Alphabetical by presenter's last name.
GUSTAV HOLST’S TERZETTO AND ITS MAXIMALLY SMOOTH TRIAD OF KEYS
Dustin Chau (University of Kansas)
Largely independent of French preoccupations with polytonality in the 1920s, Gustav Holst experimented with triple-tonality in his Terzetto, written in 1925 for flute, oboe, and viola. This study draws a connection among set-class theory, polytonality, and neo-Riemannian theory to analyze the simultaneous three-key relationships throughout Holst's Terzetto. Recent developments in music theory recognize that the members of the set of consonant triads can voice lead among one another more smoothly than those of any other trichordal set class. In Holst’s triple-tonal work, three concurrent diatonic collections form a set-theoretic “triad of keys,” or tri-key combination. Analogous to the consonant triad, a certain type of tri-key combination can “key lead” to another of the same type more smoothly than any other type. Holst’s Terzetto not only predominantly uses this type of tri-key combination, but also capitalizes on its smooth “key-leading” properties over the course of the work.
“WE ARE OURSELVES”: JOHN BECKWITH’S STACEY AS A LIFE LESSON
Elizabeth Clarke (Michigan State University)
Among Canadian composer John Beckwith’s more than 150 compositions is Stacey, a six-song cycle for soprano and piano composed in 1997. The text is selectively drawn from Canadian author Margaret Laurence’s novel The Fire Dwellers and presents the internal monologues of Stacey MacAindra, a disillusioned Vancouver housewife in the 1960s.
My presentation demonstrates how both Beckwith’s choice of text and his musical setting in Stacey work to emphasize a specific aspect of Laurence’s novel: the idea that, though people may wish for more recognition and world influence, they generally cannot change their circumstances or improve their lives. While much of Beckwith’s chosen text consists of Stacey’s demands for something more than the life she currently has, the music works against her hope by presenting static gestures. After examining several passages that illustrate this idea, I will discuss Stacey’s eventual acceptance of her constrained but predictable life and demonstrate how Beckwith reinforces this reconciliation in the music. I then suggest that Beckwith’s choice in Stacey to emphasize the idea of accepting one’s life as it is, combined with his own personal career trajectory, invites us to draw a parallel between Stacey’s situation, the experience of Beckwith and other contemporary art music composers, and the human experience in general. Ultimately, I propose that Stacey can be interpreted as a statement that, though everyone longs for greater recognition, we ultimately need only to please ourselves and can be content with the small influence we have.
ROBERT SCHUMANN AND DIE UNVERSTÄNDLICHKEIT
Jacques Dupuis (Brandeis University)
In his widely-known 1840 review of Franz Schubert’s “Great” C Major Symphony, Robert Schumann famously described the work’s duration as “heavenly [in] length.” This is in part a comment on the experience of an audience whose musical assumptions and prior knowledge are befuddled: “Everyone will feel a little embarrassed by…[its] length and breadth of form...just as the first glance at anything to which we are unaccustomed, embarrasses us….[but] after a time, its intricacies and connections all become clear to us.” As John Daverio (1993) notes, incomprehensibility is also a recurring theme in discussions of Schumann’s life and works, though the focus has historically been on little other than the early piano music of the 1830s.
This paper expands upon such commentaries by scrutinizing Schumann’s discussions of incomprehensibility, particularly in his reviews of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique (reviewed 1835) and Schubert’s “Great” Symphony, in which the concept is particularly salient. Viewing these discussions through the lens of Friedrich Schlegel’s 1800 essay, “On Incomprehensibility” (“Über die Unverständlichkeit”), I contend that Schumann’s commentary includes and extends beyond the audience’s experience of a single piece’s generic or formal innovations; he implicitly argues that pieces like Schubert’s and Berlioz’s symphonies compel self-formation, Bildung. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of Schumann’s A minor String Quartet, op. 41/1, in which the enigmatic conclusion exemplifies both Schlegel’s incomprehensibility, as well as the Romantic irony of Heinrich Heine’s poetry, in which late-occurring shifts of narrative voice force readers into self-reflection on what preceded.
MULTILEVELED CONFLICT IN MAHLER’S FIRST SYMPHONY: A NEW FORMAL-HERMENEUTICAL ANALYSIS
Eric Elder (Brandeis University)
Scholars have demonstrated a rare level of consensus in analyzing the form of the first movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D major, the “Titan.” Their singular conception of the movement incorporates a slow introduction and a continuous exposition, and disagreements are confined to the details. Because of the remarkably clear and consistent evolution of Mahler’s symphonic style, this uncommon example of scholarly accord has had a significant impact on our understanding of his developing compositional processes. But to hear the movement this way requires that we recognize shocking deformations of widely-accepted nineteenth-century paradigms in sonata procedure. It also necessitates an accompanying biographical portrait of the twenty-eight-year-old Mahler as a radical visionary bent upon breaking every formal convention in his very first symphonic outing.
Developing aspects of James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy’s sonata theory (2006) and Robert Hopkins’s exploration of closure in Mahler’s music (1990), this paper proposes a fresh formal reading of Mahler’s First. By combining and extending the concepts of generative and teleological primary themes (P), what has been long identified as a slow introduction is recast as a P-space rife with internal conflict. And with new, individual default possibilities suggested for Mahler’s medial caesurae, the movement is analyzed as proceeding from a far more conventional two-part exposition. Finally, the hermeneutical implications that this new formal analysis presents for the symphony as a whole are briefly examined, and a narrative arc sharing elements with Byron Almèn’s (2006) mythopoetic reading of the piece is outlined.
‘BECOMING’ IN 2-D: CHOPIN’S FOURTH BALLADE AS A TWO-DIMENSIONAL SONATA FORM
David Falterman (University of North Texas)
Since the publication of William Caplin’s Classical Form (1998), significant strides have been made in extending his theory of formal functions to nineteenth-century forms (and beyond). Steven Vande Moortele (2009) develops a systematic way to analyze single-movement forms that combine elements of a sonata form with those of a four-movement sonata cycle. Although this analytical apparatus is powerful, it is necessarily restricted to an extremely selective repertoire of music. Additionally, there is no way in his approach to conceptualize formal functions that seem to exist somewhere between the dimensions. In this paper, I will first broaden the applicability of Vande Moortele’s approach by using it to understand the combination of other a priori formal archetypes—in this case, sonata form and variation form. Next, I will draw upon Janet Schmalfeldt’s idea of “becoming” (Schmalfeldt 2011) in order to understand formal functions that “become” one another across the dimensional divide. Finally, I will apply this modified two-dimensional sonata approach to Chopin’s Fourth Piano Ballade, a piece which is shaped by the interactions of sonata- and variation-form elements. Future research might expand upon the ideas presented here to develop a generalized two-dimensional sonata form, in which potentially any form might replace the sonata cycle.
TERNARY FORMS IN ROCK
Matthew Ferrandino (University of Kansas)
Formal scholarship in rock music has catalogued a number of recurring structural archetypes: verse/chorus, strophic, song form (AABA), through composed, and terminally climactic Ternary forms, however, have gone without mention in this body of literature, potentially as a statistical outlier. In this paper I offer several instances of ternary forms in rock music and show that, although a structural minority, they are used in a variety of ways to both push the boundaries of rock conventions and to structurally complement musical meaning and/or narrative. In addition to the straightforward ABA ternary form I offer three additional types for consideration: Embedded Ternary Form (ETF), in which one of the large sections A or B can be described as another formal type such as strophic or verse/chorus; Augmented Ternary Form (ATF), where the ABA ternary structure is embellished with intro and/or outro sections; and Hegelian Ternary Form (HTF), wherein the formal structure represents a diachronic presentation of thesis (A), antithesis (B), and synthesis (A’) realized musically through harmony, melody, timbre, rhythm, and/or lyrics. These categories are neither mutually exclusive nor exhaustive and are intended as a starting point for considering ternary form in more depth in rock music as well as other genres.
THE TRAGIC PHASE OF IRONY: TRACING THE INTERACTION OF PASTORAL AND MILITARY TOPICS IN VAUGHAN WILLIAMS’ PASTORAL SYMPHONY
Paul Garza (University of Houston)
With his Pastoral Symphony, Vaughan-Williams both engages with and resists the expression of idyllic English pastoralism. Though he is lauded for his mastery of the pastoral, there are occasions where this pastoralism is challenged and even overtaken. Drawing on studies in narrativity and topic theory, this study follows the narrative trajectory of Vaughan-William’s Pastoral Symphony and examines the troping of pastoral and military topics to illuminate deeper meaning. Furthermore, this study explores how a narrative archetype can span multiple movements of a work.
Vaughan-Williams described this symphony as wartime music, not the idyllic English landscape assumed by his critics. It is instead a portrayal of the French pasture and the effects of war experienced first-hand by the composer and invokes early-modern French style. The work falls into the tragic phase of the ironic archetype wherein a negatively-inflected transgressor overtakes a positive initial order and leaves behind something of lesser value. Analysis of each movement through the lenses of gesture, embodiment, and topic theory shows a progressive change in rank between the two topics in which pastoralism eventually yields to military. Binary oppositions between diatonicism and pentatonicism, brass and woodwind instruments, and simple and compound meters help dictate this battle. Additionally, as balances shift, military reveals itself to have been lurking in the background from the very beginning. Within the microcosm of this symphony, the fragility of nature and folly of mankind clash in tragic irony as the horrors of war are not only explored by this music, but actively engaged.
LISZT’S SONATA AND RELIGIOUS ASPIRATION AS AN OBJET PETIT A
Yumi Kim (Temple University)
This presentation investigates how Franz Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor deviates from the previously accepted norms of sonata form based on Hepokoski’s and Darcy’s Sonata Theory; provides a musical narrative of the sonata by employing the Lacanian orders of subjectivity and theological discourse; and by combining the two, relates the sonata’s narrative to an unattainable object of desire within the sonata-space.
In Hepokoski’s and Darcy’s Sonata Theory, a satisfactory ending with PAC in the secondary modules creates a narrative of success (Hepokoski and Darcy 2006, 242), and these elements of the generic contract are lacking in Liszt’s B Minor Sonata. The sonata does not attain a PAC in the primary or secondary keys, but in its major supertonic key, C# Major, in the development. There, the music sings a reflective melody based on a choral-like accompaniment, arousing a sense of religiousness or of contemplation, which signifies a place where everything is perfect, utopian. The Lacanian Imaginary shows that the PAC is unattainable in the original key and serves as the objet petit a in the sonata. From the viewpoint of Christianity, the original key can be a metaphor for reality, where humans long for eternal life but cannot have it. On the contrary, the PAC in the supertonic key along with the choral topic signifies the promise of eternal life in heaven. Combining these two narratives, Lacanian and religious, this paper will argue that I: PAC is a religious aspiration for an objet petit a, which is an unattainable desire.
SENSIBLE POETICS, SYNAESTHESIA, AND TONAL IMAGINATION IN RAMEAU’S MUSICAL THOUGHT
Stephen M. Kovaciny (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Rameau’s use of sensationalist metaphors in his late theoretical publications have been discussed by numerous scholars; both Thomas Christensen and Anne-Marie Chouillet have already explicated potential reasons why Rameau “switched” dogmas from Newtonian to Lockean empiricism. These scholars suggest that the composer-theorist’s “conversion” occurred during the late 1740s/early 1750s, a time in which Rameau was exposed to the philosophe circles surrounding Diderot and Condillac. While their assessments prove to be convincing on the surface, this is but half the story. In earlier treatises that still engage with Cartesianism, Rameau’s use of metaphorical language is especially nuanced in order to show not only his journey of understanding but his understanding itself.
This paper examines Rameau’s Génération harmonique (1737)—particularly its use of sensible metaphors and poetics—as underscoring the theorist’s discovery, understanding, and conceptualization of the basse fondamentale and corps sonore, and his engagement with contemporary epistemological trends. Moreover, the study shows that Rameau’s so-called conversion was hardly a sudden change of dogmatic enterprises, but instead came about as a gradual process in which his Lockean epistemological stance evolved away from that of his earlier epistemological mentor, Descartes. By examining a salient passage from Génération harmonique, I suggest that Rameau’s use of sensation as understood through Enlightenment synaesthetic thinking strives to evince his own epistemological process. In contrast with Christensen, this paper treats the other agents with whom Rameau engages (Condillac and Diderot) as influencing the eventual scope of such linguistic imagery, not as being the agents whom initiated change.
“PLAYING THROUGH”: SOME CONSIDERATIONS ON THE ADAPTIVE USE OF DRUM DANCING IN THE CANADIAN ARCTIC
Tim Murray (University of Florida)
This paper explores newly adaptive ways in which the performance and consumption of Inuit drum dance now contributes to the emotional well-being of Inuit living in Ulukhaktok, N.T. Following forced sedentarization beginning in the 1950s, Inuit drum dance was repressed by the Canadian government, residential boarding schools, and religious missionaries until it had all but faded from the soundscapes of most Arctic communities. Drum dance has since been revived throughout the circumpolar Arctic in an effort to decolonialize and restore cultural autonomy. This paper begins by exploring some of the pragmatic applications of Inuit drum dance over time, tracking its social utility in shamanic rites, use as a tool for social cohesion and knowledge transmission and as a modality for redefining circumpolar Inuit identity in the post settlement era. I then interrogate a common assumption in ethnomusicological and anthropological literatures that Inuit culture has been irreparably broken from the impacts of acculturation. Lastly, following Omura’s characterization of Inuit traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) as a Certeauean “tactic,” I relocate Western drum dance within a wider collection of adaptive practices to argue that in Ulukhaktok, this practice now fulfills a new role, helping to foster more favorable well-being outcomes for generations of Ulukhaktomiut raised completely within the settlement, while balancing societal and familial expectations with a renewed sense of place, purpose and cultural identity.