Seth Brodsky


Assistant Professor of Music and the Humanities in the College; Director of Undergraduate Studies


Ph.D., Eastman School of Music, 2007


Office: GoH 405
Phone: (773) 702-5909

Seth Brodsky's work as a scholar, teacher, and critic focuses on problems of musical intertextuality, particularly in the work of living, recently deceased, or frequently resurrected composers. Brodsky is especially interested in how contemporary composers fantasize and shepherd their affiliations with the musical past, both consciously and unconsciously.

This work informs Brodsky's recent courses, which include an undergraduate seminar on intertextuality and influence in 20-century composition, focusing on the ambivalent role of the composer as both an original author and a reader/arranger of other texts; a seminar on music and melancholy—actually a rather happy course—charting a double history of the rich concept of melancholy and its influence on Western music from the Middle Ages through the present day; and a graduate seminar on composing at the turn of the millennium which examines the current cultural position of the living composer-as writer of musical works, producer of texts-to-be-read, and inheritor of the "literate tradition" (actually a rather melancholic course).

Brodsky is completing a book uniting many of these themes. Tentatively titled Fail Better: Listening for Utopia in Postwar European Composition, 1961-2001, it explores four of postwar Europe's most influential composers (Luciano Berio, György Ligeti, Helmut Lachenmann, and Wolfgang Rihm) within the context of Adorno's writing on utopian negativity. Related projects include articles on Rihm and the German metaphysical tradition; an extended essay for Continuum's Great Shakespeareans series on Benjamin Britten's borrowing practices; an article (in preparation) on Berio, Berg, and Celan; and an examination of postwar European music as an endeavor in alternative memorial, not only to the aesthetic utopias of modernism's past, but also to the last century's genocides and art's complicity therein.

Brodsky has also worked for years as a critic and program annotator. In addition to work for the Kurt Weill Newsletter, Andante Magazine and All Music Guide, he has written concert notes and essays for a wide variety of ensembles, artists, and institutions including The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Wiener Philharmoniker, Alarm Will Sound, and Cecilia Bartoli.

In 2005-2006 Brodsky was one of the Humboldt Foundation’s German Chancellor Scholars. He has also been awarded fellowships from Deutsche Akademische Austausch Dienst and the Paul Sacher Foundation, and a substantial grant from the Yale Center for Media & Instructional Innovation for the construction of an interactive multimedia database engaging the recent history of musical composition with some of the more sophisticated and flexible web-based technologies available.

Brodsky has also suppressed/repressed years as a classical guitarist (for practicing guitarists, see my esteemed colleagues Steven Rings and Lawrence Zbikowski) into a deepening affair with another six-stringed, fourths-tuned, proto-nylon, fretted instrument, and can be heard now and again scratching out Dowland's plangent tetrachords.