museum to the Music Department’s 600-seat Hertz Hall (it was also streamed live on the Cal Performances website—where it is still archived, incidentally: HERE ; click on tabs for parts 13). Three panel sessions were loosely organized (arranged more or less chronologically around wartime, interwar, and postwar themes) but thus managed to include speakers from an unusual range of Berkeley departments, from Music and German to Law and Journalism. Subjects ranged from ruminations on Robert Musil and Mahler reception to war memorials and repatriation. (The home team was joined by the historian-musicologist Michael Steinberg from Brown University.) The substantial Viennese contingent by and large chose to exposit selections of rarely seen material from their city’s numerous archives (my scholarly interests meant that I was particularly absorbed by Christian Glanz of the University of Music and the Performing Arts, who presented compelling wartime propaganda materials from his continuing research project on opera and politics in liberal-era Vienna).

A recurring joke of the symposium—especially amusing to an audience that, happily, hadn’t spent much time at musicological conferences—was that hearing scholars talk about music is rather a let-down after hearing a world-famous orchestra perform it. And you can hardly disagree that, no matter how interesting or respected they are, a bunch of academics doesn’t exactly have the pizzazz of a Vienna Phil. But, of course, that very contrast neatly symbolizes the challenge that Cal Performances has to meet: even though Berkeley has many superb venues for live music, it will always have even more venues for deep thought—and that’s the main reason that it exists. Must a successful university concert series always relate to its campus environment as the thrill of presence relates to the dead hand of academic knowledge? Or as the realm of the drastic relates to the supposedly incompatible gnostic?

The visit of the Vienna Phil showed that Berkeley has an opportunity to avoid institutionalizing such pernicious dichotomies. The presenters know that a campus concert series cannot become a place in which we are encouraged merely to celebrate the irrational enchantments of performance—and then stop there. This would be a recipe for a concert series that sits atop the campus infrastructure like some wondrous court spectacle—its glorious superfluity an expression of the institution’s power. This would, I suppose, be palatable enough for the audience demographic that Berkeley shares with the symphony and the opera over the bridge in San Francisco, but it would be guaranteed to keep away the students Cal Performances needs to attract in order to succeed in its educational mission.

One part of the problem is this: inside programming booklets and on publicity materials, any rhetoric in praise of hearing great music played brilliantly inevitably shades into the language of advertising and PR. Everything tends to be wonderful and marvelous and fabulous—in advance. This is not a problem in itself, but it doesn’t always sit well with the habits of thought that students come to college to acquire. You don’t have to have read Kant’s canonical answer to the question “what is Enlightenment?” to know that understanding isn’t developed simply by swallowing the authority of “tradition”—that is, by taking someone else’s word for it. Indeed, I registered the strength of my students’ independence of thought many times over this semester—their openness yet great discrimination when coming to grips with new experiences and new material.

It’s true that many undergraduates feel a bit awkward at the grander events—but not because (as is frequently assumed) they “don’t know the rules” or feel intimidated by their relative ignorance of classical music (many students at Berkeley have taken advantage of ample opportunities to spend semesters and years abroad, and have been in Old World concert environments a lot more intimidating than Cal Performances; others are students in the humanities, who are frequently among the most knowledgeable people in the room about aspects of what they are hearing). Rather, our students tend to have an acute nose for anything that strikes them as posturing or self-deception. Some of them tell me that, to them, advance rave reviews smack of uncritical orthodoxy and a lack of spontaneity. And the now automatic standing ovations look like a kind of grade inflation. Many of our students are performers, after all, and know only too well that there’s no such thing as a great live performance unless you admit the possibility that it could have been something other than great: average, poor, interesting but bad, bad but absorbing—and so on, through all the endless, scintillating options. If it’s predictably wonderful before it even begins, there is a sense in which it’s not even a performance at all.

This all has vital implications for how an orchestra as authoritative and inevitably wonderful as the Vienna Philharmonic should be received on the Berkeley campus. Should we well-heeled Northern Californians be condemned to play the role of decadent ancient Romans, with our enormous empire and lavish bathhouses—deferentially welcoming the visiting delegation of Greeks, hoping to drink ever more deeply from the Fount of Culture? Or should we show an equal confidence in our own traditions, as the program put together by Cal Performances implied that we should?

We were all enormously lucky to have the Vienna Philharmonic at such close quarters for so long: they were vastly generous both with their time and with the attention they paid to our students and scholars. Still, I’ve come to the view that, if you want more undergraduates to attend more classical concerts, the worst thing you can do is tell them how lucky they are—as though they were indolently shirking their duty to elevate themselves; as though they were only ones who need to change.  Yes, in most respects, students at Berkeley are lucky to be here. But that’s why the Vienna Philharmonic are lucky too—lucky to be exposed to their new Berkeley constituency: a potentially new audience, and an audience that has taught itself to engage with music in ways that are profound, discriminating— and maybe even surprising and fresh.  In some small way, then, such an audience might help inspire the Vienna Philharmonic to evolve into something else, or to think in incrementally novel ways—might, in other words, instigate the sort of true dialogue that is characteristic of the liveliest arts organizations and their publics.

This dialogue may ultimately be more radical in its effect on a behemoth such as the Vienna Phil than, say, the rumblings of slightly dutiful outrage over the orchestra’s notoriously appalling record on the inclusion of women and ethnic minorities (which had been aired in the local press and in online forums rather more forcefully the last time the orchestra had visited). Clemens Hellsberg’s personal achievement in his years as the most prominent spokesperson for the orchestra has been to grapple publically with its frequently problematic history—even as he has remained a staunch defender of what he perceives to be the Vienna Philharmonic tradition. An institution such as Berkeley can add its voice to this endeavor. And this is what will bring the Vienna Philharmonic back for a third time, I hope: we’re lucky to have each other.

Nicholas Mathew is Associate Professor of Music at the University of California, Berkeley. His work focuses on the relationships between music and politics: the place of music in political institutions, the role of music in the public sphere, and the ways in which music constructs identity and subjectivity. He is the author of Political Beethoven (Cambridge UP, 2013).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Opening the Geese Book

Fans of spiffy Internet sites will enjoy Opening the Geese Book, a collaborative project involving the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, where the two-volume manuscript is housed (US-NYpm M. 905); directors Volker Schier and Corine Schleif at the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Arizona State University; and impressive lists of international participants and patrons. The site presents all 1,120 pages of the manuscript in full-color facsimile with unrestricted access, amplified by selected chants recorded by the Schola Hungarica, videos with background information and critical commentary in English and German, a codicological report, archival sources, and bibliography. 

To quote from the release launching the site in November 2012:
The lavishly and whimsically illuminated manuscript known as the Geese Book is a Gradual produced in Nuremberg, Germany between 1503 and 1510. It preserves the complete mass liturgy compiled for the church of St. Lorenz and used until the Reformation was introduced in the city in 1525. In 1952 the parish of St. Lorenz presented the book to Rush Kress for “the American people,” out of gratitude for the support of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in rebuilding the church after the destruction of World War II. In 1962 the manuscript assumed its place in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, where it remains today—the largest book in this famous collection.

The volumes are renowned for their high quality decorative illumination including fanciful pictures, provocative and satirical imagery of animals, dragons, and wild people. The work takes its name from an enigmatic illustration showing a choir of geese singing from a large chant manuscript with a wolf as their choirmaster. A fox, who has joined the choir, extends his paw menacingly in the direction of one of the geese.
Vol. II, fol. 94r shows the Alleluia O Sebalde, from the Mass for Saint Sebaldus sung at St. Lorenz each 19 August)—beginning with the last syllable of the first line, -na of verna. Click on the audio bar to hear the Alleluia.

What results is, in its own way, moving indeed, for, as the project notes: 
In its digital form the Geese Book can return home to Nuremberg and indeed be available universally, without leaving the protective environment guaranteed by the Morgan Library and its conservators. ... It is hoped that such digital facsimiles with commentaries and sources might come to replace the far more costly printed facsimiles of past generations. Such limited luxury editions could only be purchased by exceptional libraries since copies were priced upwards of $10,000.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Haps at JAMS

NOTE: With volume 67, no. 1, the Journal of the American Musicological Society—or JAMS, as it is familiarly known—has implemented new features planned and announced in 2012. The two most significant innovations are the new Digital and Multimedia Scholarship section (reviews and reports on scholarly work in these areas) and enhancements to the online version that include audio and video clips, color images, etc. Subscriptions to the Journal of the American Musicological Society are included with AMS membership; the online version is available through JSTOR.
Here is the table of contents of the new issue, followed by abstracts of the four articles. The issue will be mailed and published to JSTOR soon. Return here in the near future for a preview of the new features.

Journal of the American Musicological Society 


Old Hispanic Chant and the Early History of Plainsong

Beethoven à la moujik: Russianness and Learned Style in the “Razumovsky” String Quartets

Becoming the “Black Swan” in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America:
   Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield’s Early Life and Debut Concert Tour

Gunther Schuller and the Challenge of Sonny Rollins:
  Stylistic Content, Intentionality, and Jazz Analysis

The Orchestral Revolution: Haydn and the Technologies of Timbre, by Emily I. Dolan

Choral Fantasies: Music, Festivity, and Nationhood in Nineteenth-Century Germany, by Ryan Minor

The Psychopathic Ear: Music Experiments, Experimental Sounds, 1840–1910, by Alexandra Hui; and Helmholtz and the Modern Listener, by Benjamin Steege

The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies, edited by Trevor Pinch and Karin Bijsterveld; and The Sound Studies Reader, edited by Jonathan Sterne

Digital and Multimedia Scholarship
Cantus Planus Regensburg, directed by David Hiley; Corpus Antiphonalium Officii-Ecclesiae Centralis Europae, directed by László Dobszay and Gábor Prószéky; Cantus: A Database for Latin Ecclesiastical Chant, directed by Debra Lacoste; and Global Chant Database and The CANTUS Index, both directed by Jan Koláček

Work and Pray: Living the Psalms with the Nuns of Regina Laudis, written and produced by Margot Fassler; Performing the Passion: J. S. Bach and the Gospel According to John, and You Can’t Sing It for Them: Continuity, Change, and a Church Musician, both directed and produced by Margot Fassler and Jacqueline C. Richard

Hidden Structure: Music Analysis Using Computers, by David Cope; and Music21: A Toolkit for Computer-Aided Musicology, by Michael Cuthbert, version 1.5, last modified May 11, 2013;


Old Hispanic Chant and the Early History of Plainsong

Given the fragmentary evidence about the emergence of Western plainsong, scholars have not reached a consensus about how early liturgical chant was transformed into fully formed Medieval repertories. Proposed explanations have centered on the Roman liturgy and its two chant dialects, Gregorian and Old Roman. The Old Hispanic (or Mozarabic) chant can yield new insights into how and why the creators of early repertories selected and altered biblical texts, set them to specific kinds of music, and assigned them to festivals. I explore these questions from the perspective of the Old Hispanic sacrificia, or offertory chants. Specific traditions of Iberian biblical exegesis were central to the meaning and formation of these chants, guiding their compilers’ choice and alteration of biblical sources. Their textual characteristics and liturgical structure call for a reassessment of the theories that have been proposed about the origins of Roman chant. Although the sacrificia exhibit ample signs of liturgical planning, such as thematically proper chants with unique liturgical assignments, the processes that produced this repertory were both less linear and more varied than those envisaged for Roman chant. Finally, the sacrificia shed new light on the relationship between words and music in pre-Carolingian chant, showing that the cantors shaped the melodies according to textual syntax and meaning.

Beethoven à la moujik: Russianness and Learned Style in the “Razumovsky” String Quartets

Beethoven’s treatments of the Russian folksongs in the “Razumovsky” String Quartets, Op. 59, nos. 1 and 2, have long elicited sharp criticism. A closer look at these treatments allows for a reappraisal of the quartets and the circumstances of their commission. Beethoven’s setting of “Ah, Whether It’s My Luck, Such Luck” (Opus 59, no. 1/fourth mvt.) juxtaposes folk and learned styles in ways that complicate the traditional relationship between “nature” and “artifice.” His quasi-fugal treatment of the famous “Slava” tune (Opus 59, no. 2/third mvt.) engages this relationship from the perspective of self-conscious critique. Both settings recall the “synthetic” approach to art championed by Herder; they also evince a cosmopolitan aesthetic with wider cultural and political implications. The settings seem especially designed to appeal to the quartets’ dedicatee, Count Andrey Razumovsky, a European Russian whose intense interest in serious music has been understated. These conclusions are brought to bear on Opus 59, no. 3, the only quartet in the opus lacking a labeled thème russe. Rather than returning to the Lvov-Pratsch Collection (1790/1806) for material, Beethoven appears to have incorporated a Russian folksong from a German source in the Andante’s main theme. The movement fulfills in an unexpected way his pledge to weave Russian melodies into all three quartets.

Becoming the “Black Swan” in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America: Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield’s Early Life and Debut Concert Tour

Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield was first in a lineage of African American women vocalists to earn national and international acclaim. Born into slavery in Mississippi, she grew up in Philadelphia and launched her first North American concert tour from upstate New York in 1851. Hailed as the “Black Swan” by newspapermen involved in her debut, the soubriquet prefigured a complicated reception of her musical performances. As an African American musician with slavery in her past, she sang what many Americans understood to be “white” music (opera arias, sentimental parlor song, ballads of British Isles, and hymns) from the stages graced by touring European prima donnas on other nights, with ability to sing in a low vocal range that some heard as more typical of men than women. As reviewers and audiences combined fragments of her biography with firsthand experiences of her concerts, they struggled to make the “Black Swan” sobriquet meaningful and the transgressions she represented understandable. Greenfield’s musical performances, along with audience expectations and the processes of patronage, management, and newspaper discourse complicated perceived cultural boundaries of race, gender, and class. The implications of E. T. Greenfield’s story for antebellum cultural politics and for later generations of singers are profound.

Gunther Schuller and the Challenge of Sonny Rollins: Stylistic Context, Intentionality, and Jazz Analysis

Scholarly opinion has for many years been divided over Gunther Schuller’s landmark 1958 article, “Sonny Rollins and the Challenge of Thematic Improvisation.” Jazz theorists view the article’s close analysis of Rollins’s 1956 jazz saxophone improvisation “Blue 7” as one of their discipline’s founding statements; historians and ethnomusicologists meanwhile tend to fault it for neglecting cultural context. In either instance the specific details of Schuller’s analysis have been largely accepted as being internally consistent. The present study proposes that the analysis of jazz improvisation ought to engage more extensively with broader stylistic issues in addition to the specifics of isolated individual performances. Such a musically contextualized perspective reveals that Schuller’s principal argument—that, in this particular improvisation, Rollins developed motivic elements of a composed theme—is false. “Blue 7” was in fact improvised in its entirety, and the melodic pattern that Schuller cited as a thematic motive was one of Rollins’s habitual improvisational formulas, heard on many of the saxophonist’s other 1950s recordings. This canonic recording, as well as the notion of Rollins as a “thematic” improviser, therefore needs to be reconsidered.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Unlikely History of Sixties Rock and Roll

by Christopher Doll

In narratives of American popular-music history, the song “Louie Louie” is usually depicted (to the extent it surfaces at all) as a minor, and ultimately ephemeral, controversy: a song that initially raised eyebrows and lowered standards but that was quickly forgotten in the wake of Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and other more substantive, “classic” sixties artists. My talk repositions “Louie Louie” as a major turning point in the history of Anglo-American popular-music style—a unique combination of past and contemporary practices, one that anticipated some significant formal aspects of the music that would follow. An abundance of musical examples illustrate this talk’s exploration of the relationship between sixties socio-political events and youth music, the impact of Latin music in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, the history of melodic-accompanimental textures since the advent of jazz, and the eventual global ubiquity of songs built around short loops of music.

Timeline: The video is 1 hour, 22 minutes, 31 seconds long. Contents are as follows:

0:00: Andy Leach, Director of Library and Archives

0:25: Introduction: Jason Hanley, Director of Education

4:54: Christopher Doll's lecture

1:11:16: Q&A that followed the lecture

1:22:31: end

Christopher Doll is Assistant Professor of Composition and Theory at Rutgers University. He specializes in tonality and intertextuality in recent popular and art music.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Music and Higher Education in the 1970s

NOTE: The following, from the archive, are position statements by noted music scholars for the symposium “Music in Higher Education in the 1970's,” held at the University of Toronto on 7 November 1970. The event was jointly sponsored by the College Music Society and the American Musicological Society (36th Annual Meeting, 5-8 November 1970, Toronto). The resultant papers were subsequently published in College Music Symposium, the journal of the College Music Society, vol. 11 (October 1971) and now available online; see the citations below. The panel was chaired by William J. Mitchell, whose summary appears at the close of this document.

Musical Literacy in the 1970's

In the conviction that three overworked and sometimes misapplied words—change, innovation, and relevance—will continue to keynote the demands of students, I want to consider their implications in what might be termed a broader concept of musical literacy in the 1970's. Based on more than fifteen years' experience, with an ethnomusicological approach to the study of music, I believe there are some changes and innovations overdue in both the undergraduate and graduate curricula. The relevance of these proposed changes, in the experience of a small but growing number of students and faculty, has already been demonstrated.

All music—eastern or western, ancient or contemporary—is quite naturally imbedded in a rich sociocultural context: 1) the inclusion of such a context should obtain not only in the specialized period course but also in courses in musicianship, theory, performance, surveys of literature, pedagogy, composition, bibliography, and research methods; 2) literacy in music, somewhat analogous to literacy in language, should include deep and extended exposure to major foreign tongues (the music of one African and one Asian culture should be included throughout the
spread of undergraduate and first-year graduate study in all the courses mentioned above); 3) institionalized study of the arts in the Western world has long since suffered from an artificial separation of the naturally interrelated arts, a condition that not only obscures their relatedness but also encourages an exaggerated proliferation and fragmentation within each of the so-called disciplines thereby derived (general university and college requirements should be revised to include required courses in dance, theater, fine art, and creative writing as well as clearly related courses in the humanities and social sciences); 4) the materials of theory and literature courses should be coordinated with correlative musical performance; 5) seminars with a Gestalt approach to
music in its sociocultural context should be instituted in both the lower and upper divisions of the undergraduate program; 6) existing core curricula in music should be greatly compressed to accommodate these changes; 7) in all modes and at all levels of instruction the oralization of music (the making of it) should be clearly recognized as the sine qua non of musical literacy; 8) and, finally, qualification for candidacy for the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees should be assured in terms of this order of musical literacy rather than extensive but unilateral acquaintance with the musical literature of the European art tradition.

Mantle Hood
University of California at Los Angeles
Mantle Hood (1918–2005) was an ethnomusicologist who specialized in the music of Indonesia. He established, at UCLA, the first program in ethnomusicology at an American university. 

A Needed Change in Attitude

I cannot see how anyone who has contact with this generation of students can be unaware and untouched by some of the new currents running with such force through their minds. The term “New Age of Humanism” has been used to acknowledge the obsession of so many of them, and so many of the best of them, with the relationship of man to his surroundings, both his physical environment and the people who populate his world. This is in contrast with the fascination with abstract research and technology that dominated the several decades after World War II, the period, incidentally, of the greatest growth of musicology in America.

It is not my intention to suggest that members of our profession whose training and orientation and taste are strongly rooted in Baroque or Renaissance or Romantic music should suddenly teach and write about rock. That would be disastrous, for everyone. Nor am I suggesting that scholars whose talents lie in archival work, or detailed abstract analysis, or manuscript descriptions, or bibliography
should abandon this useful work. Again, there would be no point to that. What I am suggesting is that we should not be surprised and resentful if many of today's students, including inevitably some of the brightest, find the “scientific” approach to the study of music that has characterized so much musicological research unattractive and even objectionable; we should not be surprised at the
“credibility gap” that is beginning to show up when we tell students that we can teach them things they should know about music, but are unwilling or unable to deal in any way with music that they know perfectly well is so rich and so significant. We should not reject these people who want to do serious work, as students or teachers, with such bodies of music as rock and contemporary folk music, and make their ideas and findings available through articles, lectures, and courses.
We should not discourage these who know that the problems and ills of our society are reflected in, commented on, and sometimes even answered by the music of today; and who want to pursue this point within the framework of academic study and teaching. I am not suggesting subtractions or alterations, merely additions.

Nor am I suggesting that we yield to any sort of pressure. There has been none, certainly not at the national level. Disruptions, even major disagreements, have played no part in the recent history of our discipline. I am not altogether proud of this; it may indicate how unimportant musicology has become for our more spirited young people. I am merely suggesting that we should make place in our society, i.e., our Musicological Society, for studies of a wider range of music, and for more humanistic studies of music of all times. Two major benefits are possible: we may insure a continuing  flow of the best students into our field-without this, we may find ourselves drying up, cut off from the energy and imagination of youth; and it may prove invigorating for present members of our society to be reminded that music, after all, can be an art as well as a science.

Charles Hamm
University of Illinois
Charles Hamm (1925–2011) helped establish the study of popular music as an academic discipline. He taught at the University of Illinois and (from 1976) Dartmouth. Hamm served as president of the American Musicological Society, 197374. PAPER HERE.

A Reassertion of Traditional Educational Values

In whatever ways graduate education in musicology may change in the coming years, the training of men and women whose principal activity will be the pursuit of scholarly interests ought to continue
to be of real importance. Obviously not all of those who have received, or are now working towards, a Ph.D. degree are scholars in this sense. Possibly there should be fewer recipients of the Ph.D.
in our field; but, present economic and sociological conditions to the side, it is hard to see how the number is to be regulated. Encouragement of scholarly promise ought to be, perhaps can be
increased. Somewhere between the loudly repeated demands for better teaching and the whispered hints that early and frequent publication is necessary for the success, even the survival of everyone in the academic profession, there must continue to be present a quiet but insistent voice recommending devotion to scholarship and demanding that high standards be met.

James Haar
New York University
James Haar is distinguished professor, emeritus, at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and was formerly on the faculty of New York University. He served as president of the American Musicological Society, 197778. PAPER HERE.

Opportunities for Intracultural and Interdisciplinary Study

For thirty years American historical musicology has diligently tended its own garden. We have developed along with our European colleagues a methodology of descriptive analysis, of editorial
practice, of historical writing, and of bibliography; and we have made a rather thorough search of musical sources, at least for the period up to the eighteenth century. There is still much to be done
along these lines; but it is clear that a base has been reached from which to explore some new methodologies and researches of neighboring fields. We should accept, with ethnomusicologists, all levels of musical culture—art, popular, folk—as relevant for any period of history. Deep forays into regional, social, and diplomatic history will unlock many secrets of history. Much can be gained from the history of ideas, science, technology to interpret stylistic change. Such interdisciplinary studies were once common; they gained a bad reputation because authors too often pretended to possess universal culture or attempted to construct naive historical models. The time is ripe for a new interdisciplinary attack on the problems of music history and musical culture that is solidly based in fact and method.

Claude V. Palisca
Yale University
Claude V. Palisca (1921-2001) was a noted authority on Renaissance and Baroque music on the faculty at Yale Uniersity. He served as president of the American Musicological Society, 197172. PAPER HERE.

Graduate Education of the Musician-Teacher

The position taken here is that most musicians probably spend a major part of their professional careers in the area of  “communication” or “teaching.” Therefore, the graduate training of the
musician should incorporate into its rationale the development of means for communicating about the entire art of music, at many levels. Both graduate and undergraduate curricula should reflect
the four professional components of a comprehensive musical education—namely the synthesizing of listening or analysis, performance, composition or writing skills, and communication, thus destroying the artificial compartmentalization between majors in performance, music education, theory, etc. This approach places a great responsibility on the graduate professor himself to exemplify an appropriate model which the graduate student can identify and emulate in his future professional career. This type of graduate education stresses not only the substance but also the quality and method of developing concepts, skills, understanding and sensitivity to all musics. A graduate colloquium of all students and faculty is suggested as one of the avenues that should be considered in fostering an approach in which faculty members are charged with the responsibility for developing a climate of comprehensive communication about music by all "musicians” no matter in which component of musicianship they may focus their graduate studies.

Robert J. Werner
Contemporary Music Project
Robert J. Werner is dean emeritus of the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. He was director of the Contemporary Music Project from 1968 to 1973 and president of the College Music Society (197778). PAPER HERE.

Music and Higher Education in the 1970's

For those of us who are still congratulating ourselves on having made it through the 1960's, it must come as a shock to learn that we are now faced with the task of deciding how best to make it through the 1970's. As chairman of the panel discussion that will be based on the abstracts contained herein, I consider myself doubly fortunate: First, because I will not be obliged to state or defend a position; second, because my fellow panelists, many of whom I have known since the 1950's, have over the years demonstrated a kind of wisdom and foresight from which I stand to be one of the major beneficiaries. Their abstracts already give short augury of this.

William J. Mitchell
State University of New York - Binghamton
With the arrival of William J. Mitchell (190671) in 1941, Columbia University established itself as a leading research center in music theory. From 1968 Mitchell taught at SUNY Binghamton. Known especially for his translation of C. P. E. Bach's Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, Mitchell also established and edited, with Felix Salzer, The Music Forum (196773). He served as president of the American Musicological Society, 196566.

Addendum: Neal Zaslaw of Cornell University also participated in this panel. PAPER HERE.