Saturday, February 28, 2015


(Not to be confused with SMTV Live.)

Our chums at the Society for Music Theory have unveiled no. 1 of their Videocast Journal of the Society for Music Theory: “Repetition & Musicality,” by Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, Margulis is Professor of Music at the University of Arkansas, where she directs the Music Cognition Lab.

You can subscribe at iTunes. We embed the Vimeo video below, but recommend getting at it through the SMT homepage, which is, likewise, impressive.

And, yes, we are jealous.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

by Christopher Little
Herewith, the first of several posts on Louisville, which will host the national meeting of the American Musicological Society in November. It's a happening place.
Well, not actually a million. But if $100,000 will satisfy, travel to Louisville, Kentucky. Site of the 2015 AMS National Meeting, the largest city in Kentucky is also home to the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, the largest monetary prize in the world of art music composition. (It even rates multiple mentions in Grove, under “Awards,” “Louisville,” and “Libraries, §7(ii): Canada and the USA.”)

The Music Composition Award is one of a quintet collectively known as the Grawemeyer Awards™, founded in 1984 by philanthropist H. Charles Grawemeyer “to help make the world a better place” (website home HERE; with links to history, rules, etc.) This “industrialist, entrepreneur, astute investor, and philanthropist” gave an initial endowment of $9 million to his alma mater, the University of Louisville. A year after its creation, the first award for Music Composition was given to Witold Lutosławski for his Third Symphony (1985).

H. Charles Grawemeyer
Though a chemical engineer by trade who attended the University of Louisville’s Speed Scientific School during the Great Depression because he could not afford to study outside his hometown, Grawemeyer “cherished the liberal arts and chose to honor powerful ideas in five fields in performing arts, the humanities, and the social sciences.” Thus, after the initial Music Composition category, Ideas Improving World Order was added in 1988, Education in 1989, Religion in 1990 (as a joint award with the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary), and finally Psychology in 2000.

To recognize Grawemeyer’s own amateur status, each award committee is set up so that laypersons have a voice during the deliberations. The process for the Music Composition Award is as follows: “after an initial screening [by University of Louisville music faculty], the Grawemeyer Music Award Committee will appoint a jury of three internationally recognized music professionals: normally a composer, a conductor, and a critic. Each juror will select, from the qualifying scores, up to three works they deem worthy of the Award.” These selected works are then submitted anonymously to the Final Committee [of “non-professional, but knowledgeable” laypersons to be judged by listening only. The Final Committee then recommends one of these works to the president of the University of Louisville, upon which the president and Board of Trustees grant the Award.

Candidates must be living composers, and the work in question must be “in a large musical genre: choral, orchestral, chamber, electronic, song-cycle, dance, opera, musical theater, extended solo work and more. The award will be granted for a work premiered during the five-year period prior to the award date.” No composer is allowed to nominate his or her own entry but must be submitted by “a professional musical organization or individual (performer or performing group, conductor, critic, publisher, or head of a professional music school or department).”

The nominated score, a recording of the work, and documentation of the premiere are sent to the Grawemeyer Music Award Committee. The university retains all the submitted scores and recordings, housing them in the Grawemeyer Collection of New Music, a part of the Library of the School of Music. The collection presently includes over 2,500 entries, many of which are unpublished and unavailable elsewhere. (The collection is searchable online here.) Previous winners include Györgi Ligeti (Etudes for Piano, 1986), Joan Tower (Silver Ladders, 1990), John Corigliano (First Symphony, 1991), John Adams (Violin Concerto, 1995), Kaija Saariaho (L’amour de loin, 2003), and Peter Lieberson (Neruda Songs, 2008). The 2015 award was given to Wolfgang Rihm for the orchestral IN-SCHRIFT-II.

The entry form is available HERE. Meanwhile the Collection of New Music staff cordially invites visitors to Louisville to come have a look. They promise research topics in abundance.

Christopher Little is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Kentucky writing his dissertation on the persistence of Romantic sensibilities and style in England during the early twentieth century.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Red-Carpet Rollout

Our associates at the Society for American Music and Cambridge University Press saw fit to promote the “Oscar-worthy” special issue of their journal with a pretty good deal. Read on.

An Oscar-Worthy Special Issue:
Music and Sound in American Cinema

Warm up to The Oscars by discovering the Journal of the Society for American Music's special on Music and Sound in American Cinema, 1927-56,” offering a fascinating examination of the role of music and sound during Hollywood's golden age.” Included in the special issue are articles on:
  • Henry Hadley's involvement in early sound film
  • King Kong and competing methods in Hollywood underscore
  • Music, gender, and medical discourse in the 1940s female gothic film
  • Subjectivity and gender in Forbidden Planet's soundscape of tomorrow
You can access all these articles, for free, by clicking the button below. 

Get free access 

*Complimentary access ends 30 April 2015.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Trippett, Wagner, and the Leverhulme Trust

Musicologist David Trippett, winner of the American Musicological Society's 2014 Lewis Lockwood Prize for Wagner's Melodies: Aesthetics and Materialism in German Musical Identity (Cambridge University Press, 201) has been awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize for 2014.

The Philip Leverhulme Prize recognizes the achievement of an outstanding researcher whose future career is exceptionally promising and who has already attracted international recognition. The purse is £100,000. The citation reads:
“David Trippett has already gained international recognition for his highly innovative approach to the history of nineteenth-century music. His prize-winning study of Wagner’s melodies confronts some of the basic issues of musical aesthetics, while at the same time setting them securely within the cultural context of their times. Not only does he examine the different ways in which Wagner’s contemporaries wrote about the effects of melody; he also shows how their views engage with some of the fundamental scientific questions of the day, and specifically those that relate to the bodily senses and the human capacity for speech. This is indeed path-breaking research. Dr Trippett  lays out a new agenda for the writing of musical history, in which he himself seems well placed to assume a leading role.” [Award brochure HERE.]

Philip Leverhulme Prizes have been offered in the UK since 2001 in commemoration of the contribution to the work of the Trust made by Philip Lever, the Third Viscount Leverhulme (1915–2000), grandson of William Hesketh Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme (1851–1925), the founder of the Trust.

William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme
William Strang, 1918
University of Liverpool
The first Viscount, there, was no mean figure. One of the Lever Brothers of soap fame (Lux, Lifebuoy, Breeze), he developed one of the first international empires of consumer goods; in 1930, shortly after his death, it merged with a Dutch margarine concern to become Unilever, an early international conglomerate that today claims its products reach 2 billion people every day. The trust was formed in 1925 as a provision of Lever's will, to offer "scholarships for the purposes of research and education."

Wagner's Melodies also won last year's Donald Tovey Memorial Prize of the University of Oxford, and was cited as one of several notable music books published in 2013 by Alex Ross in his blog, The Rest is Noise. Previous work by Trippett earned the Alfred Einstein Award of the American Musicological Society and, in 2013, both an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award and the Bruno Nettl Prize of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

The AMS Lewis Lockwood Award, endowed in his honor by friends and admirers of Prof. Lockwood, honors each year a musicological book of exceptional merit published during the previous year (2014) in any language and in any country by a scholar in the early stages of his or her career who is a member of the AMS or a citizen or permanent resident of Canada or the United States.The 2014 citation reads:
This year's Lewis Lockwood Award goes to a book that is truly interdisciplinary in scope, integrating methods and fields as diverse the history of science, philosophy, music theory, linguistics, and psychology, bringing these resources to bear on a topic that is at once central to the history of music, and yet curiously elusive: that of melody. Although melody has been called the soul of music, it has escaped any sort of precise definition and resisted any rigorous theoretical formulation. The composer whose melody this book considers is none other than Richard Wagner, who valorized melody as much as anyone in the nineteenth century, even as critics accused him of lacking any sort of melodic gift. The book explores these tensions; in the process it greatly expands our understanding of Wagner's complex cultural position, while also transforming our understanding of his music in important ways. The award goes to David Trippett, for his book Wagner's Melodies: Aesthetics and Materialism in German Musical Identity.

AMS member David Trippett holds the Ph.D. degree in musicology from Harvard and is Lecturer in Music at the University of Bristol—also an active professional pianist. Read more about him at his [very impressive] WEBSITE.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Public Musicology, cont'd.

by Amanda Sewell

Musicologists and music scholars from around the world convened at Westminster Choir College of Rider University for a conference called The Past, Present, and Future of Public Musicology, held January 30February 1, 2015. If you wonder what public musicology is, be assured that not all of us who identify as public musicologists are entirely certain. The talks presented at the conference addressed some of the myriad ways public musicology is conceptualized. Herewith a very brief précis of what went on.

A number of presenters spoke about how they use their university affiliations to bring music and musicology to the public. Felicia Sandler (New England Conservatory) had organized a concert and pre-concert talk honoring the Ghanaian composer Ephraim Amu (February 2014), and reported how the event snowballed, ultimately including (among other activities) a lecture by Kofi Agawu, a symposium, a drumming and dance workshop, jam sessions, and the involvement of members of the Ghanaian community. Jennifer Kelly (Lafayette College) spoke of a new commissioned work from composer Gabriela Lena Frank (January 2014), with artist residencies, a composer concert, the premiere concert, and a score published by G. Schirmer, as well as interdisciplinary, campus-wide involvement of students. Rebecca Jemian (University of Louisville) described the conception and role of the Grawemeyer Award, noting that the winner is selected by a panel of laypeople, not by musicologists or other academics.
Jason Hanley, Felicia Miyakawa, Amanda Sewell, Christine Kypranides
“Going Public: Some Tough Questions of Public Musicology”

Another theme that emerged was the ways musicologists engage in music outside their professional affiliations. Rebecca Dirksen (Indiana University) helped start a record label in post-earthquake Haiti, with Boulo Valcourt as its first signee. Carl Leafstedt (Trinity University) encouraged musicologists to become involved in non-profit and community arts leadership boards. Elissa Harbert (Macalester College) teaches hour-long music appreciation courses in a local elder care community, focusing on such themes as Romanticism and Music and Spirituality. Honey Meconi (Eastman School of Music) runs a website called The Choral Singer’s Companion, which includes information for conductors and choral singers about several choral masterworks. Dorothy de Val (York University) and Susanna McCleary (soprano and violinist) performed a lecture-recital of music from Jane Austen’s era, music they frequently play at Jane Austen balls in the greater Toronto area.

Pedagogy was another thread running throughout the conference. Su Yin Mak (Chinese University of Hong Kong) demonstrated how she “stages” pieces in a narrative style for audiences of various levels of understanding. Jessica Stanislawczyk and Katherine Caughlin, undergraduate students at Westminster Choir College, presented excerpts from the final projects they had developed in a public musicology course taught by Eric Hung (and supported in part by the American Musicological Society's teaching fund). Felicia Miyakawa (academic consultant) and Michael Fauver (W. W. Norton) promoted The Avid Listener, a blog featuring weekly topical posts by musicologists, each ending with discussion questions.

Not all presenters had university affiliations. Several speakers hold PhDs in musicology but are employed outside academic institutions. Naomi Barrettara (Metropolitan Opera Guild) coordinates and teaches classes in the series offered by the Guild. Christine Kyprianides (IndyBaroque) uses her dual skills as a performer and a musicologist to assist non-profits with grant writing and program notes. Durrell Bowman (independent scholar) spoke of the challenges he has faced in the decade-long search for an academic position in musicology. Felicia Miyakawa (academic consultant) explained why she left a tenured position and chose to pursue public musicology. I discussed how academia and musicology prepared me for a career as a professional academic editor and entrepreneur (at Nola Knouse (Moravian Music Foundation) works to preserve, share, and celebrate the musical culture of the Moravians. Susan Key of the Star Spangled Music Foundation presented the keynote address, focused on the conference theme of the past, present, and future of public musicology. Key urged musicologists to embrace social responsibility, public visibility, and inclusivity in their pursuits.

A number of conference participants  represented the pairing of musicology and curation. Allison Portnow (Ackland Art Museum, UNC) organizes gallery concerts, sonic installations, and partnerships with local ensembles. Thomas Patteson (Bowerbird) curates new music programming in a Philadelphia arts non-profit organization. Michael Alan Anderson (Eastman) and Nancy Norwood (Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester) spoke of the many ways their two institutions have successfully dovetailed music and art.

Undergraduate Student Poster
from Eric Hung's public musicology course
Finally, as it was a musicology conference, some presenters offered historical perspectives of public musicology. Frederick Reece (Harvard) spoke of the conflicts that can arise between antiquarians and musicologists, using as a case study the Haydn piano sonatas that were “newly discovered” in 1994 (and later proved to be forgeries). Christian Thorau (University of Potsdam) gave a brief history of musical tourism, noting parallels between 19th-century travel guides and program notes. Phil Gentry (University of Delaware) analyzed the role of music in Cold War-era promotional films from Colonial Williamsburg. Christine Kyprianides (IndyBaroque) shed light on John Hullah, a librettist, teacher, conductor, and concert organizer in 19th-century London. Kate Galloway presented two case studies about technology and local soundscapes in Vancouver. Jonathan Waxman (Hofstra University) discussed the changing role of program notes in the last century, noting the increasing role of new media and the decreasing role of musicologists as writers of program notes.

The conference offered a unique opportunity for self-identified public musicologists to convene and discuss issues not always at the forefront of other musicology conferences. The informal conversations between the paper sessions gave participants the chance to network, ask questions, and share stories and advice. Eric Hung’s expert organization of the conference is particularly to be  commended.

Amanda Sewell holds a Ph.D. in musicology from Indiana University, and she works as a professional academic editor. Her scholarship has appeared in the Journal of Popular Music Studies, the Journal of the Society for American Music, and the Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Nostalgia (dept. of Grammy Awards)

The editor of Reminisce magazine, with Sunday's Grammy Awards in mind, rightly thought we would be interested in their collection of vintage radio and record ads that they have assembled for the occasion. He writes:
Bendix 1945
With the boom in national identity and manufacturing in the decades following World War II, the American music industry was a particular point of pride. The reason the annual awards are called “Grammys” is in tribute to Emile Berliner, the American inventor of the gramophone. In fact, so important was the idea of American innovation and manufacturing that the other name they were considering was “the Eddies,” in honor of Thomas Edison.

RCA 1946

The message here is pretty clear: no home was complete without a music player. It might double as a piece of high-end furniture, and was less ostentatious than Google Glass.

This was as much a matter of fashion as of art. And design: nowadays you’re more likely to find these pieces exhibited as prized collector items.

See the full 11-slide show:

Reminisce is a North American nostalgia magazine.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Virgil and Lenny

their words about music defined an era

by John von Rhein 
Note: John von Rhein's essay originally appeared in The Chicago Tribune of 13 January 2015, full text HERE. Herewith an excerpt:
They don't make American icons like Virgil Thomson and Leonard Bernstein anymore.

For decades during the last century, each artist reigned with unchallenged authority in his particular sphere, Thomson as the nation's most brilliant and erudite music critic, Bernstein as America's towering conductor, composer, pianist, educator, author and cultural celebrity, classical music's Great Explainer. Directly or indirectly, each artist helped to put classical music at the center of mainstream cultural discourse in the U.S., a position it hasn't held since their passing (Thomson died in September 1989, Bernstein a little more than a year later). Each was as much a product of his time and place as he was a significant influence on how classical music was and is made, marketed and received.

The recent publication of two hefty anthologies of their writings—the music criticism and essays Thomson wrote for the New York Herald Tribune from 1940 to 1954; and the correspondence to and from Bernstein from 1932 until just before his death in 1990—sheds a revealing light on a golden age in America's musical life, as seen from the perspective of key figures who helped shape it.

Thomson wrote criticism with a composer's insights into how music is made and a performer's knowledge of the realities of making a career in front of the concert public. ... Thomson did not regard himself as a supreme arbiter of public taste so much as an informed bearer of what he called “straightforward and eminently sensible attitude(s),” expressed in clear, direct journalistic prose. A critic “does his duty best,” he wrote in 1954, “when he describes and explains to the public what the artist is doing. If he adds a paragraph of personal opinion, that is his privilege.”

Thomson added much more than personal opinion to the reviews and essays gathered in the nearly 1,200 pages of Virgil Thomson: Music Chronicles 19401954, as edited by Tim Page, a distinguished music critic in his own right. ...

Like most critics, Thomson had his biases and idiosyncrasies, and he apparently saw no conflict of interest in reviewing artists who played or sang his music. Unlike most of his colleagues, he wore his learning lightly and deployed the English language elegantly and straightforwardly. He is one of the very few music reviewers of any era whose writings compare favorably with those of another brilliant critical stylist, George Bernard Shaw.

When Thomson was wrong (as he certainly was in his withering dismissal of Shostakovich and Sibelius), he was grievously wrong. Whether his judgments were fair or unfair was far less important, however, than the reasoning behind them and the conviction with which he expressed them.

Nothing like Thomson's criticism is being written today. ...

Thomson took Bernstein's music seriously and Bernstein thought the same of Thomson's, even if he conducted relatively little of it. And Bernstein got it right when he observed, in the New York Times obituary of Thomson, that “Virgil was loving and harsh, generous and mordant, simple but cynical, son of the hymnal but highly sophisticated.”

Let's be grateful for the discerning critical intelligence of Virgil Thomson and for the fact that his musical observations, in all their plainspoken wisdom, have been made permanently available, at long last. Let's be grateful, too, that Bernstein hoarded just about every scrap of correspondence that passed between him and colleagues, collaborators, lovers, artists, writers, celebrities and musical friends. Without them and without the voluminous Bernstein Collection in the Library of Congress, we would not have The Leonard Bernstein Letters, which Yale University Press has newly issued in paperback, complete with editor Nigel Simeone's meticulous footnotes and informative chapter introductions.

What a remarkable trove it is! Bernstein appeared to know everybody who was anybody, and his sharp wit and intellectual brilliance come through in his letters no less vividly than in his music-making. The wonder is that he had time to write any letters at all, given the fever pitch with which he conducted the rest of his life. ...

Dip into any part of this compulsively readable volume and you'll come away with a sense of the boundless love of music and boundless belief in himself that drove Bernstein and helped make him the most important musician America has yet produced. 
Virgil Thomson: Music Chronicles 19401954, ed. Tim Page (Library of America).

The Leonard Bernstein Letters, ed. Nigel Simeone (Yale UP).

John von Rhein has been the classical music critic of The Chicago Tribune since 1977.