2019 Conference Abstracts

Abstracts listed in chronological order according to conference presentation time.

A downloadable PDF of the abstracts is available here.

Friday, March 29

Session 1: Rhythm and Meter

“Playing with Hypermeter in Folk and Folk-Inspired Music”
Jeremy M. Robins (Claflin University)

Metric and hypermetric patterning in traditional American folk and country music is often irregular, with both Jocelyn Neal (2002) and Joti Rockwell (2012) offering approaches to analyzing the irregularities. Neal (2000) also offers paradigms of hypermetric alterations found in commercial country music, many of which have predecessors in traditional country music. Folk music often manipulates the accompanimental patterning so the melody ends on a strong beat or hyperbeat, creating measures that do not match the prevailing meter. I argue that contemporary folk (or folk-inspired) groups mimic the metric and hypermetric irregularities of traditional folk music by playing with the conventional patterns of contemporary commercial music as represented by Neal’s paradigms. This paper also prepares paths for future research addressing perception of metric groupings (duple vs quadruple) and level of tactus. This can critique some of de Clercq’s (2016) methodology for determining measure length based on absolute time, and inform Rockwell’s (2012) types of metric disruptions. 

“Pulse Dissonance: A New Approach to Polymeter Through Colombian Currulao”
Lina Sofia Tabak (Florida State University)

Afro-Colombian currulaois the most popular folk music of the Pacific region of Colombia. As a percussion-heavy practice featuring polymeter and a multitude of complex rhythmic ostinati and improvisations, it is a particularly fruitful genre for music-theoretical study. This talk will explore some of those rhythmic patterns, which feature extreme metrical dissonances beyond those considered by Harald Krebs in “Fantasy Pieces.” Not only does currulaofeature both displacement and grouping dissonances simultaneously, but the polymeter involved between two of the metrical layers requires the addition of a pulse dissonancemodel to account for the prevalence of contrasting pulses.

The case study piece, “Adios Guapi” performed by Grupo Naidy in their album Arriba Suena Marimba!, contains rhythmic and microtiming elements representative of currulao. This presentation will use metrical dissonance models and extensions to explain some of the rhythmic intricacies in “Adios Guapi.” It will also propose additional methods of analysis appropriate for the genre, including various rhythmic, groove, and perception models by Toussaint, Keil, and London. Combining all of these analytical perspectives in the study of currulaois necessary in order to represent the genre adequately in its full metrical complexity.

“On Metrical Structure and Cueing Systems in Monroe’s ‘Muleskinner Blues’”
Nate Mitchell (Princeton University)

Bill Monroe’s “Muleskinner Blues” is a signature item in the bluegrass canon. Indeed, Monroe himself claims to have discovered the essence of bluegrass rhythm in this old Jimmy Rodgers tune. And yet, this song stands in sharp contrast to the metrical and hypermetrical norms that shaped bluegrass music as it developed in the 1950s and 60s, eschewing regular 4-bar phrases in favor of a highly irregular phrase structure with seemingly indeterminate downbeats. This paper offers an analysis of Monroe’s “Muleskinner Blues” conducted with an eye toward its fluid approach to meter. I show how the song’s metrical structure, embodied in the group actions of the Bluegrass Boys, responds flexibly to Bill Monroe’s extended vocal expressions. In so doing, my analysis highlights the musical events that forecast impending harmonic changes, providing key insight into the “cueing systems” (Gupta 2017) that hold together such improvisatory musical spaces. The paper thus supplements existing studies on style-wide systems of licks and progression schemes (Adler 1974, Stoia 2013) required for successful bluegrass picking, arguing that a Bluegrass Boy would additionally require song-specific schemas to facilitate quick musical responses in a constrained yet flexible musical environment.

Session 2: Form and Narrative

“Involuntary Mobile Form in Production Library Music for Television”
Greg McCandless (Appalachian State University)

Due to an intricate power structure at play during an often lengthy composition and revision process, producers of background music for television frequently need to take a non-linear, mobile approach to writing music that is eventually perceived as being linear. While this mobile approach is reminiscent of those by Brown, Boulez, and Stockhausen, it correlates most strongly with Pousseur’s method of creating Scambi (1957), an avant-garde piece in which the composer discussed aiming for “complete continuity” by composing flexible modules with beginnings and endings that were “of like quality” that could be combined in several ways without transitions between them (Pousseur 1959).

In this presentation, I generate a “harmonic pathing model” (following Thomas 2016) that can be used in the composition of rock tracks for production libraries that ensures harmonic flow between sections despite any potential formal reordering while adhering to principles of idiomatic progression in pop/rock genres as theorized by Christopher Doll (2017).

Following the introduction to my harmonic pathing model, I provide a meta-analysis of a corpus of 237 rock tracks from the Emmy-nominated RRHOT production library (CBS, CBS Sports), in which I discuss the degree to which model adherence may play a role in overall track flexibility and, ultimately, library acceptance. Lastly, I discuss the broader implications of this harmonic pathing model, which provides a helpful compositional tool for pop/rock music more generally.

“A Narrative Reading of Alois Haba’s String Quartet no. 3 in the Quarter-Tone System, op. 12”
Jennifer Harding (Florida State University)

The microtonal string quartets of Alois Hába (1893-1973) offer two significant challenges to a musical narrative approach. First, the microtones themselves create an unfamiliar sonic landscape. Second, Hába’s music is athematic: no themes or motives are repeated or developed. Rather than inhibiting the listener from ascribing meaning to the music, such “musical prose” requires listeners to rely on extra-musical associations, suggestion that these works are representatives of Klein’s “neo-narrative” music: “music in search of new ways to tell stories.” I take Hába’s third string quartet as a case study to unravel not only the musical narrative, but how he constructs a narrative within his microtonal and athematic vocabulary. 

Hába viewed the “old” scale (our typical 12-tone equal-tempered scale) as “basic” and more stable than the “new” scale, its quarter-tone offset, which form “points of tension.” These elements are seen at the first movement’s moment of crisis, where chord of brilliant and jarring clarity from the old scale emerges from the tension of the microtonal harmonies. Catastrophically, it is not the C major triad the music has been fighting to achieve, and the music careens back into the microtonal mire from whence it came.

“Rescued from Obscurity: Classical Form and Diegetic Music in Puccini’s Operas”
Karen E. H. Messina (Duke University)

Despite his enduring popularity in opera houses around the world, Puccini’s academic respectability has only solidified in the twenty-first century. Even with a deluge of studies in the last decade, the Puccini problem yet remains: should he be regarded as a traditional or modern composer? While various scholars acknowledge Puccini’s work reflects both styles, I propose a rationale for whythis duality exists.

In this paper, I argue that when Puccini writes diegetic music – that is, music which exists within a portrayed world – he steps inside the drama itself, adopting the persona of a composing character. Assuming such characters to be less refined in the art of musical composition than Puccini himself, these moments rationalize the presence of a more traditional idiom, especially discernible through tight-knit Classical forms described by William Caplin. Three increasingly obscure examples of diegetic music illustrate this premise. The textual and musical features of “Ave, sera gentile” from Manon Lescaut(1893) that mark it as quintessentially diegetic are subsequently undermined in its nondiegetic repeat. The diegetic status of “Quando me’n vo’” from La bohème (1896) is complicated by textual features that typically align with nondiegetic music while its very precise periodic structures suggest the opposite. And a diegetic reading of “L’alba vindice appar” from Tosca (1900) hinges upon an interpretation that also resolves musical and dramatic deficiencies. Together, these analyses alleviate three levels of obscurity, revealing a hidden diegetic status, a purpose for Classical forms in late Romantic opera, and Puccini’s dedication to drama.

“Extraordinary Phrase Expansion and Wayward Counterpoint: Momma Rose’s Exuberant and Misguided Optimism in Gypsy
Michael Buchler (Florida State University)

Passion often motivates phrase expansion in musical theater, a genre (at least during the so-called Golden Era) that generally maintains regular hypermeter and phrase lengths. In Gypsy(Styne and Sondheim, 1959), Momma Rose is nothing if not passionate—a characteristic that becomes her tragic flaw. Rose is a determined stage mother, whose larger-than-life personality and obsessive drive for success ultimately destroy the family she has tried to control. Each of her songs employs phrase expansion, and these expansions often reflect her mental state. When someone can neither hold her family together nor keep the man she loves (and who loves her), what hope does she have for maintaining normative phrase structure? My talk will focus on Rose’s problems with (musical) boundaries in portions of four of her songs: “Some People,” “Small World,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” and “Rose’s Turn.”

Session 3: Voice and Timbre

“Vocal Pitch in Rap Music”
Robert Komaniecki (Appalachian State University)

When analyzing rap music, vocal pitch is likely not the first parameter one considers. Indeed, one of the defining aspects of the rap genre is its tendency to eschew the precisely pitched vocals heard in nearly all other popular music. However, there are countless examples of rap tracks in which MCs are consciously pitching their vocals using a variety of techniques, emphasizing pitch in a way that paradoxically seems at odds with one of the very defining characteristics of rap music.

In this presentation, I contend that pitch plays an important role in the structure and delivery of rap flows. I demonstrate the ways in which rappers manipulate pitch to create a structural parameter that can operate independently from or in tandem with rhythm and rhyme. Furthermore, I argue that pitched vocals take a wider array of forms in rap music than in other genres of popular music, ranging from carefully-pitched singing of modern rap flows to the imprecise and exaggerated declamatory features of speech that distinguished rap from other genres during its formative years. I assert that all rap flows can be classified as using pitch in one of five different ways, with each technique carrying its own unique set of analytical implications.

“The ‘Ahhs’ Have It: Wordless Melismas and the Ineffable in Popular Music”
Martin Blessinger (Texas Christian University)
Christopher Endrinal (Florida Gulf Coast University)

In his 2010 Popular Music article, songwriter Pete Astor defends the discursive and emotive primacy of lyrics: “There is for me a greater value to those compositions with lyrics, a sense that the material that contains the greatest level of emotional commitment is always that where words are employed…” On the other hand, Johan Förnas argues that “the text/music dichotomy is an illusion. They are not each other’s Other.” This raises a tantalizing question: What of music that is performed by the human voice yet nonverbal?

This presentation explores such music, specifically how extended passages of nonverbal singing in popular music—“wordless melismas” (WMs)—help the voice transcend the expressive limits of the verbal and assume the apparently ineffable qualities of the instrumental. WMs are monosyllabic passages found in their own musically distinct section, usually bridges or concluding sections. Songs may have recurring or multiple different WMs. Additionally, WMs are not background elements, nor are they repeated (and often nonsensical) syllables like “na na” or “sha-la-la.” From these criteria, we have extrapolated four narrative functions WMs fulfill within a song’s narrative, the details and examples of which we expound upon in greater detail in the presentation: introductory (“Welcome to the Jungle,” Guns N’ Roses), conclusive (“Criminal,” Fiona Apple), transformative (“You Oughta Know,” Alanis Morissette), and climactic (“With Or Without You,” U2). In each of these cases, the voice occupies a previously unexplored border region between the vocal and the instrumental, the verbal and the ineffable.

“Shades of Sound, Subtle and Sublime”
Lindsey Reymore (The Ohio State University)

The metaphorical relationship between sound and color has a rich and fascinating history within Western musical thought. In this paper, I address music theoretical and occult versions of the timbre-color metaphor and apply these considerations to Schoenberg’s Klangfarbenmelodie, providing new support for Cramer’s reevaluation of this concept (2002) through examination of Schoenberg’s links with the color/tone color metaphor in contemporary occult culture. 

I argue that critical subtleties of the color/tone color metaphor became masked by the way that early music science defined timbre as one of three separable dimensions of a tone, alongside pitch and loudness. I identify a more complex perspective on tone color from the 19thcentury and earlier where timbral changes are considered as covarying with register and call on the language of color, imposing visual properties on the realm of sound. 

The second half of this paper examines how the history of the color/tone color metaphor relates to Klangfarbenmelodie, building on Cramer’s (2002) contention that Klangfarbenmelodiewas originally conceived to involve the perception of the timbral colorings of frequencies. I explore how the history of the color/tone color metaphor relates to Schoenberg’s definition of Klangfarbenmelodieand lends new support to Cramer’s reading. 

Finally, I propose another layer of historical and cultural context that enriches our understanding of Klangfarbenmelodie: Schoenberg’s influences link him to occult traditions (Covach 1992) that held relationships between sound and color in high regard. These considerations affect the interpretation of Klangfarbenmelodieand exemplify how historical perspectives on metaphors can inform music theoretical concepts.

Session 4: Transformational Spaces

“Breaking Bonds: Transformational Networks and Musical Metaphor in the Score to Foxcatcher
Steven Rahn (University of Texas at Austin)

Contemporary film scoring is often described in terms of its emphasis on secondary compositional parameters over traditional thematic processes characteristic of classical Hollywood. Nicholas Reyland (2015) coins the terms “corporate classicism” and the “metaphysical style” to define two trends in contemporary scoring that he claims “[privilege] affect and style topical connotation over musical structures developing thematic or harmonic symbolism.” Frank Lehman (2018) argues that modern film music is more triadic and less diatonically beholden than scores of classical Hollywood. This paper uses neo-Riemannian theory to highlight the metaphorical dimension of a recent film score that fits Reyland’s notion of the “metaphysical style,” and that also conforms to the non-diatonic triadicism of much contemporary film music. 

Sparsely scored, Foxcatcher(2014) features harmonic networks whose shift in orientation mirrors the transformation of relationships among the film’s characters. I argue how nodes of triadic networks can be mapped onto specific characters, and that this metaphor of character nodes emerges as a result of how tonally distant the harmonies appear in relation to one another, thereby reflecting the emotional proximity of characters at different points in the film. The precariousness of bonds and how bonds can shift is an important theme of the film, and the harmonic relationships in the score contribute significantly to how Foxcatcherframes this issue. Overall, I suggest that recent scoring trends do not necessarily strip away the extra-semiotic dimension of classical scoring, but may rather symbolically interact with film narratives through musical processes that deviate from teleological leitmotivic discourse.

“Comma-Modified UTT Spaces: Segmentation and Closure in UTT Generated Voice-Leading Spaces”
Lauren Hartburg (Florida State University)

Uniform Triadic Transformations (Hook 2002) may be used to generate three-dimensional voice-leading spaces that accommodate Debussy’s harmonic language when tonal and hexatonic systems fall short. UTT á-,3,4ñspace is an “inclusive” UTT space as it cannot close prior to the completion of two aggregates of triadic roots and the iteration of all twenty-four consonant triads. While this cycle is inclusive, progressions often remain within smaller subsets of UTT á-,3,4ñspace that cannot close without commas—minute differences necessary to close musical systems. This study extends the application of the comma in order to create eight- and fourteen-triad sub-cycles of UTT á-,3,4ñspace that accommodate several new triadic transformations and reveal meaningful tonal and post-tonal relationships in Debussy’s “General Lavine Eccentric.” 

Pairing every-other triad in UTT á-,3,4ñspace with its modal inverse 1) gives structure to a voice-leading graph and 2) creates commas to close eight- or fourteen-triad sub-cycles of the space that are more suitable for use as voice-leading networks (Lewin 1987). A fourteen-triad comma-modified UTT space accounts for motion by the generating UTT, its inverse, fifth, SLIDE, and several new “substitute” transformations. These transformations are used to create a voice-leading network of the opening of Debussy’s “General Lavine Eccentric” that reveals the arrival of the F pitch center as not only tonally anticipated, but also the completion of a comma-modified UTT space. This concluding analysis illustrates the functionality of comma-modified UTT spaces and the substitute transformations they afford.

“A Cascading Canon System and Its Hyper-Hexatonic Design in Holst’s ‘Lovely Venus’”
Dustin Chau (University of Kansas)

During his brief post at Harvard University, Gustav Holst (1874–1934) began indulging in a cappella canons. Upon his return to England in 1932, he finished setting his Eight Canons for Equal Voices to some of Helen Waddell’s translations of Medieval Latin Lyrics. “Lovely Venus”—dedicated to his Harvard colleague Wallace Woodworth and the Radcliffe Choral Society—is unique in this collection not only for its construction as an “à 3” stacked canon, but additionally for its voices entering at consecutive intervals of descending major thirds. This study draws connections among ideas from post-tonal canon systems, notions of dualist topography, and the extended common practice to codify the interdependence between melodic intervals and their generated harmonies, and the macroharmonic byproduct that results from such a union in this particular canon system.

Another feature of these canons consists of each voice being assigned their individual key signatures. While his friends implored him to publish these pieces absent of any key, Holst believed that they were character-defining features for each of these canons. The analytical method applied to a reduction of “Lovely Venus” reveals a background structure that navigates through a large portion of the hyper-hexatonic system while exhausting a particular cardinal region via maximally smooth voice leading. The notated triple key combination between each voice symbolizes this hexatonic region. A surface-level macroharmonic analysis also reveals a larger symmetrical set that is atypical to associate with this composer’s repertoire, and deepens our understanding of Holst’s harmonic language during his mature compositional phase. 

Saturday, March 30

Session 5: Harmony and Modality

 “The Logic of Worlds Divorced from our Own: De/Reterritorialized Mode in Hildegard’s Ordo”
Michael C. Gardiner (University of Mississippi)

Analysis often leads to the formation of figures, or emergent emblems that hold an essence, a distillation of one’s own process of looking and listening. I envision such figures as theoretic-poetic crystallizations resulting from the parsing of sets of relations. In my research, the “network” becomes the chosen emblem for summarizing the Ordo, both in terms of text and music. Even though the Virtues appear throughout the Ordoas part of the linear progression of the narrative, and even though the music unfolds following that linearity, the Virtues simultaneously remain folded within God, unchanged in their perfections. We might say that interior and exterior topologies of the drama contain each other, resulting in a figuration whereby elements of procession and return are intertwined. In medieval theology, ousia, the “unparticipated” term, remains in itself during its procession (prodos) from out of the mind of God. (The procession is the “participating term” insofar as it enters into the manifest world.) In short, the effect remains in the cause, and that which proceeds from the One, at the same time remains internal to the unchanging, divine monad. When I apply the figure of the network to the modal logic of the Ordo’s music, looking both at scales smaller and larger than the individual chant, I uncover a formation whereby the modes fold into each other to a surprising degree. Modes deconstruct into “nodes” on the micro-scale (i.e., the phrase level), but also reterritorialize (reconstruct) into networked singularities with regard to the architectonic qualities of the macro-scale. 

“Beyond the Rhine: Harmonic Dualism in Vincent D’Indy’s Cours decomposition musicale”
Stephanie Venturino (Eastman School of Music)

One of the most prominent Parisian musicians of his era, Vincent d’Indy (1851–1931) made important contributions to composition, pedagogy, and performance practice. His four-volume Cours de composition musicale also represents the only French version of German harmonic dualism. Identifying similarities between d’Indy’s dualism and Hugo Riemann’s theories, contemporaneous critics condemned d’Indy as the “importer, the champion, and the vulgarizer” of Riemannian theory, lambasting his search for “truth on the other side of the Rhine” (Marnold 1917, 516; Saint-Saëns 1919, 11). Robert Gjerdingen (1995), Alexandra Kieffer (2016), and Andrew Pau (2016; 2018) have perpetuated d’Indy’s reputation as a Riemannian epigone, arguing that he merely repackaged German ideas for French consumption. Yet the Cours offers a version of harmonic dualism profoundly different from Riemann’s account. 

This paper outlines the treatise’s reception in early twentieth-century Paris and in present-day North American music-theoretical literature; analyzes d’Indy’s theories of harmony and tonality; and compares and contrasts his ideas with precedents from Riemann (Vereinfachte Harmonielehre and Handbuch der Harmonielehre) and Arthur von Oettingen (Harmoniesystem in dualer Entwicklung). D’Indy synthesizes Riemann’s speculative, synchronic impulses and François-Joseph Fétis’s aesthetically sensitive, historiographical tendencies, proposing his own dualist system rooted in the circle of fifths. More than what Gjerdingen describes as “a culturally neutral ‘technology transfer’ directed toward bringing the French science of harmony up to date,” the Cours represents d’Indy as a pedagogical and theoretical innovator, whose ideas spread harmonic dualism throughout France and abroad (1995, 92).

Session 6: Tonal Music

 “‘Voluptuously Graceful’ or ‘Fatally Deranged’?: The Tarantella as 19th-century Topic”
Matthew Bell (Florida State University)

Despite a 19th-century decline in the overall currency of dance-derived musical topics, the Tarantella— equal parts folk dance and fantasy — functions as a dominant topic in many pieces, including “serious” symphonic works. This paper has three purposes: 1) to define the features of the “Tarantella” as a musical topic, 2) to explore the convoluted sources of the topic in at least threedistinct Italian dances, and 3) to show how composers harnessed boththe topic’s musical features andthe contradictory stories of its origins to drive the expressive trajectories of entire pieces or movements.

First, I consult evidence of the topic’s danced sources — gleaned from dance treatises, ballet scores, and visual depictions of dancers — to establish its distinctive musical features as well as the expressive connotations they might signify. In particular, the oft-reiterated story of the Tarantella as a “cure” for a poisonous spider bite pertains to the Apulian tarantella; elements of the amorous Neapolitan tarantella and the Roman saltarello, each with their own expressive connotations, found their way into the musical topic as well. Second, I turn to instrumental works by Chopin, Gottschalk, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Schubert, and Mozart, in which the diverse sources and features of the “Tarantella” topic allow it to play a large-scale role in organizing entire movements. Each case demonstrates how the virtuosity, musical variety, and expressive range contained within the Tarantella topic affords it unequalled signifying power among 19th-century dance topics.

“Five and Three: Middleground Prototypes for Mozart’s First-movement Concerto Forms”
Eron Smith (Eastman School of Music)

Tonal theorists have neglected the concerto compared to most other formal genres. In this paper, I present exposition prototypes for Mozart’s major-mode concerto forms, analyzing the opening movements of K. 488 and K. 447 as examples. In doing so, I also suggest a solution to potential Kopfton contradictions arising from the “double-expositional” structure typical of concerto first movements. 

I propose a set of eight middleground exposition prototypes for Hepokoski and Darcy’s (2006) Type 5 sonata. These prototypes account for each combination of third- and fifth-progressions for P and one or two S themes. Since the opening ritornello (doubling as a first “exposition”) typically does not modulate, and since the recapitulation synthesizes material in the two expositions, Type 5 sonatas are replete with sites of potential conflict between third- and fifth-progressions. Some permutations do not cause any inherent problems, as demonstrated in an analysis of K. 488. 

However, the challenge ofKopfton contradiction arises in the combination of descending from 3 in P and from 5 in S. Rather than dismissing this possibility, I suggest a middleground “hybrid descent” (5–4–3—3–2–1) that can be interpreted from eitherKopfton according to context,using K. 447 as an example. The hybrid allows for a nuanced interpretation of concerto movements with dialogue between 3 and 5, providing a solution to one of many analytical challenges posed by the Classical concerto and spearheading a new branch of scholarship on tonal analysis of concerto forms.

“Parenthetical Insertions and Ellipses in Schumann’s Eichendorff Liederkreis
Alexander Martin (Stetson University)

Many theorists have investigated how composers express tonal archetypes using expansions (e.g., internal repetition or parenthetical insertion) and contractions (e.g., omission, collision, or elision). However, the matter is seldom approached from the perspective of text-setting. How do composers use techniques like expansion and contraction to highlight ideas, imagery, or atmosphere in texted music? 

I explore this question by investigating text-music correspondences in Schumann’s op. 39 Liederkreis. A novel feature of my approach is that I argue for the existence of characteristic musico-poetic pairings, or topoi, which I call correspondence complexes. By considering individual correspondences as inter-related under an umbrella term, my research addresses Agawu’s long-standing criticism that musico-poetic analyses are “one-off” and “ad hoc” (1999).

I show how musico-poetic meaning may arise in Schumann’s songs when textual elements are coordinated with one of two categories of musical elements. In the first case, the correspondence involves extraneous material that is added in some way to the underlying tonal framework (i.e., something that shouldn’tbe there—but is); in the second, the correspondence involves tonal material that is conceptually present or implied, albeit literally absent in the score, (i.e., something thatshouldbe there—but isn’t).

Session 7: Pedagogical Strategies

 “Post-Tonal Postcards: Synthesizing Analysis and Reflection through Prose Writing”
Angela Ripley (College of Wooster)

When first encountering post-tonal music, students discover repertoire that differs aesthetically from music they have previously studied and requires new analytical tools. To help students approach this repertoire with open minds, I frame my undergraduate post-tonal theory course as a virtual study-abroad experience with “postcard” assignments that synthesize analysis and reflection through prose writing. Each postcard includes a 300- to 500-word essay (message) and a single page of annotated musical examples (picture).

In their postcards, students analyze complete compositions through the lenses of specific themes. For example, students discuss pentatonic collections and pitch centricity (Debussy, “La fille aux cheveux de lin”), explain how imitation and z-cells provide unity and contrast (Bartók, “Chromatic Invention 1”), explore relationships among pitch-class sets (Webern, Op. 7, No. 3), and select their own repertoire to illustrate the course concepts they find most important.

By addressing postcards to different recipients, students learn to communicate effectively in a variety of rhetorical contexts. Recipients include a music student who has studied tonal music theory but has not yet encountered post-tonal concepts, a friend or loved one who knows very little about music, a music theory professor considering the student’s application for admission to a graduate program in music, and the student’s future self.

Students respond positively to the postcard assignments, developing creative titles as captions and sometimes formatting their assignments to look like real postcards. With insightful analytical comments and language tailored to their intended recipients, the postcards become souvenirs of learning from students’ exploration of post-tonal music.

“Crossmodal Association as a Tool for Improving Memory and Recognition in Ear-Training Pedagogy”
Sarah Louden (Hofstra University)

We are multisensory learners by nature; it is rare that we encounter new things unimodally. New experiences typically involve multiple senses: we see, hear, and even touch, taste, or smell. From this perspective, an ear-training classroom exercise that involves sitting at a desk, listening, and quietly taking down dictation, or sight-singing a melody, results in a somewhat unnatural learning environment. Engaging with new material in a multimodal way activates a larger network of brain areas; it allows us to take in and process more information than if the same stimuli were presented to each sense individually (Gingras et al. 2009), it improves attention (Escobedo et al. 2014), recognition (Thelen et al. 2015), both short and long-term memory (Murray et al. 2004, Schiavio & Timmers 2016), and is more engaging and enjoyable (Metatla et al. 2016). These learning benefits are significantly enhanced when there is a strong crossmodal association between incoming sensory stimuli (Shams & Seitz 2008). 

This paper presents a brief summary of the relevant research on crossmodal association in cognitive neuroscience and psychology and discusses how this research might be applied within an ear-training classroom to improve recognition, attention, and aural memory during dictation and sight singing. The presentation explores ways for increasing the effectiveness of classroom tools that already take advantage of crossmodal association (such as solfege, Curwen hand signs, and conducting), offers strategies for using visual cues and physical movement to improve musical memory and recognition, and proposes applications for improving interface design in digital ear-training pedagogy. 

Keynote Address

“Sonic allegory in Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel(2015)”
Yayoi Uno Everett (University of Illinois at Chicago)

The Exterminating Angel (2015), based on an eponymous film by Luis Buñuel, is an operatic tale of socialites being trapped at a dinner party by an invisible force. While adopting familiar stylistic conventions (e.g., waltz, fugue, passacaglia) to mark the socialites’ false optimism, Thomas Adès’s music signifies entrapment and doom through his skillful manipulation of interval cycles. From a hermeneutical angle, Adès’s music generates an undertow of eerinessthat undermines the sung text. We cannot see the Exterminating Angel, but its presence is made audible through the surreal sound of the Ondes Martenot. As in a typical case of dramatic irony, the audience is made aware of the fate of the socialites long before they do; Adès comments that “music [in this opera] is a sort of destiny characters are subjected to” (2017). The condition for allegory, according to Walter Benjamin, is the recognition that truth exists, yet remains inaccessible, and manifests itself in a self-combating tension (Zweideutigkeit) that characterizes human life. A casual utterance of “Enchanted” at the dinner party is transformed into the music of an oppressive March. Opulent music (e.g., Viennese waltz) filled with quest for life gives way to a fractured Requiem chant that spells doom. By uncovering hidden musical connections (cyclical and intertextual), my analysis illustrates how the opera transforms the narrative into a sonic allegory.