Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Reading Matter

The American Musicological Society awards publication subventions for books and editions in all fields of music scholarship. Twenty-eight books were recently granted $44,000 in funds to support publication expenses during the first of two rounds for 2014. In spring and fall 2013 some 43 books were funded; covers and links for all books published over the history of the program are given HERE. Altogether the Society currently spends some $100,000 a year on the initiative.

Bequests from Manfred Bukofzer, Otto Kinkeldey, Gustave Reese, Dragan Plamenac, Paul Pisk, and Lloyd Hibberd formed the nucleus of an endowment established in 1971 to support the publication of books and editions of music. These funds were considerably augmented by the OPUS capital campaign in 2002–09, which funded AMS 75 Publication Awards for Younger Scholars (AMS PAYS), a program providing for members in the early stages of their careers to be able to count on subventions for their first books.

Here a few recent examples, chosen more or less randomly from the exhaustive lists cited above:

John H. Baron
Concert Life in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans

Louisiana St. Univ. Press, 2013
Oxford UP, 2014
Martha Feldman
The Castrato: Reflections on Natures and Kinds
Univ. of California Press, 2015
Nadine Hubbs
Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music
Univ. of California Press, 2014
Drew Massey
Univ. of Rochester Press, 2013
Catherine Saucier
Alexandra Vazquez
Listening in Detail: Performances of Cuban Music
Duke Univ. Press, 2013

Thursday, July 24, 2014

At the Brink in NYC

We wish all the constituencies—musicians, patrons, donors, board, the city of New York—well as they seek to honor the Metropolitan Opera's stated mission to provide “a vibrant home for the most creative and talented artists working in the multidisciplinary field of opera, including singers, conductors, composers, orchestra musicians, stage directors, designers, visual artists, choreographers, and dancers from around the world.” The Met, established in 1880 by 22 civic activists meeting at Delmonico's Restaurant, is after all the biggest and arguably the most prestigious institution of classical music in the Western hemisphere. It needs to work.

Yesterday's letter from Peter Gelb, the embattled general manager of the Met, to the unions instructed members to prepare for a work stoppage on 1 August—in a week's time. Among other things it invited employees to extend their healthcare benefits through Cobra, at a per-family cost of $2,800 per month. Their last paychecks will arrive on July 31 or August 7.

The $16-million Robert Lepage Ring (2012),
the fiscal and artistic results of which remain contested.

Of course the rhetoric is intense. You can't help but think about Minneapolis and whether or not those lessons have yet been learned. And in some respects crises like these are, by now, an old, old story.

What has certainly changed is the mode of communication, notably from the New York musicians. Their arguments seem more sophisticated and better reasoned than in confrontations past, and they have effectively harnessed the media to carry their message sooner to a much vaster readership than could have been envisaged even a few years ago. To cite just one example, the Met Orchestra Musicians presentation of June 18, 2014 is actually a good read: fascinating and terrible.

See also:

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cipriano de Rore at the Crossroads

by Jessie Ann Owens

One wag answered the invitation Katelijne Schiltz and I extended to read a paper by making the following comment: “It is really an excellent idea to organize a Rore-Symposium. I guess he is one of the well-known unknown composers.” Indeed.

And that is why the conference “Cipriano de Rore at the Crossroads” was an unqualified success. Fifteen scholars from five countries presented papers (forthcoming in the series Épitome musical) about de Rore’s life and the circles of patronage that made his musical composition possible, about the sources of his music, about the music itself and about its afterlife. The conference attendees—nearly 90—and the speakers enjoyed the rare treat of hearing the music discussed in the papers—mostly by de Rore but also by a few contemporaries—come alive in a wonderful performance by the Ensemble La Capilla. And we enjoyed as well an exhibition of the very rich collection of de Rore sources at the Bavarian State Library.

Many of the papers made lasting contributions to our understanding of de Rore’s biography: Bonnie Blackburn wove a web of evidence to describe his early years as a free-lance composer in Brescia, in the Martinengo circle; Franco Piperno brought his deep knowledge of della Rovere patronage to an interpretation of de Rore’s music for Urbino; and Laurie Stras revealed previously unknown connections to the marriage festitivites for Anna d’Este.

As you might expect, the music itself commanded significant attention: Stephen Rice commented on two masses he has recently recorded with the Brabant Ensemble; John Milsom considered de Rore’s techniques for writing fuga; Hartmut Schick delved into the transparent textures of O sonno; Anthony Newcomb reclaimed three posthumous madrigals as authentic, and elucidated elements for which de Rore’s music is admired; and I offered an interpretation of Dissimulare etiam sperasti as a portrayal of Dido’s emotions. Kate van Orden presented a new interpretation of the “black note” madrigals and their connections with the French chanson, and Katelijne Schiltz examined problems of style and transmission in the four equal voice motets.

A group of papers addressed issues with the sources of Cipriano’s music. Andrea Gottdang brought an art historian’s eye to problems of mise-en-page for Hans Mielich’s illuminations in Mus. Ms. B, the Bavarian State Library’s treasured manuscript of de Rore’s motets. Bernhold Schmid reported on the discovery of a new German contrafact of Cipriano’s well-known chanson Susanne un jour. And Massimo Ossi brought his keen eye, honed in studies of Monteverdi’s madrigal books, to an analysis of the ordering and contents of de Rore’s legendary 1542 book of madrigals and the subsequent editions.

Finally, a pair of papers addressed de Rore’s posthumous reputation. Adelheid Schellmann reported on the surprising number of settings in the wake of de Rore’s Vergine cycle. Sebastian Bolz examined the historiographic stance of Alfred Einstein, who was the first to offer thorough assessment of de Rore’s significance.

Crossroads of what? De Rore was one of the last in the great migration of Franco-Flemish composers. And his music too stands at the crossroads in terms of style. But even more significant, the conference itself represented a kind of crossroads, a step in making this well-known unknown composer better known. 

Special thanks are due the sponsoring institutions that made this event possible: the representative of the Flemish government in Berlin, Villa I Tatti (the Lila Acheson Wallace Fund for Special Projects), the Bavarian Academy of Science, the Orff Zentrum, the Bavarian State Library, the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, the University of California, Davis, and the University of Regensburg.

Jessie Ann Owens is past president of the American Musicological Society and the Renaissance Society of America. Professor of Music at the University of California, Davis, she is co-editing with John Milsom a new edition of Thomas Morley’s A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke (1597).

Friday, July 18, 2014

Elements of Style

by D. Kern Holoman
DISCLAIMER: the curator of Musicology Now here promotes his own book. This situation could be avoided if we had more incoming submissions during the summer lull. Act now.

Consider the following:

Symphony No. 3 in E♭ Major, op. 55 (“Eroica”)

This, I continue to maintain, is the simplest and most logical way to style such titles. And time-honored, too, especially the uppercase N and M.

But  today we are all over the map, style-wise:
Quartet in C♯ minor op.131 (Grove Dictionary / Oxford Music Online)

Symphony no. 6 in F major (“Pastoral”) (Oxford UP New York)

Symphony no. 6 in F Major / the Pastoral Symphony (Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edn., 8.190)

Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90 (Wikipedia)
Symphony No.2, Op.73 (IMSLP)
... and on and on.

It's the new-ish (2010) CMOS (olim CMS), the go-to manual for copy editors everywhere, that complicates the issue by observing that “no.” is “usually” lowercase (8.190). But it isn't. And the better rule is that, in American English, titles are capitalized: hence No. and Major (or Minor).

There's a good case to be made for uppercase Op. for “opus,” since you see it that way on very nearly every published score and orchestral part there is. In other kinds of print, however, it both looks and reads better—conveys more meaning—to leave op. (and especially op. 00, no. 0) lowercase:

Piano Sonata No. 19 in G Minor, op. 49, no. 1

It's worth taking a stand. Fetching style is fashioned letter by letter.

More positive mutations of style advocated by the new CMOS include greatly simplified citation of Internet locators—and you can now begin to abandon “accessed” dates for stable URLs. The third edition of Writing About Music (University of California Press, August 2014) concurs. Other features of WAM3, as it has become known in-house, are examples from world musics, rock, pop, and cinema; the expectation of paperless transmission and storage of work product; and guidance for the multiple venues for writing about music: manuscript (papers and theses), print, web, e-book.

D. Kern Holoman writes about music. As time allows.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lorin Maazel

New York Philharmonic
The death, at his home in Virginia, of Lorin Maazel follows the losses in short succession of three other leading conductors of the post-Bernstein/ Karajan era: Colin Davis (1927–2013), Claudio Abbado (1933–2014), and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (1933–2014). I had meant to post, a few weeks ago, a short piece on Claudio Abbado and the youth-orchestra movement (European Union Youth Orchestra, 1978; Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, 1986), flourishing long before Dudamel and El Sistema—but that will need to come along later.

Maazel was the only American of this bunch: raised in Pittsburgh (though born in Neuilly/s/S), educated there, and at length conductor of three of the nation's great orchestras: Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and New York. His last chapter centers on the Castleton Festival that he organized at his farm in rural Rappahannock Countypaid for with the sale of his eighteenth-century violin. It was the project of a remarkable heart and mind: “more than a labor of love,” he said: “a labor of joy.” The published mission of his foundation is “to nurture children, foster art, and reclaim the human spirit.”

Here are a some memorial essays not to miss:


Thursday, July 10, 2014

After The Rite

by Maureen A. Carr

After the Rite: Stravinsky’s Path to Neoclassicism (1914–1925) (Oxford UP, 2014) traces the evolution of Stravinsky’s compositional process with excerpts from The Nightingale, Three Pieces for String Quartet, Renard, Histoire du soldat, Étude for Pianola, Ragtime, Piano-Rag-Music, Symphonies of Wind Instruments, Concertino, Pulcinella, Mavra, Octet, Cinq pièces monométriques, Concerto for Piano and Winds, Piano Sonata, and Serenade in A.

One of my goals here has been to illustrate how musical sketches help to inform music analysis. I use original sources, diplomatic transcriptions, and diagrams to illustrate:
  1. The presence of melodic motives, such as anticipatory gestures that have a bearing on subsequent works.
  2. The layering of imitative techniques that sometimes participate in the emergence of block form before transitioning into Stravinsky’s Neoclassical style.
  3. The incorporation of materials borrowed from the eighteenth century to create musical narrative, and so on.
In addition to these visual representations of musical ideas, the cultural complexities that established the framework for Stravinsky’s evolution as a composer are also considered, such as the cross-currents in literary circles around 1914 that were concerned with Shlovsky’s “Resurrection of the Word” and defamiliarization, the swirling designs in futurist and cubo-futurist paintings, and Fokine’s outline of the “New Ballet” (appearing just before the outbreak of World War I) that seemingly paralleled the emergence of Stravinsky’s Neoclassicism.

Stravinsky’s take on sonata form is discussed through the crystallized Neoclassicism in the Octet and Concerto for Piano and Winds. Allusions to compositional models by Bach and Beethoven (Piano Sonata) and one by Chopin (Serenade in A) help realize the depth of Stravinsky’s knowledge of keyboard literature.

Some topics and notions:

1914: Literature, Art, Music, and Dance

A crucial year for experiments in literature, art, music, and dance that were initiated by luminaries who spent their early years in St. Petersburg, including Shklovsky, Lourié, Sonia Delauney, Stravinsky and Fokine. Robert Delaunay (though born in Paris) is also included because of his paintings that successfully merged cubism and futurism. Vladimir Baranov-Rossiné, another cubo-futurist, was well-known for his distinctive use of textural superimposition, which would become a distinctive feature of Neoclassicism in art, music, and poetry. The portrait of Stravinsky (on the cover) by Larionov also represents cubo-futurism.

Futurism was a central artistic concern for numerous artists. This year also saw a collaboration between the painter David Burliuk and Vladimir Mayakovsky for the book The Tragedy in Two Acts with Prologue and Epilogue, Arthur Lourié signed the manifesto “We and the West,” and Viktor Shklovsky was promoting futurism in poetry through his essay on “The Resurrection of the Word.” Sonia Delaunay was creating patterns of different shapes that were recurring simultaneously at different angles in Prismes électriques and using adjacent blocks in different colors at the same time Stravinsky was composing the Three Pieces for String Quartet, in which he juxtaposed and superimposed multiple ostinato figures within sound blocks in order to synthesize the techniques that he had previously used in The Rite.

These analogies are not intended to suggest that there was a concerted effort among Burliuk, Stravinsky, Shklovsky, Lourié, and Delaunay, but rather a unanimity of spirit that reflected the prevailing aesthetic shared by futurism and formalism that was manifesting itself within artistic circles with the goal of rejecting the past.

The Classicism of Models

The goal of abandoning the “classicism of models” in favor of the “classicism of reference” in Boulez’s aesthetic design for the future of music is not always abundantly clear in Stravinsky’s music. However there are moments in his compositional output where Stravinsky’s classicism became referential. The abstract level of his Concertino (1920) serves as a fine example, yet Stravinsky’s use of sound blocks in this work would be reminiscent of Renard (1915–16). Furthermore, he used a Russian theme in Concertino. Suffice it to say, Stravinsky would often rely on models in one way or another as a means of inspiration. Similarly, the use of models in other art forms, such as literature, art, music and dance would continue to prevail.

Stravinsky at the Crossroads between Primitivism and Neoclassicism
Renard [Bajka] (1915–16) and Histoire du soldat (1917–1918)

In Renard, Stravinsky’s attention to the creation of “discrete blocks” can be illustrated in a diplomatic transcription of a musical sketch for Renard from Sketchbook II at the Stravinsky archive of the Paul Sacher Stiftung. It is found among the sketches associated with Three Pieces for String Quartet.

It is useful to consider the first 22 measures of “Dance du diable” from Histoire du soldat in comparison with Stravinsky’s “setting” of the same gesture in Renard

Stravinsky’s Path to Abstraction: An Interruption on His Journey to Neoclassicism

Piano-Rag-Music (1919) represents the full flowering of Stravinsky’s improvisatory style that he experimented with in the Étude pour Pianola (1917). Just as a visual artist might at first create paintings that are “representational” while absorbing new materials, so too was Stravinsky creating a picture or a snapshot of ragtime in his Ragtime for 11 Instruments (1918) and with “Ragtime” in Histoire du soldat (1918) he was appropriating the rag idiom. (Stravinsky himself referred to Ragtime for 11 Instruments as a picture of ragtime.)

Stravinsky’s Compositional Process for Symphonies

In order to arrive at a clearer understanding of Stravinsky’s compositional process for Symphonies, it is necessary to discuss the evolution of discrete fragments from sketch to score by presenting some of these musical ideas within the context of both versions of Symphonies, with annotations on the score in order to provide a glimpse as to how Stravinsky incorporated discrete blocks into the fabric of the Symphonies.

Pulcinella (1919–20) and Mavra (1921–22)

Mavra might …be called a Russian transcription of Pulcinella. ... Only the ‘masks’ are different in the two pieces – the stock characters of the commedia dell’arte in the one and the equally (for Pushkin) stock setting of the old Petersburg suburbs in the other. The character of the music differs correspondingly: sunny and carefree in Pulcinella and grotesque in Mavra” (Mikhail Druskin, Igor Stravinsky, trans. Martin Cooper, 69).

Octet (1919–23) and Concerto for Piano and Winds (1923–24)

The influence of classical composers on Stravinsky’s path is clearly felt in the Octet and the Concerto, for it is with these two works that he solidified his Neoclassical style. It is a measure of Stravinsky’s genius that he absorbed the experiences of the past while at the same time putting his own mark on tradition with these two works.

Stravinsky has no imitators

As George Antheil would write in 1924: “If anything could determine the genius of Stravinsky today, it is the fact that he has no imitators. Where is the musician who can organize the tremendous innovations he has made in musical space, creating as he has, almost a third dimension in music?” (Antheil, in Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine, February 17, 1924).

Maureen A. Carr is Distinguished Professor of Music at Penn State, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate music theory. She is author of numerous books and articles on Stravinsky's compositional process and, with Bruce Benward, the ubiquitous Sight Singing Complete (8th edn, McGraw-Hill, 2014).

Sunday, July 6, 2014


An Open Letter to Jeremy Denk
 NOTE: See the posts of June 20 and June 24, 2014.

by Kristi Brown-Montesano

First, an olive branch of congratulations on the successful premiere of your opera, particularly because it is a comedy. Most new operatic works lean heavily towards the dramatic, even macabre, side of the spectrum. The Classical Style is unusual in the repertoire and—based on many critical reviews—is finding an audience eager for a lighter touch. I also want to thank you for responding to my post:  I do not usually have the opportunity for critical back-and-forth with a living librettist!

The AMS Blog’s editorial note summarized my initial reaction as “Well, not that funny,” and that seems to have convinced you that I am deficient in humor. But eighteenth-century comic operas are never just funny:  they always point to a moral, integrating life lessons into the clowning around. What, then, is the moral of Snibblesworth’s fate? To paraphrase a line from another Mozart comedy with a lot of moralizing in it: “Ein Musicologist tut wenig, plaudert viel.” Like The Magic Flute’s Ladies, Snibblesworth is an ineffective chatterer; his constant musicologizing nothing but a nuisance.

You seem to see me as a nuisance as well, someone who engages in “reflexive conversion of works of art into theses.” Doesn’t art have content? If I tell someone that I recently went to see a new opera, won’t they ask me, “What was it about?” For Musicology Now, I answered that question as a (UC Berkeley trained) musicologist speaking to an audience interested in musicology. Readers can decide for themselves whether they agree with my report.

I do think that a lieto fine—the unabashedly optimistic ending of many opera buffas and musicals—would have helped to make the evenhanded treatment that you profess a reality. But by banishing Snibblesworth from the community of the enlightened, your libretto echoes the retributive spirit of Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute: the bad guys are punished. We are even  supposed to cheer as Snibbs is dragged away! Compare instead the ending of The Book of Mormon, a show that even practicing Latter-Day Saints enjoy. Why? Because creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone redeem their characters after poking fun at everyone. Only the hardcore Mormon officials opt out of the buoyant finale; condemning everyone, they leave in a huff of moral rectitude.

The need for genuine comic balance is why I suggested a Taruskin/Rosen smackdown, an idea which you dismissed as amusing only to “an audience of AMS members.” (Ah, Snibbleworth-ed again!) Here was my thinking: Why use a stick figure like Snibblesworth when you could have the real deal, a worthy musicological nemesis for your hero? I’m imagining Taruskin as a bearded Darth Vader choking Rosen at a distance with a characteristic hand gesture, murmuring “Your lack of historical context … disturbs me.” Hilarious, even to general audiences (or at least as funny as a lesson in sonata form). And in the upbeat finale, these two intellectual titans could join forces and rule the classical-music galaxy! Or at least that part of it which lies beyond the conservatory door.

Kristi Brown-Montesano, a faculty member at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles since 2003, is currently Chair of Music History there. A trained soprano, she received her Ph.D. in musicology from UC Berkeley, with a specialization in 18th-century western European music. Her book The Women of Mozart’s Operas (Univ . of California Press, 2007) offers a detailed study of the female characters of the Da Ponte operas and Die Zauberflöte, evaluating the original works as well as the reception history of these characters. Brown-Montesano has presented and published essays on opera, film music, opera education, and trends in marketing classical music to children.

Friday, July 4, 2014

July 4

In honor of the bicentennial of the “Star Spangled Banner,” the Library of Congress hosted a concert and panel discussion on 3 July with the support of the Star Spangled Music Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Featuring baritone Thomas Hampson, pianist Matthew Thompson, and the University of Michigan Alumni Chorus, the concert included tunes penned by Stephen Foster and Francis Hopkinson, along with an audience sing-along of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Hampson, along with musicologist Mark Clague, was recently interviewed for an article that appeared in the Sunday edition of the New York Times entitled “How the National Anthem has Unfurled.” Describing the song’s rich contributions to an ongoing “process of identity negotiation,” Clague noted, “When people sing it, and when they put their whole heart and passion behind the song, they give voice to their own citizenship in a way that speaks of their vision of the country.”    

“The Anacreontic Song,” 18th-C. Source Tune for “Star Spangled Banner”