Session 1: Modernism Reconsidered
(Anna Gawboy, Chair)
‘I have tried to capture you…’: Rethinking the Alma Theme from Mahler’s Sixth Symphony
Seth Monahan (Yale University)
Since the 1940s, Mahler’s Sixth Symphony has been transmitted with an informal “domestic” program centered on several claims first made in Alma Mahler’s Erinnerungen. In the work, she writes, Gustav meant to depict their children (in the Scherzo), himself (in the Finale), and finally her, in the first movement’s swooning secondary theme. Whether this was actually Mahler’s intention, we can never know. But given the well-known credibility gap of Alma’s reports—and considering that lack of corroborating evidence—it is surprising how widely critics have taken Alma at face value, and allowed her program to become a permanent fixture of the work’s reception. My contention is that Alma’s comments have led to skewed hearings of the opening movement, and that a close examination of the “Alma” theme itself—and especially the narrative it unfolds—calls into question any image of the theme as a straightforward or heartfelt nuptial portrait. I begin by illuminating grotesque, parodistic, and even caricaturistically “feminine” aspects of the theme’s construction and presentation. I then show how over the course of the movement, Mahler first proposes an idealized fantasy-version of the theme, then brings back the original version only to saddle it with a glaring sonata malfunction, and finally, after symbolically exiling its most grotesque elements, finally settles on a triumphant but decidedly “masculinized,” martial derivative. In closing, I propose several possible (and purely speculative) alternate “domestic” readings, ones that link the above narrative to the documented ambivalence and dissatisfaction pervading Mahler’s marriage at the time.
Musical Analysis and the ‘Radical Empiricism’ of William James: Perceived Structures in Webern’s Fifth Bagatelle
John Z. McKay (Harvard University)
Traditional analytical approaches to atonal music of the Second Viennese School tend to focus on pitch-class structures while excluding the vast quantity of other information present in scores. Despite exhortations from the composers themselves to look elsewhere for an understanding of the inner workings of their music, few analyses have looked beyond pitch relations in the score or have attempted to engage with issues of listening and temporal musical experience.
This paper examines Webern’s Fifth Bagatelle in depth as a model for reconceiving analytical methodologies for the repertoire. Musical parameters other than pitch class-such as rhythm, timbre, density of sonorities (rhythmic and acoustic), dynamics, and register-are represented in various graphs of the piece that bring each of these elements to the fore, both individually and in a variety of combinations. The alternative representations of the information derived directly from the score allow listeners to reconfigure their relationship to music notation while also emphasizing temporal relationships that are essential to musical experience.
After reviewing Webern and Schoenberg’s statements on listening to atonal music, this paper offers a new model of musical structure based on James’s concept of radical empiricism to combine the composers’ sentiments with more recent formulations of phenomenological approaches to analysis. The graphs and score representations are then coupled with a detailed narrative account of the piece to capture the sense of emerging “musical objects” offered as an alternative reading of the bagatelle’s musical structure.
Two will become only one’: Angelic Erotics and Schoenberg’s ‘Seraphita,’ Op. 22, no. 1
Stephen Smith (New York University)
Angels appear in Schoenberg’s revised Harmonielehre of 1922. The new edition’s expanded discussion of major and minor tells a story in which desiring but sexless angels stand as the future of music. Schoenberg argues that, though major and minor seem as natural as man, woman, pleasure and pain, the history of music is not fulfilled in them. Instead, these “two will become only one.” “The angels, our higher selves, are sexless, and the spirit does not know unpleasure [Unlust].”
Working backwards from this passage, I will track the figure of the angel through Schoenberg’s middle period. First, I will relate the angels of the Harmonielehre to the angels of Balzac’s novella Seraphita. Schoenberg called Seraphita the “most glorious work ever written,” and hoped, for a time, to set it as a massive oratorio, spanning three nights. Unlike the angels of traditional angelology, Balzac’s angels desire, and can even experience physical love through a complete commingling with one another. These angels are sexless but sexed, pure but desiring, and, with their commingling, “two become only one.”
Second, I will trace the consequences of Schoenberg’s use, in the revised Harmonielehre, of these angels as a figure for the future of music, and I will do so particularly through an analysis of Schoenberg’s orchestral song “Seraphita,” Op. 22, no. 1. This reading will relate the text and formal construction of “Seraphita,” as well as its location in Schoenberg’s corpus, to the angels of the Harmonielehre and of Balzac’s Seraphita.
Session 2: Rhythm & Function
(Joseph Salem, Chair)
The Death and Resurrection of Function
Gabriel Miller (The Ohio State University)
“Function” is one of those words that everyone understands, yet everyone understands a little differently. Although the impact and pervasiveness of function in tonal theory today is undeniable, a single, unambiguous definition of the term has yet to be agreed upon. So many theorists—Daniel Harrison, Joel Lester, Eytan Agmon, Charles Smith, William Caplin, and Gregory Proctor, to name a few—have so many different nuanced understandings of function that it is nearly impossible for conversations on the subject to be completely understood by all parties. This is because function comprises at least four distinct aspects, which, when all called by the same name (function), create ambiguity, confusion, and contradiction.
I propose a solution to this problem: the elimination of the term “function.” In place of function, four new terms—kinship, quality, province, and behavior—are invoked, each uniquely corresponding to one of the four aspects of function identified in the paper. In other words, after the death of the term “function,” its many meanings will be resurrected through the new terminology, in more clarity and with more power. The meanings of these new terms are elucidated by such harmonic topics as secondary dominants and six-four paradigms. An analytic notation is developed for behavior, in particular, which is used in conjunction with two standard types of harmonic analysis to form a three-level system of analysis that yields a broader range of explanations for harmonic characteristics.
Marpurg’s Meters and the Problem of the Solution
Martin Küster (Cornell University)
It is a fundamental tenet of eighteenth-century metric theory that a downbeat is a downbeat and an upbeat is an upbeat; one cannot be turned into the other, pieces cannot be shifted metrically. A composer, therefore, who violates that principle in notation or text setting is likely to draw the scorn of critics. Nevertheless, there are pieces where such a shift is possible: F.W. Marpurg points out in 1762 that two dance types, the Gavotte and the “German Polonoise” can be notated or played both ways “without offending the ear”.
Marpurg’s solution to the problem, partly derived from earlier suggestions by Joseph Riepel, draws on a theory which could be called the “theory of simple meter”, despite being more famous for one of its predictions, “compound meter”. Riepel and Marpurg were the chief developers of this theory, which is characterized by the notion that something notated between two bar lines may or may not count as a measure. The purpose of this theory, I argue, was the establishment of a universally applicable unit of measurement.
Application to these shiftable pieces, however, raises the question of what it actually is that one measures. It cannot be time, for rigorous application of Marpurg’s principles leads to situations where measures vastly differ in duration. A possible answer lies in the enigmatic eighteenth-century concept of “rhythm”, for which no modern term exists.
Session 3: Music as Language & Language as Music
(Esther Morgan-Ellis, Chair)
Speech Surrogate in the Sambla Baan: Communication in Rhythmic and Modal Context
Julie Strand (Wesleyan University)
The baan is a 23-key xylophone played by the Sambla, a minority ethnic group that resides in a hilly region of western Burkina Faso. A baan is played by three people simultaneously, with complex, interlocking parts that create a dense matrix of additive melodies that weave in and out of one another. Above this, the soloist plays what is commonly referred to as a speech surrogate, or a melodic line meant to communicate verbal meaning by emulating the prosody of oral speech.
The phenomenon of speech surrogates in West Africa, sometimes referred to as “talking drums,” is not unusual, but the baan stands out from formerly studied traditions in two important ways. First, the baan appears to be the only speech surrogate tradition capable of extemporaneous speech, whereas other traditions are generally comprised of known stock phrases that are strung together to communicate intended messages. Second, other known speech surrogates are articulated primarily on drums. The baan is both a percussive and melodic instrument with a pentatonic scale and modal system, so the articulation of speech must fit within both a rhythmic and modal/melodic context.
This paper presents an analysis of how baan speech passages are adapted to fit within the complex rhythmic, melodic, and modal contexts of baan compositions by examining a single phrase played in several different songs. This analysis includes consideration of the diobaanden, a dissonant pitch in the scale system named after a spiritually-charged Sambla concept that is normally only used in certain, ritually-important contexts.
The Rhyming of History: Verbal Sampling in Hip-Hop
Justin Schell (University of Minnesota)
Mark Twain supposedly said that “history does not repeat itself, it rhymes.” Queens MC Pharoahe Monch says that “every syllable of mine is an umbilical cord through time.” Both of these statements express a fundamental element of rap and hip-hop poetics, the use of pre-existing, and often historically significant sounds in the context of new songs. The literature on sampling, while legion, usually conceives of the practice as existing only in hip-hop’s beats, the sonic dimension that supports an MC’s lyrics. In this paper, I will show that it also exists as a dominant element in those lyrics themselves. The work of Mos Def, The Roots’ Black Thought, KRS-One, Talib Kweli, Slug from Atmosphere, and Brother Ali foreground the way MCs construct an oral and aural historical dialogue by verbally sampling not only the words, but also the cadence and vocal inflections of other artists, both within and beyond hip-hop. The meanings of such a technique can take various forms, including irony, parody, and honorific citation, resulting in a blurring of the lines between orality and textuality in hip-hop’s tonal semantics. This project joins a chorus of scholars, including H. Samy Alim, Jeff Chang, Adam Krims, and Wayne Marshall, who are developing not only a clearer articulation of the cultural and historical stakes of hip-hop’s aesthetics, but also attempting to overcome the analytical gulf produced by separating lyrics from the musical and performative dimensions of their delivery.
Session 4: Analysis of Popular Music
(Christopher White, Chair)
Necroversive Semiosis: Towards a Form-Functional Analytical Model for Extreme Metal
Eric Smialek (McGill University)
Thus far, scholarship on extreme metal music (death metal and black metal) has focused almost entirely on the sociological issues raised by its transgressive ethos, lyrics, and subculture. Indeed, the often explicitly violent or Satanic images in extreme metal appear to invite this emphasis. But in order to seem powerful and convincing to fans, extreme metal must also communicate transgression musically. How this is done has, for the most part, gone unexplored.
Aiming for a musician’s perspective, I draw from my cultural experience of extreme metal as a performer, song-writer, and listener to propose a semiotic form-functional model for extreme metal inspired by different conceptions of musical form such as Ernst Kurth’s “symphonic waves,” Kofi Agawu’s “introversive semiosis,” and William Caplin’s formal functions. Applying concepts from Don McLean and rock producer Sandy Pearlman’s (Blue Öyster Cult, The Clash, Steely Dan) analytical juxtapositions of 70s-early 90s heavy metal and Bruckner symphonies, I develop a three-part formal process in extreme metal where listeners are 1) presented with initial musical material ex nihilo as in Bruckner’s symphonic openings, 2) are given musical materials that introversively signify towards 3) a musical teleos that is most likely to convey monumentality in the listener: (1)Ungrund _ (2)Iteration _ (3)Entrainment. I further organize musical signifiers that serve these three formal functions into three hierarchal levels (labeled “micro-,” “macro-,” and “group”), explain the signifiers individually, and demonstrate my analytical modal with musical excerpts by Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and Vital Remains.
Analyzing the Rutles: The Music and Identity of the Pre-Fab Four
Christine E. Boone (University of Texas)
On March 22, 1978, NBC aired a new made-for-TV “docudrama” about a fictional 1960s British Invasion band entitled The Rutles: All You Need is Cash. The Rutles is a phony documentary about the “pre-fab four:” Ron Nasty, Dirk McQuickly, Stig O’Hara, and Barry Wom. The movie is an obvious parody of the Beatles. Every still photograph shown and almost every bit of video footage has been modeled on an actual photograph or video clip of the Beatles.
Eric Idle, the film’s creator, said that “the Beatles and the Rutles are so intertwined, you can’t quite tell where the legend ends and the comedy takes over.”1 It is this particular comment that will be investigated through the course of this paper. The movie features a number of songs performed by the Rutles, but each Rutles song is not based on a single Beatles song. Composer Neil Innes does not simply take Beatles songs and replace the lyrics, in the style of the popular song parodies of Weird Al Yankovich. Using John Covach’s idea of stylistic competency, I will deconstruct the musical content of two of the Rutles’ songs and unearth a web of references that work together to create a parody of the Beatles’ style. These songs work in such a way that they can be (and in one famous instance, were) easily misidentified as actual Beatles songs, thereby helping to conflate the identities of the two groups.
Session 5: Looking Beyond the Surface
(Christopher Brody, Chair)
Harmonic Illusion in Ligeti’s Second Book of Piano Etudes: Galamb Borong, Der Zauberlehrling, En Suspens, Entrelacs
Eunjin Lee (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Harmonic Illusion in Ligeti’s second book of piano etudes: Galamb Borong, Der Zauberlehrling, En Suspens and Entrelacs” examines four of György Ligeti’s piano etudes from the second book of Études pour piano. Ligeti’s piano etudes represent not only his new metrical thinking during the 1980s, but also his innovative harmonic ideas. The foremost character of those four etudes is the use of complementary scales combined with polyrhythms. By examining four etudes from the second book, the influence of Ligeti’s evocations of alternative tunings from his Piano Concerto and their application to those four etudes will be discussed.
In his Piano Concerto, Ligeti extended the complexity of superimposed polyrhythms with new harmonic idioms, including experiments with illusionary harmony. These harmonic illusions in the Piano Concerto are further explored in four etudes from the second book, produced from complementary scales played by both hands. His complementary scales are a tool to achieve his idea of illusionary harmony that blurs the line between equal temperament and his imaginary temperament influenced by other cultures.
The Gamelan inspired etude, Galamb Borong creates the illusion of unequal temperament through two whole tone scales played by both hands. Der Zauberlehrling shows a relationship with Ligeti’s earlier work, Continuum, using the gradual change of pitch and manipulation of rhythmic/interval patterns between different scales by both hands. En Suspens has a continuous crossing rhythm and harmony produced by a hemiola rhythm and complementary scales between the two hands; these add more complexity to the multi-rhythmic layers in Entrelacs.
Intertextuality and Identity in Vincent d’Indy’s Istar
Mark Seto (Columbia University)
At the climax of Istar (1896)-a set of “variations symphoniques” depicting the descent of the Babylonian fertility goddess into the underworld to rescue her lover-Vincent d’Indy evokes two celebrated operatic moments: the “Grande Scène du Mancenillier” from Meyerbeer’s final opera, L’Africaine, and the Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. As Steven Huebner, Anya Suschitzky, and other scholars have recently noted, d’Indy was a committed Wagnerian, so a Tristan reference should warrant little surprise. D’Indy’s attitude towards Meyerbeer was more problematic. Like Wagner, d’Indy admired the composer of grand opéra as a youth, only to disparage him later in vicious anti-Semitic language. The juxtaposition of two seemingly antithetical references in Istar, then-one to a composer d’Indy idolized, the other to a composer he repudiated-highlights the paradoxical relationship between d’Indy’s compositional rhetoric and practice.
This intertextual moment in Istar will serve as my starting point for an examination of d’Indy’s musical and cultural personality. Drawing on Harold Bloom’s notion of the “anxiety of influence,” I will argue that d’Indy misreads the inheritance of Meyerbeer and Wagner in order to assert his creative originality. I will also adopt Kevin Korsyn’s dialogic approach to analysis to suggest that d’Indy’s evocation of L’Africaine and Tristan creates a duality of musical voices that does not coalesce in a monologic style. More broadly, the non-convergence of musical discourses in Istar exemplifies the complexities of French musical identity at the fin-de-siècle.
Session 6: Cultures within Cultures
(Karen Jones, Chair)
Becoming the Goddess: Dance and the Embodiment of Feminine Identity in the Indian Diaspora
Meera Varghese (University of Alberta)
Bharatanatyam (South Indian Classical Dance) is considered iconic of Indian national identity and occupies a place of central importance among Indians living in Canada. Many first-generation immigrants strongly urge their children-predominantly girls-to take up Bharatanatyam to encourage a connection to their Indian heritage. Arangetram, which literally translates as “ascending the stage,” is a debut solo recital that serves as a public validation ceremony, not only for the student and teacher, but also for the family of a dancer. Although arangetram is a deeply-rooted traditional practice, the relocation of Indian communities has prompted numerous changes in dance transmission and performance. Drawing on fieldwork conducted at Bharatanatyam dance schools in Canada, as well as my own experience as an Indo-Canadian Bharatanatyam performer and teacher, I examine how identity can be sustained or negotiated through practice of arangetram. Through examination of discourse among students, teachers, and parents, I argue that the performance of arangetram in Canada has come to embody a social and physical process whereby identity is articulated among Indo-Canadian girls. By addressing arangetram in a Canadian context, I examine how diasporic artistic practices may articulate the intersection between the notion of “tradition” and its role in shaping perceived cultural belonging on the one hand, and the transformation of attitudes and social needs in the experience of Indo-Canadian communities on the other. This research will provide insight into the function of traditionalism in minority communities and how this relates to changes in the social function of expressive culture in Canada.
Rebecca Cypess (Yale University)
The Community as Ethnographer: Views of the Classical Canon among Orthodox Jews
The standard model of ethnographic fieldwork, in which scholars leave their home societies to immerse themselves in the community of the “other,” breaks down when the community to be studied exists within the larger host society. The various sectors of the American Orthodox Jewish community are in constant dialogue with the secular world around them, carefully choosing what to absorb and what to exclude. In many cases, and despite halachic (Jewish legal) warnings to the contrary, Orthodox Jews embrace the canon of Western classical music, pointing to the spiritual benefits of its “relaxing” and “harmonious” sounds.
This paper will attempt to understand the role of the classical canon in the Orthodox Jewish community. It will first rehearse some of the most important halachic literature on music; it will then present data from interviews and web-logs restricted to group “insiders.” This information will be contextualized within ethnomusicological literature on diaspora communities.
Ultimately, the case of the Orthodox Jewish community suggests a reversal of roles of ethnographer and community. The community takes on the role of ethnographer, studying the host society and incorporating select elements of it into community practice and ritual. The group studies the other to define itself-a model that may not be far from the truth of mainstream ethnographic fieldwork. Despite its posture of disinterestedness and objectivity, ethnography is a product of contemporary Western society, with its emphasis on multicultural engagement. Ethnography and ethnomusicology are, in the end, not only about subject communities, but also about scholars themselves.