Professor Lawrence Zbikowski awarded Franke Fellowship for 2020-21 academic year

Lawrence Zbikowski headshot


Lawrence Zbikowski, Professor of Music and the Humanities in the College, has been awarded a faculty residential fellowship from the Franke Institute for the Humanities at the University of Chicago. Each year, the Institute awards a limited number of these fellowships to University of Chicago Faculty to support the completion of a unique and interdisciplinary project.

The Franke Institute “represents the highest research and teaching ambitions at the University of Chicago.” The Institute’s residential fellowships enable University faculty to devote themselves completely to new research. Fellows are in residence for a year, and during that period, they are released from teaching, advisory, and administrative responsibilities within their appointed departments. Fellows are provided office space and research resources, and they participate in weekly workshops where papers related to fellowship projects are circulated and discussed by all of the fellows.

Zbikowski’s 2020-21 fellowship work will further a theoretical approach that the musicologist took in his two previous books, Conceptualizing Music (Oxford 2002) and Foundations of Musical Grammar (Oxford 2017). Both projects utilized research in cognitive science to explain how human cognitive capacities shape musical understanding. The earlier book offers an account of the structure and organization of theories of music, and the latter sets out the basic features of a construction grammar for music.

With his new project, The Nature of Musical Thought, Zbikowski aims to generalize his earlier approach beyond more local concerns of music theory and analysis. By connecting with a range of scholarship from the last two decades, Zbikowski hopes “to develop a more comprehensive account of the unique cognitive capacities of humans—capacities that contribute to what is sometimes called ‘human nature’—that make the production and understanding of music possible.”

Zbikowski has been on faculty at the University of Chicago since 1993. His principal research interests involve applying cognitive science, particularly cognitive research in linguistics and psychology, to musicology. Recent seminars he has taught have focused on meter and rhythm, theories of embodiment and their relationship to musical knowledge, the application of recent work on affect to music, and the way ideas about agency are manifested in musical practice. In addition to his musicological work, Zbikowski is a classical guitarist and can occasionally be heard performing on the Music Department’s Tea Time Concert series.

Franke Affiliate and Dissertation Fellows

In addition to Zbikowski’s Residential Fellowship, Associate Professor Jennifer Iverson has been named an Affiliate Fellow of the Franke Institute for the 2020-21 year, and Ph.D. candidate Andrew Malilay White has been awarded a Dissertation Completion Fellowship.

Jennifer Iverson headshot

Iverson, who is also a recipient of an American Council of Learned Societies fellowship, will devote her work in the coming year to a new book titled Porous Instruments: Circulation and Exchange in Electronic Sound. “This project asks how electronic sound has come to pervade culture and experience in the second half of the 20th century,” explains Iverson. “I’m particularly interested in the ways electronic music and instruments enable boundary crossings, such as transmissions between high-art and low-art musical genres, or between military and musical engineering.” You can read more about Iverson’s project here.

Andrew White headshot

White will spend the coming year writing his dissertation titled “The Improvised Text: Bodily Regimes of Piano Improvisation in the Nineteenth Century.”

“‘The Improvised Text: Bodily Regimes of Piano Improvisation in the Nineteenth Century,’ develops a theory of musical textuality using tools from linguistic anthropology and the cognitive study of skill,” says White. “This project draws from pedagogical materials written by Carl Czerny, Simon Sechter, and Friedrich Wieck, as well as accounts of Clara Schumann and Franz Liszt, and it uses a vocabulary of entextualization, bodily skill, and pedagogy to recover mid-nineteenth-century piano improvisation as a process.”