UChicago Students, Faculty Present at 2020 AMS/SMT Virtual Annual Meeting

ASM and SMT logos

Every year, the American Musicological Society and the Society for Music Theory convene hundreds of scholars from around the world to share and discuss the latest research and thinking in the fields of music history and theory. In light of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, both organizations have moved their meetings online and will share them jointly over the weekends of November 7-8 and 14-15.

This year's meetings feature fourteen faculty and current students from the University of Chicago, in addition to a number of University alumni. View the schedule and select abstracts below, and join University of Chicago students and faculty at the AMS/SMT 2020 Virtual Annual Meetings.

The University of Chicago Department of Music will also host an online party for Department students, faculty, and alumni on Saturday, November 14 from 7-9 pm CT. More information is available in the conference program.

Presenters: Humanities Teaching Fellow George Adams, Jon Bullock, Professor Philip V. Bohlman, Professor Martha Feldman, Professor Berthold Hoeckner, Associate Professor Jennifer Iverson, Hannah Judd, John Y. Lawrence, Siavash Sabetrohani, Assistant Instructional Professor Olga Sánchez-Kisielewska, Audrey Jane Slote, Andrew Malilay White, Humanities Teaching Fellow Lindsay Wright, Professor Lawrence Zbikowski

Saturday, November 7

10:00 AM – 10:50 AM – Musical Contagions, Circulations, and Ecologies of Listening to Social Media

“Of Gimmickry and Man: The Lick’s Circulation through Virtual Jazz Communities” – Hannah Judd

In 2011, Alex Heitlinger, a senior at New England Conservatory, uploaded the video “The Lick” to YouTube. A 1:34 compilation, it excerpted different performances, from John Coltrane to Stravinsky, that each deployed the same seven-note musical riff (a “lick” in colloquial jazz terms). Heitlinger was in a Facebook group where users would post instances of the lick that they found, but his particular gathering of the videos was retweeted by Questlove and NPR and currently boasts nearly three million views. The lick’s online trajectory accelerated at the moment the video went viral. I explore the widespread digital dissemination of jokes, videos, and memes that feature the lick, suggesting that it functions as a mimetic device that users can deploy to signal both their belonging and their individuality within a larger jazz community. Recognizing the joke becomes synonymous with those who possess jazz knowledge. The lick, in its formulaic deployment within these “insider” spaces, suggests the death of improvisation, the use of a set riff over spontaneity. It becomes a calling card for performers and listeners alike to determine a legitimate participant on and offline--who gets the joke? I suggest that the lick’s online proliferation becomes a gimmick intentionally through its repetition, pointing to both the lick’s hyper-presence and how complaints about the excessive posts of the lick are themselves recycled into over- repeated jokes. In doing so, I argue that the lick serves as the basis for a study in intracommunity dynamics and specifically humor and gimmickry in identity formation.


10:00 AM – 10:50 AM – Excavating the Castrato: Toward New Archaeologies

“The Verismo Trace and the Phantom Castrato.” – Martha Feldman

On a common view, phonography offers acoustic presence, amplifying sound, even as it highlights absence--the loss of immediacy that live performance should provide. This paper confronts that paradox through recourse to recordings made to preserve castrato vocality at the very moment of its demise, in Rome 1902-04, when acoustic capture of the last castrato Alessandro Moreschi sought to preserve a vanishing performance tradition.

How might an archaeology of Moreschi's vocality uncover those material remains? How might it give purchase on Moreschi's idiosyncratic and bewildering vocal habits as acoustic shards of past practices that surface in the form of the trace, above all laryngeal catches in the throat manifested as unpitched phonations, aspirates, upward scoops, and even sobs?

My paper addresses these questions by following Moreschi's vocal tics backwards in several forking traditions, each with separate but overlapping residues: 1) a bel canto and castrato tradition described by Pierfrancesco Tosi (1723), Domenico Corri (1810), Manuel Garcia Jr. (1840), Paolo Pergetti (1850), and others; 2) a longstanding Sistine tradition documented by chapelmaster Giuseppe Baini (1806) and Felix Mendelssohn (1831); and 3) a romantic but ultimately verismo tradition that sounded in the opera houses of Moreschi's time. Pursuing the first two, the paper augments evidence first adduced by Robert Buning (1990). For the third, it combines new archival findings with a wealth of early and neglected phonographic evidence of opera singers Moreschi would have heard, as established in oral histories I have taken from Moreschi's living descendants, who describe him as having been a regular attendee at the opera. The last aligns with his documented second life as a salon singer of female arias and illuminates his vocal affinities with operatic divas staged during Moreschi's Roman years (1871-1922), including Ernestina Bendazzi-Garulli, Cesira Ferrani, and Emma Calvé. The paper ends by rethinking the Derridean trace and Certeau's "vocal utopias" in relation to what I call a "sacred vernacular" that tempered verismo's raw emotionality with nineteenth-century religious sentimentality and that can be tracked through the quirky aural tattoos of the upward appoggiatura and the sob as historically embedded phono/graphic plays of difference.


1:00 PM – 1:50 PM – Emotion and Meaning in Film Music

“The Bittersweet Spot: Music, Melodrama, and Mixed Emotions.” – Berthold Hoeckner

Amid the burgeoning opportunities of modern life, choices are often assessed in hindsight with mixed feelings. Modifying the tragic "too-late" trope of melodrama (as in La Traviata) movies sometimes deploy bittersweet songs or musical underscoring to express how characters mitigate retrospective regret by alleviating loss with solace, guilt with atonement, or sacrifice with redemption.

Before delving into a case study, I will sketch the anatomy of bittersweet music and its effects, based on ongoing empirical research at the intersection of music and social psychology (including controlled studies of musical stimuli as well as big data analysis of sentiments in online responses to musical selections). Within a semantic field demarcated by nostalgia, wistfulness, and melancholy, music's bittersweet spot can be located in a matrix of modal mixture, modulations with secondary dominants, usage of major and minor seventh chords, soft timbres and dynamics in midtempo, and topical references to genres such as the slow waltz, piano ballad, or farewell song.   

Critics applauded Damien Chazelle's romantic comedy-drama-musical La La Land (2016) mostly for its bittersweet ending to the story of aspiring actress Mia and struggling jazz pianist Sebastian. After helping each other realize their dreams, they part ways to pursue divergent careers. Years later, a famous and happily married Mia chances upon Sebastian in his own jazz club. Accompanied by a valse triste that pairs up with Sebastian's bittersweet theme for Mia, the film closes with a sequence in the style of a classical dream ballet where the former lovers imagine a life they might have had together-a scenario alluding to the heart-tugging ending of Back Street (1932) whose 1941 and 1961 remakes where both scored by Frank Skinner.

Within the history of emotions, bittersweet music has become both a symptom of and remedy for one of modernity's most vexing predicaments: the counterfactual fantasy. Its mixed emotions not only underwrite the persistent premise of melodrama as providing public access to "the unprotectedness of one's feelings" (Thomas Elsaesser), but also lend a voice to the "cruel optimism" (Lauren Berlant) of imagining unattainable outcomes.


1:00 PM – 1:50 PM – On Rotational Form

“Formal Process as Reanimation of the Past in Enrique Granados’s ‘Epílogo: Serenate del Espectro’.” Audrey Jane Slote

Goyescas, the programmatic suite for solo piano by Enrique Granados, encompasses a love story between maja and majo, stock characters from Castilian folklore. Snippets of fanciful text explaining the story punctuate the score. In the final movement, “Epílogo: Serenate del Espectro,” the majo, who has died, returns in ghostly form to serenade his lover. The music’s structural underpinnings vivify this narrative turn. In its formal and motivic design, “Epílogo” renders the past audible in the musical present by multiple currents of transformation.

My analysis traces three transformative processes in “Epílogo:” quasi-rotational form and its structural deformation, motivic relationships across different narrative spaces, and the clarification of motivic identity. I first explore how a substantial formal rupture enacts a crossing-over into reminiscence. I then trace how earlier motives foreshadow the reemergence of the musical past. Finally, I identify how certain motives come to be associated with everyday objects, a process of “disenchantment” that retroactively highlights the objects’ bewitchment. My reading draws upon concepts of teleological genesis and rotational form (Hepokoski 1993), voice (Abbate 1991), and temporal fusion (Kaplan 1996).

“Epílogo” encapsulates Goyescas’ contribution to a turn-of-the-century cultural project in which Spanish artists aimed to determine a quintessential national ethos and to represent it through their work. With this project, I aim to contribute to scholarship focused on Spanish art music in the early twentieth century, a repertoire that is less well-represented than others in current music-theoretical discourse.

Sunday, November 8

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM – Histories of Music Pedagogy: Techniques, Institutions, and Epistemologies (Workshop)

Lindsay Wright, speaker

In recent years, musicologists have turned to music education as an object of historical study, illustrated by an uptick in dissertations, conferences, and articles addressing pedagogical topics. Inspired in part by contemporary efforts to rethink the curricular organization of music departments, an interest in the historical roots of our pedagogical present has opened up rich arenas of investigation that have thus far received little scholarly attention.

As historians of science have long recognized, pedagogy is essential to the production and circulation of skill and knowledge, and therefore to generating and sustaining expert communities. In this regard, music is no exception. Music pedagogy, like the musical practices that it makes possible, is subject to considerable historical and geographical variation. From this perspective, analyzing music pedagogy can help explain not only the reproduction of musical knowledge and practice, but also how novel modes of musicking, thinking, and feeling come into being.

We suggest that analyzing pedagogical cultures will spur musicologists to expand the purview of music-historical inquiry and to rethink established disciplinary problematics. These include the emergence of Werktreue as the dominant paradigm of musical performance during the late nineteenth century, discourses of the musical mind and body, and relationships among ideology, canon formation, and musical institutions. Relatedly, music education has functioned as a critical point of contact between musical practice and other ideological, epistemological, and technical formations, such as the human sciences and state-led projects of public reform.

Comprised of six position papers, this workshop takes stock of these developments, considering the potential conceptual, historiographical, and empirical problematics that this newfound interest in the history of music education may generate. Focusing on Chopin and Liszt, Michael Weinstein- Reiman examines the nineteenth-century piano étude in light of changing conceptualizations of touch and virtuosity, theorizing the genre as an artistic mediation of physiological and spiritualist notions of musical training. Fanny Gribenski analyzes the Paris Conservatory as a laboratory of our sonic modernity, focusing on how the institution promoted new acoustical standards during the mid-nineteenth century that continue to shape global soundscapes to this day. Joshua Navon discusses shifting modes of assessing human musicality in German music conservatories in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Beginning by suggesting that most modern music pedagogies are classic forms of what Bernard Stiegler has called psychopower, Benjamin Steege questions the necessity of this status by turning to the case of early Dalcroze instructor Gustav Güldenstein, whose early career demonstrated an unusually critical stance toward psychological knowledge during the Weimar Republic. Taking up a tension at the core of James M. Trotter's 1878 treatise Music and Some Highly Musical People regarding the racialized nature of musicality, Lindsay Wright examines the historical relationship between music education, whiteness, and discourses of citizenship in the United States. Finally, examining body-based music pedagogies in the German Democratic Republic, Anicia Timberlake shows how abstract ideals such as "socialism" took on emotional, experiential meaning, and proposes a link between mature political citizenship and the process of learning to be musical.


11:00 AM – 12:50 PM – The Future of Jewish Music Studies (Jewish Studies and Music Study Group)

Philip V. Bohlman, speaker

This panel brings together scholars with a broad expertise in Jewish music topics to discuss how we can approach the study of Jewish music in the classroom and what role the Jewish Studies and Music Study Group should play in the future of Jewish music scholarship. The session will include remarks from our panelists and then an open discussion on such topics as ways to incorporate Jewish music into our standard music history curriculums, what the place of Jewish music scholarship is in musicological discourse, and how our study group should play a part in those areas and in promoting Jewish music studies as a whole.


3:00 PM – 3:50 PM – The Power of Music Criticism

“Music, the Public Sphere, and Nation-Building: 18th-Century Musical Writings in Berlin.” Siavash Sabetrohani

Around 1750, various elements came together to turn Berlin from a musical backwater to one of the leading European centers of music in both practice and theory. First, there was Frederick II's ascension in 1740 to the Prussian throne, which soon drew many notable musicians to the court. But equally important (and less recognized) was the creation of a robust public sphere of music theorizing and criticism, largely thanks to various periodicals issued by Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg. Marpurg's periodicals helped create a public sphere in which people of various walks of life could discuss and criticize music openly. From the beginning, Marpurg worked energetically to promote a national style for the German nation by heralding the music of influential contemporaries who were active in the German-speaking lands. In order to maximize the outreach of his periodicals, Marpurg appealed to amateurs as well as professionals, male and female readers alike. Over the following generation, the music-literary scene in Berlin soon became one of the most dynamic in all of Europe, covering all aspects of contemporary musical life while using the language and tools of the most progressive musical theories circulating in Europe.  

The Seven Years' War (1756-63) serves as a useful dividing point between two distinct phases of this literary activity.  First, there was the pre-war generation of critics (e. g., Marpurg and Kirnberger) who reflected the conservative aesthetics of the court of Frederick II and looked upon operas by Graun and Hasse as the best models for contemporary music. After the war, there rose a newer generation of critics (e. g., Reichardt and Spazier) who extolled the works of Gluck and Mozart. Yet, these schools were united in the broader mission of advocating for a German national style that set itself apart from French and Italian models. While Forkel's 1802 biography of Bach is often cited as the beginning of the connection between music and nationalism in Germany, music theory and criticism can be seen to have functioned as a nation-building agent in periodicals in Berlin for at least half a century.


5:00 PM – 6:30 PM – Musical Interculturality: Scope, Methods, Approaches (Roundtable)

Philip V. Bohlman, speaker

Gender, racial, social, historical, and cultural biases surround research and teaching of music theory and music history in multiple ways. While many of these biases have been acknowledged for several decades and have given way to various critical traditions in our disciplines, the musical repertory of research projects, publications, and theory and history classes often remains restricted to works of Western, white, and classical canon. This panel discussion therefore aims at suggesting and scrutinizing ways of "decentering" research and teaching methods in the area of 20th- and 21st-century music. In the past 150 years, various processes of globalization, transnationalism, and hybridization have made the cultural origins, codes, and affordances of musics fluid and unstable as established tropes of musical exoticism or Orientalism have been increasingly rejected and challenged in musical composition and music practices. More specifically, such processes are reflected and transformed in certain trends of pre- and especially post-1945 art, popular, and traditional musics that have been described, among others, as examples of musical interculturality. By bringing together scholars from historical musicology/history, ethnomusicology, and music theory, the panel discussion shall result in proposals for current/future readjustments of research and curricular goals.

In order to frame the discussion, the participants will give short papers (10-15 minutes each) that explore the scope, methods, and approaches to musical interculturality, placing the focus on methodological and terminological questions within and across the disciplines of musicology, music theory/analysis, and ethnomusicology. These papers will be followed by 30 minutes of questions and answers.


6:00 PM – 8:00 PM – Mediating the Cold War (AMS Cold War and Music Study Group and SMT Post-1945 Music Analysis Interest Group)

Jennifer Iverson, respondent


Recent scholarship in music studies has demonstrated the central roles that technology and mediation played in shaping musical practices since 1945, as well as our understanding of these practices during the Cold War and its aftermath. This alternative-format panel is a joint session of the Cold War and Music Study Group of the AMS and the Post-1945 Music Analysis Interest Group of the SMT. It features paired lightning talks from music scholars across sub-disciplines, who engage with these topics across different geographic regions and cultural-political contexts. Together, the panelists will offer new perspectives on, and prompt dialogue about, analyzing the role of mediation and technology in musical life during the Cold War. 

In the first pair of talks, titled "Innovation and Collaboration at CLAEM," Eduardo Herrera and Noel Torres-Rivera discuss creative practices at the Electronic Music Laboratory at the Centro Latinoamerican de Altos Estudios Musicales in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Herrera provides an overview of the studio's cultural politics, while Torres-Rivera offers an analysis of a work realized at this studio: Rafael Aponte-Ledée's Presagio de Pájaros Muertos (1966). The second pair of papers focus on the circulation of musical objects and ideologies in the Cold War United States. Ryan Gourley focuses on the politics of record circulation, analyzing American record labels run by Russian expatriates. He draws attention to how music and musicians from the USSR became participants in discourses of U.S. internationalism during the Cold War. George Adams offers an analysis of Maryanne Amacher's City Links (1967–), arguing that the logistical and theoretical difficulties of Amacher's work can be understood as expressions of a developing American cultural consciousness during the Cold War era. Following the paired lightning talks Gabrielle Cornish and Jennifer Iverson will offer reflections from the disciplines of musicology and music theory, respectively, and open up a discussion with panelists and audience members.

Recording Technologies and Cold War Cultural Consciousness

“Maryanne Amacher’s Musical Technologies.” George Adams

Maryanne Amacher was a prominent figure in American experimental music from the late 1960s onward, due to both her ingenuity as a composer and her expertise as a sound engineer. Her technological prowess enabled a conceptually rich compositional output that exceeded the spacial and temporal boundaries of typical musical performance. Ironically, the technological and conceptual vibrancy of her music has made it difficult to reproduce and record—or to theorize and analyze. Indeed, as Amy Cimini notes, to write about Amacher’s “wild sound” one must adopt some commensurate wildness of analytical method.

In this talk, I argue that the logistical and theoretical difficulties of Amacher’s work are expressions of a Cold War-era American cultural consciousness in which military technological efficacy threatened unprecedented destruction. Through long-distance telecommunication performances such as City-Links (1967–), and her use of audible “combination tones” resulting from vibrations in the inner ear, Amacher harnessed this technological efficacy and directed it toward musical ends. Rather than destruction, she geared her musical technologies for the production of an optimistic musical future by collapsing the bounds of musical time and space, and blurring the distinctions between bodies, instruments, performers, and listeners. Amacher’s work still leads the analyst well beyond the methods of music theory. But by considering how her music collapsed conceptual boundaries, we may begin to collapse some of the methodological boundaries between the apparent difficulties of her music, its place in American cultural history, and present-day practices of music analysis.

Saturday, November 14

11:00 AM – 11:50 AM – Scripts, Schemas, and Prototypes

Lawrence Zbikowski, chair

“On Prototypes and the Prototypical: An Investigation of Music-Theoretic Concepts.” Richard Ashley (Northwestern University)

“Begging Cadences, or The Rossinian Art of Pandering.” Matthew Boyle (University of Alabama)

“The “Se cerca” Script: Dialogic Networks in an Eighteenth-Century Aria Tradition.” Nathaniel Mitchell (Princeton University)

Sunday, November 15

10:00 AM – 10:50 AM – New Directions in Topic Theory

“Musical Topics as Products and Tools of Historically Informed Performance.” Olga Sánchez-Kisielewska

The theory of musical topics aims to recuperate expressive associations elicited by musical styles in their original contexts but lost over time. This desire to approximate modern listening experiences to those of historical audiences is shared by topic-driven analysis and historically informed performance (HIP). In this paper I discuss how performance decisions influence whether topics can be easily identified as such, and argue that facilitating recognition of a topic contributes to the historical informed-ness of a performance.

A series of vignettes illustrate the potential for a productive, bi-directional influence between topic theory and HIP, drawing on performance analysis, topical analysis, and reception study. For example, Mozart’s Violin Sonata in E minor, K. 304, Steven Rumph hears a hymn topic suggesting a “spiritual retreat.” But whether the passage sounds hymn-like depends largely on phrasing and articulation. Such performance choices need not be informed by performers’ identification of a topic but they nonetheless communicate the expressive associations related to the topic. In other cases, topical analysis can offer novel, historically-informed suggestions for performance. The aria “Odio, furor, dispetto, dolor” from Haydn’s Armida deploys the common signifiers of rage. Less obvious is the presence of the alla turca topic, a stylistic allusion that tends to be lost in performance because the accompaniment remains too far in the background. Highlighting the topical elements would accentuate Armida’s sonic Turkishness, and in so doing engage with Haydn’s musical commentary on how ideas on race, gender, and emotion were intertwined in eighteenth-century culture.


11:00 AM – 11:50 AM – Timbre

John Y. Lawrence, chair

"Chord Spacing and Quality: Lessons from Timbre Research." Matt Chiu and Noah Kahrs (Eastman School of Music)

"Janáček's Virtual Viola d'Amore." Ethan Edl (Yale University)

"The Acoustic Properties of Tanya Tagaq's Vocal Sounds as Situated on Timbral Continua." Kristi Hardman (The Graduate Center, CUNY)


1:00 PM – 1:50 PM – Clara and Robert Schumann

“Entextualization in Clara Schumann’s Nineteenth-Century Pianism.” Andrew Malilay White

How did pianists of the nineteenth century practice for improvisation, and how can their ways of practicing affect our view of musical texts and works? This paper develops an entextualization framework to describe how Clara Schumann assembled her musical materials in the mid- nineteenth century. Entextualization, a concept from the work of Michael Silverstein and Gregory Urban in linguistic anthropology, is used to describe how portions of discourse are adapted and treated as objects in new contexts—how utterances “become text” within a broad view of what Kristeva and Barthes called “cultural text.” This paper establishes a theoretical framework centered not around works or their composition, but rather built upon the specific “passage”-based practice method used by Friedrich Wieck and Carl Czerny. The framework is then used it to model Clara Schumann’s improvisatory and compositional process, showing how she alters not only her musical materials (as practiced “passages”) but also her fashioning of her own image as a performer. Schumann’s Caprices en forme de valse, op. 2 (1832) is analyzed, as well as a sketch of one of her improvised preludes notated late in her career.

Midcentury piano repertoires, I ultimately argue, are well served by a decentered theory of musical creation based on entextualization and bodily skill. Such a theory would illuminate aspects of music-making that are missed by theories that prioritize musical works and hermeneutic interpretations. This makes vivid Barthes’s claim that “text is experienced only in an activity of production” (1988).


5:00 PM – 5:50 PM – Performing Identity in Popular Song

“The Color of Home: Difference and the Politics of Belonging in Kurdish Popular Music.” Jon Bullock

According to sociologist Nira Yuval-Davis, belonging is the result of emotional attachment that causes an individual or group to feel "safe" or "at home" in a particular context; the politics of belonging, on the other hand, comes into focus when this feeling of safeness or at-homeness is threatened, resulting in a collective response that constructs not only belonging but also the collective itself (2011). For many diasporic Kurdish communities, the politics of belonging is a result of having been displaced from their nations of origin, targeted in acts of state aggression or even genocide, and relocated to places in which their fellow Kurds might not even speak the same language. Given the importance of radio and other broadcasting technology in the formation of a transnational Kurdish "listening public" (Blum and Hassanpour, 1996), how has Kurdish popular music reflected the unique challenges of a Kurdish politics of belonging, and how has it created space through which to draw together such vastly differing experiences of "home"? In this paper, I attend to this question by analyzing the 2013 pop song "Take Me Home," featuring Kurdish artists Li Dinê and Dashni Morad. On their group's website, the three members of Li Dinê, who have ties to Turkish Kurdistan, describe their music using a Kurdish word that suggests the combination of all colors. The group goes on to describe this new genre as a blend of "eastern" and "western," as well as old (Kurdish folk) and new (R&B/hip-hop), traditions. Including Dashni Morad (originally from Iraqi Kurdistan) in "Take Me Home" allows the group to craft a musical politics of belonging that, through its very inclusiveness, aims to represent the vast majority of the Kurdish homelands. Analyzing the visual and musical features of the song and its music video, I show how its politics of belonging reflects the struggles of a Western-oriented, transnational Kurdish listening public. In particular, I highlight the song's use of themes such as nostalgia, rurality, and lovesickness to emphasize a shared, pan-Kurdish past, even as others of the song's sonic and visual markers suggest an affiliation with urban centers of capital and feminist critiques of contemporary Kurdish society. I argue that the resulting image of "home" created by the song represents not so much a geographic home for Kurds as a reimagining of the diasporic Kurdish community itself.