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.

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