Friday, March 12
Opening Remarks — 1:00pm EST
- Welcome from Alexandrea Jonker and Rachel Hottle, Co-chairs of the Symposium
- Land Acknowledgement
- Welcome from Prof. Brenda Ravenscroft, Dean of the Schulich School of Music
- Welcome from Frédéric-Alexandre Michaud, President of the McGill Music Graduate Students’ Society
Strings n Things
Chair: Hester Bell Jordan
“What the Devil Left Behind”
Benjamin Louwersheimer | University of Toronto
My paper will take the solo cello works of Adrien Servais (1807-1866) and Louis Abbiate (1866- 1933), who were both described as “the Paganini of the cello”, as historical grounds to explore definitions of virtuosity for the cello. Through their technical innovations, both Servais and Abbiate shared a place in the nineteenth century’s popular imagination with the violin virtuoso Niccolò Paganini. Servais, as described by contemporary accounts and modern research, was a substantial innovator of new cello techniques and a master technician (Ginsburg, 1983). He has also been accredited as one of the first cellists to use the endpin, which played a significant role in his compositional approach and performative ease (Campbell, 1999). Similarly, Abbiate advanced the cello’s technique as exemplified through his Nouvelle méthode de violoncelle (1900) and Préludes et fugues (1901); however, Abbiate’s place in history and technical innovations for the cello have been largely neglected.
Paganini’s 24 Caprices for Solo Violin, Op.1 outlined his technical contributions (Perry, 2004), and my examinations similarly concentrate on Servais’s and Abbiate’s solo works. This focus reveals the technical similarities in their extension of the cello’s range, their use of the bow, new left-hand extensions, greater finger independence, new chordal textures, and adaptations of musical gestures from other instruments. As cello etudes and caprices were historically viewed as chamber works rather than empty technical exercises, I consider these works blueprints of Servais’ and Abbiate’s technical innovations. My examinations reveal their technical expansions and their various applications, and demonstrate their accumulative effect in Abbiate’s Grande Étude Symphonique (1900) and Preludes et fugues (1901). By incorporating primary sources, score analyses, and my own demonstrations, I show how these two cellists developed innovations for the cello that paralleled Paganini’s virtuosic image and developed the foundations of modern cello technique during the long nineteenth century.
“Camilla Urso and the Violin Girl: The Changing Careers of Camilla Urso and her Violin Students at the Turn of the Twentieth Century”
Maeve Nagel-Frazel | University of Denver
As a nationally famous celebrity, the French violinist Camilla Urso (1840-1902) served as a pedagogue and role model to a generation of young American female violinists at the turn of the twentieth century. When Urso arrived in America in 1852 she was a pathbreaker for American culture; yet historiography has obscured Urso’s career resulting in a juxtaposition between Urso’s nineteenth century influence and present anonymity. Urso’s nineteenth century influence was built on a wide-reaching lyceum lecture circuit career coupled with her direct advocacy for women violinists. In 1893, Urso voiced support for women violinists at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago; in 1890, Urso was granted a professorship at the National Conservatory of Music; and beginning in 1896, Urso served as the honorary president of the New York Women’s String Orchestra. Despite her success, I argue Urso’s greatest influence was on her students who used Urso’s example to forge multifaceted careers as professional violinists at the turn of the century. The intersection between Urso’s career and those of her students has never been explored in published scholarship. Urso’s student Eleanor Hooper Coryell (1864- 1939) conducted a professional women’s orchestras while managing a women’s musical club, while Urso’s student Florence Austin (1878-1927) taught at Carleton College and embarked on solo recital tours. Illustrating the changing means of musical performance and consumption at the turn of the twentieth century, I argue the careers of Urso’s students were more overtly political and utilized a greater variety of performance genres in comparison to Urso’s almost single-handed reliance on the lyceum lecture circuit. Using Urso’s students Florence Austin and Eleanor Hooper Coryell as examples, this paper argues that despite Urso’s own historiographical obsolescence, the forward-reaching careers of her students are indebted to her example.
“The Expressive and Structural Economy of Gesture in Luciano Berio’s Sequenza XIVa”
Michael Bennett | Stony Brook University
Past analyses of Luciano Berio’s Sequenza series have largely taken pitch-based approaches to musical structure. While such analyses can be useful in understanding selective constructive principles at work, their explanatory power is limited given their formalist scope and the composer’s idiosyncratic use of diverse structural principles; by exclusively focusing on pitch, such analyses neglect its role within more elaborate structural schemata. Berio’s essays and interviews indicate that pitch organization in the Sequenza series intersects with a more comprehensive “morphological dimension” inspired by post-structuralist linguistics and devised around the musical conventions and material properties of particular instruments. This broader dimension is a spectrum encompassing the timbral characteristics and idiomatic gestures associated with a solo instrument, and morphological tension lies in the dynamic between culturally inherited playing techniques and those which are unfamiliar, or “extended.”
My paper offers an alternative, gesture-based analysis of Berio’s Sequenza XIVa for solo cello, taken as emblematic of the general structure of individual instrumental portraits in the series. Following theories of gesture in recent music theory and the composer’s own intellectual milieu, developed through Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of embodiment, I contend that a music-analytic framework of embodied gesture reveals underlying motivic and formal structures while also reflecting the aesthetics of early European electronic music. The Sequenza is constructed around contrasting extremes on a conventional-nonnormative spectrum of techniques and timbres, and my analysis unveils how the morphological dimension is realized both through the motivic development of morphological extremes and a formal dialectic which ultimately fails to synthesize those motives. Read alongside Berio’s writings on gesture and Maurice Merleau- Ponty’s philosophy, my analysis of Sequenza XIVa suggests alternative, gestural economies of musical expression as well as the composer’s engagement with musical semiotics more broadly.
“Excerpts Aside: The Future, Versatile Performer”
Justine Stephens, Performance Keynote Address
The Coronavirus pandemic has globally affected how our society operates, and the performing arts are no different. While over half of North American stages and concert halls have been shut for nearly a year, attendance has steadily declined pre-pandemic, and most rapidly after the 2008 global financial crisis. Arguably, COVID halted the inevitable in attendance—citing cost, access, and time—but what are hallmarks and qualities of music performance that have lasted throughout previous disasters? In this presentation, Justine Stephens investigates the health of the arts through 2019, explores the various ways artists have overcome adversity during these times, and poses suggestions for the longevity of music performance and education. Justine will also perform a piece that she performed for the United Nations during the pandemic, as well as electronic improv.
Our Place in Music History: Critical Reflections
Chair: Lara Balikci
“Milhaud’s Pan-Latinism as Colonialist Ideology”
Zachary Lee Nazar Stewart | Yale University
Darius Milhaud’s Americas-inspired compositions, such as Le boeuf sur le toit (1919) and Saudades do Brasil (1920), famously engage with the melodies and rhythms that Milhaud heard while living in Brazil. They are typically understood as benign exemplars of transnational musical influence, illustrating an enlivening cultural exchange and demonstrating Milhaud’s esteem for Latin American music. Yet the cultural doctrine underlying such compositions, which Milhaud discussed under the rubric of the “Latin,” remains largely unexplored despite connections to both contemporaneous and current conversations about coloniality and race. I term Milhaud’s theory “pan-Latinism,” as a parallel to contemporaneous pan-Americanism, because it proposes commonality and comity between cultures sharing, in his words, “l’idéal latin” or “de tradition latine.”
In this paper I examine the articles and lectures in which Milhaud expounded pan-Latinism in the 1930s and ’40s, reading them in dialogue with postcolonial and critical race theorists. Milhaud describes a confluence of musical sensibilities stretching back to the twelfth century and spanning the Mediterranean and Latin America. These sensibilities encompass both stylistic characteristics and cultural traits—“les pieds légers, l’esprit, le feu, la grâce, la grand logique”—which he explores through historical, ethnographic, and autobiographical narratives. Milhaud often juxtaposes his idea of Latin music against compositions by German musicians and stereotypically German stylistic characteristics, proclaiming after Nietzsche that “Il faut méditerranéiser la musique” and exposing a fundamentally contra-Teutonic orientation.
More submerged, however, are the theory’s colonial affordances. Drawing on thinkers such as Walter Mignolo, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and Crystal Marie Fleming I argue that pan-Latinism replicates colonialist ideologies and economies, and foretells today’s debates over French universalism. Milhaud’s pan-Latinism, I suggest, prompts us to reconsider how even relatively anodyne transnational exchanges participate in colonial and racial power structures, and I conclude by considering how his Americas-inspired compositions might be re-heard from this new perspective.
“Radical (Music) Pedagogy: A Bracherian Reading of College-Level Music Studies”
Levi Walls | University of North Texas
Following psychiatrist James Gilligan’s observation that “people will sacrifice anything to prevent the death and disintegration of their individual or group identity,” Mark Bracher’s 2006 book Radical Pedagogy examines the central role that identity maintenance plays in education. As Bracher suggests, identity maintenance lies at the root of humanity’s most egregious abuses of power, including child/spousal abuse (individual identity maintenance), rape (gender identity maintenance), redlining (class identity maintenance), war (national identity maintenance), and genocide (racial identity maintenance). Focusing on educational power structures, Bracher observes that entire pedagogical traditions have been framed around the identity maintenance of dominant groups. Despite clear parallels to the state of affairs in college-level music instruction—in which “art music” by white men is glorified ad nauseam at the expense of all other genres and demographics—Bracher’s theories have yet to be applied to music studies. Such an application would yield valuable insights into the systemic inequalities ensconced within the field.
In this paper, I will examine the role of what Bracher calls “destructive pedagogies” in perpetuating the white racial frame in music studies: “authoritarian pedagogy” privileges the identity maintenance of the teacher over that of the student, resulting in curricula that overwhelmingly reflect the identities of predominantly white, male faculties. “Institutional pedagogy,” meanwhile, reduces the goal of education to the acquisition of cultural capital, dictating which repertoires are worth knowing in order to succeed in the eyes of such faculties. Since establishment pedagogy takes its cues directly from authoritarian pedagogy, classical music by white male composers is encoded as essential, while music from popular genres, non- western traditions, and marginalized composers are considered “supplementary.” Using Bracher’s identity-centric theories, I will examine how the racist and sexist hierarchies of music studies can be traced from the micro-level of individual professors to the macro-level of the entire discipline.
“The Cultural Binds of Tonal Function”
Anna Yu Wang | Harvard University
Analysis of culturally unfamiliar music, or “world music,” is a burgeoning subdiscipline whose maturation brings a fresh tangle of methodological problems into the purview of North American music theory. How can we analyze world musics in a culturally resonant and ethical manner, and how do we theorize musical experiences that appear to contradict our own acquired listening habits? Taking as a case study tonal function in a Chinese theatrical tradition called 黄梅戏 huangmei opera, I employ ethnographer Dwight Conquergood’s framework of dialogical performance to propose a model of analysis underpinned by fieldwork and introspection. In so doing, I aim to decenter musical assumptions frequently held by Western scholars.
My case study concerns conflicting cultural perspectives around the function of sol-mode melodies. As composer Shi Bailin (1993) writes, sol is the primary tonal center in huangmei opera, superseding the prevalence of all other goal tones. This is readily seen in an aria from Meeting at Lan Bridge in which two characters sing in alternation, the former posing questions ending on do while the latter furnishes answers ending on sol. This example suggests that sol invokes greater structural finality than do, a viewpoint that diverges sharply from how tonal functions are imagined in Western art music.
Drawing on listener testimonies I collected during my fieldwork, I account for two emic frameworks that appear to deeply shape how tonal function is experienced by huangmei opera listeners: (1) the tonal profiles detailed in ancient Chinese ritual texts and (2) a cross-disciplinary aesthetic ideal known as韵味 yunwei. Ultimately, I posit that tonal function, whether in huangmei opera or Western art music, is contingent upon a work’s habitus of listening (Becker 2004)—that is, the collection of social narratives in which musical structures accrue cultural and musical meaning.
“Laughing at Handel’s Serse: Exploring the Role of Handelian Opera in British Imperialist Society”
Evangeline Athanasiou | CUNY Graduate Center
In the last decade, the public attention paid to race in opera has been mostly limited to works of the nineteenth century, such as Madama Butterfly, Aida, and The Mikado. Although operas that date earlier than the late eighteenth century often demonstrate a Western perception of non-Western cultures, this is rarely acknowledged in their production. In academia, however, musicologists Ellen Harris and Ralph Locke have each provided extensive evidence of a manifested imperialist ideology within Handelian opera, demonstrating the connection between Handel’s place in imperialist British society and the content—both thematic and musical—of his operas with non-Western characters and locals.
In order to add another case study to Harris’s and Locke’s accounts of non-Western figures in Handelian opera, as well as propose a pedagogy that highlights the significance of these findings for future performers, I investigate the potential for affirmation of an imperialist ideology in what is considered Handel’s only comic opera, Serse (1738). I begin with an examination of the subtleties of the argument in the original libretto that point to the audience’s nuanced understanding of the story of Xerxes in 1738. I then highlight accounts in a travel journal and advertisements in newspapers to contextualize the subject matter of Handel’s Serse and suggest some of its comedic elements aligned with contemporary British imperialist ideology. Finally, I address the significance of the opera’s humor in light of the work of historian Richard Stoneman, who asserts that Xerxes’s famous moment with a tree, recreated in the opening scene of Serse, was culturally appropriate for a Persian king. I conclude that the active role of Serse as entertainment in an imperialist society, as well as that of other operas in non-Western settings, should be a topic at the forefront of our production decisions today and should begin with a more thorough contextualization of operatic narratives in our present-day classrooms.
Lecture Recital I
Chair: Frédéric-Alexandre Michaud
“Reminiscences: Interpreting Nostalgia and Allusion in Solo Violin Works by Kurtág and Arcuri”
Arlan Vriens | University of Toronto
The performance traditions of Western art music both create and rely on familiarity with music of the past. Even as critical theory has highlighted problematic sociocultural ideologies underpinning the WAM canon, public performances of classical music still overwhelmingly favour the music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and other canonical composers. In short, the musicking of WAM listeners, composers, and performers continues to take place in the long shadow of historical canonic figures whose works are upheld as the type specimens for entire genres.
Through short case studies in the performance of György Kurtág’s Signs, Games, and Messages and Serge Arcuri’s Soliloque I for solo violin, this lecture-recital explores how two living composers have written for the present while acknowledging and exploiting the lingering musical past. It demonstrates some of the means by which Arcuri and Kurtág have encoded historical references into their works and considers how these references affect a performer’s choices of bowing, phrasing, timbre, and narrative arc. Nostalgia is examined as both a vital force behind the genesis of these works and an indispensable key for interpreting their meanings and making performance choices.
By examining these works and their relationship with the musical past, this lecture-recital proposes a framework for practical interpretive analysis of further works by Arcuri, Kurtág, and other composers who utilize musical parody and allusion. More broadly, this mode of analysis may point the way to a constructive model for negotiating cultural nostalgia while continuing to deconstruct the problematic hegemony of canonic composers.
Saturday, March 13
Black Vernacular Topics in Art Music
Chair: Sean Wood
“Giving a Voice to the Washerwoman: Florence Price’s Use of African-American Topics in Thumbnail Sketches: A Day in the life of a Washerwoman”
Zachary Lloyd | Florida State University
Following newfound interest in the music of Florence Price, new scholarship surrounding the composer has flourished. One piece yet to be examined is a four-movement piano suite, Thumbnail Sketches: A Day in the Life of a Washerwoman. Price employs a combination of Western-European compositional techniques and Black vernacular music styles to give a voice to the titular character, a Black Washerwoman, an all but forgotten figure in American history. Much of the work of Horace Maxile Jr., who expanded upon the work of Kofi Agawu and Samuel Floyd, establishes five new musical topics present in the music of Black composers and examines how these topics are used in the musical works of numerous African American composers. Building upon Maxile Jr.’s work, I utilize his new topics (Call-and-Response, Signifyin(g), Spiritual/Supernatural, Blues, and Jazz) to highlight how Black vernacular music styles are employed by Price in her piano suite to give a voice to the washerwoman, while offering connections to a programmatic reading. After introducing Maxile’s new topics, I showcase how these topics are employed throughout the work, focusing on their collaborative nature. These topics not only appear together, but they are often working with, or at times against, more traditional European compositional techniques. Each movement is examined during the presentation with analytical insights of the topics in use and their relationship to a programmatic reading of the piece. Price’s use of black vernacular music styles is highlighted through the application of Maxile Jr.’s musical topics, and by viewing her use of these musical styles, we come to see how Price was able to offer an authentic voice to a silenced and erased figure in American history, the black washerwoman.
“‘Haply I may remember, And haply may forget:’ Fusion of Sorrow Songs and Western Art Music as a Vehicle for Narrative Construction in Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s ‘Too Late for Love’”
Saeideh Rajabzadeh | University of Ottawa
In 1904, black British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor set six poems from the oeuvre of white British poet Christina Georgina Rossetti. The songs, which he titled Six Sorrow Songs, Op. 57, and dedicated to his wife as love songs include themes of love, death, and spirituality, often through gendered perspectives. This cycle has a fascinating dynamic of elements at its heart. In addition to analytic questions surrounding the above-mentioned themes, the composer grouped these art-songs in a collection that he entitled “sorrow songs” — a genre of African slave songs, which rarely includes love songs. The context of this 1904 setting thus opens up room for questions of cross-genre, cross-racial, and cross-social class examination.
Serge Lacasse’s (2018) model for intertextuality offers a framework for considering the cross relations that emerge in this song cycle. Drawing on genre theory (Frow 2006) and writings on sorrow songs and spirituals (Ramsey 2003; Floyd 1996; Du Bois 1903), this paper will explore the intertext of Western classical and African slave songs in “Too Late for Love”, the very last song in this cycle. Through analysis of the text, the musical setting, and the context in which this song and its poem were written, I also aim to explore the ways in which textual meaning changes when the poem is set to music and performed in this song.
Pushing Harmonic Boundaries
Chair: Joshua Rosner
“The Final Piece of the Neo-Riemannian Puzzle: Dodecatonic Cycles and a 5-dimensional Tonnetz for Nearly Symmetric Hexachords”
Vaibhav Mohanty | University of Oxford
Neo-Riemannian theory has proven extremely successful in visually and analytically describing the harmonic language of many composers since the 19th century. The well-known 2-dimensional Tonnetz is a visual structure that aptly organizes major and minor triads into a tessellating figure that provides a visual interpretation of voice-leading distances. Since 1996, Richard Cohn’s theory of maximally smooth cycles has also gained exceptional traction in explaining harmonic progressions in the literature. Traversal of a maximally smooth cycles for triads—called a hexatonic cycle—generates a path on the Tonnetz. Thus, Tonnetze and maximally smooth cycles are intricately tied together mathematically.
Cohn acknowledged that, the class of dominant seventh chords and their inverses (half-diminished seventh chords)—collectively referred to as the Tristan genus—as well as the nearly-symmetric hexachords formed from a single-semitone displacement of a whole tone scale (the genus of mystic and Wozzeck chords) should also possess maximally smooth cycles. And indeed, in 1998, Gollin developed the 3-dimensional Tonnetz, and Childs described the “octatonic cycles.” 1-, 2-, and 12-tone collections are mathematically and musically trivial cases; 5-, 7-, 8-, 9-, 10-, and 11- tone collections cannot be diatonically nearly symmetric because 12 is not divisible by these numbers.
What remained to be described for over twenty years is the appropriate Tonnetz and maximally smooth cycles for nearly symmetric hexachords, found in Berg and Scriabin’s music. Starting with my recently published 5-dimensional Tonnetz, I present a theory of “dodecatonic cycles” and “centipede regions,” thereby developing the last of the mathematically allowed diatonic neo-Riemannian Tonnetze and maximally smooth cycles.
“Jacob Collier’s Wedge Modulations”
Sam Falotico | University of Colorado Boulder
Grammy-winning British composer/arranger Jacob Collier (b. 1994) is known for his virtuosic reharmonizations of standard jazz and pop compositions. He often uses frequent modulations in his music: in his short, three-minute vocal arrangement of Bricusse/Newley’s “Pure Imagination,” for example, Collier modulates nine times. To move between tonal centers so frequently, Collier uses a variety of modulatory techniques, one of which involves the wedge. While studies on wedge progressions typically focus on how the wedge is used to expand a single harmony (see Gauldin 2004 and Wason 2014), in this paper I examine how Collier’s wedge modulations connect one tonal center to another.
The wedge modulation in Collier’s music has several features. While the outer voices move in contrary motion, oftentimes moving from closed to open spacings, Collier adds a number of inner voices, with the total number of voices ranging from two to nine. Collier’s wedge modulations consist of four to eleven chords, with the harmony leading to the new key always being V or bII (the tritone substitute of V) of the goal chord of the new
key. In each example, there is motion of at least four semitones either including or up to the arrival in one of the outer voices. Although the harmonic structure differs among the modulations, one shared feature is the first and last few harmonies tend to be more standard jazz chords (subsets of diatonic or acoustic collections), while the ones in the middle tend to be more harmonically complex (containing  or  subsets).
The wedge modulation in Collier’s music offers a new perspective on modulation and wedge motions, as well as the role of voice leading in jazz harmony, and provides a stepping-off point for scholarship of Collier’s works.
Lecture Recital II
12:00 – 12:50pm EST
Chair: Shanti Nachtergaele
“Improvising Lead-Ins: A Pedagogical Model Deduced from the Contrabass Concertos of J. M. Sperger (1750-1812)”
Renaud Boucher-Browning | McGill University
This lecture-recital will present a historically informed pedagogy for improvising lead-ins in late- eighteenth century concertos for stringed instruments. Called Eingänge by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Fermaten by Daniel Gottlob Türk, lead-ins are fermata embellishments that occur at formal transitions or before thematic reprises. Given their parenthetical nature, lead-ins resemble theatrical asides addressed to the audience. Like cadenzas, lead-ins invite curious soloists to explore extemporization, the invention of music in real time.
Though period treatises give guidelines for improvising lead-ins, they neglect to furnish examples of lead-ins within the context of specific concertos. As improvisatory interjections, lead-ins sometimes appear separately from manuscript solo parts on easily misplaced loose-leaf pages. This means that string soloists have few notated lead-ins from the late 1700s to emulate, leaving the creation of model lead-ins to editors. If soloists lack training in improvisation or composition, they may prepare these published lead-ins or leave fermatas unembellished.
As an alternative approach, this presentation will equip string soloists with strategies for creating new lead-ins that derive from the extant lead-ins by Johann Matthias Sperger (1750-1812) in his eighteen concertos for the Viennese violone, an ancestor of the contrabass. Like the Eingänge for Mozart’s piano concertos, Sperger’s fermata embellishments constitute evidence of the improvisatory practices involved in creating lead-ins.
This lecture-recital will demonstrate a range of historical tools that string soloists can use to improvise lead-ins. By analyzing and performing selected lead-ins by Sperger, I will deduce principles of fermata embellishment that inform the process of learning to compose, sketch, and improvise new lead-ins.
Improvising lead-ins allows soloists to express themselves and frees them to take risks. In concertos, fermata embellishment empowers soloists to showcase their creativity, thereby enhancing the dramatic character of their performances.
Music in Multimedia Settings
Chair: Mai Miyagaki
“The Use of Choreography and Body Movements by Latin American Choirs in Canada: Video Performance Analysis”
Esteban Mendoza | University of Saskatchewan
The inclusion of physical movements is a typical hallmark of Latin American choirs in their performances (Gualchi & Ordás, 2019), a feature that remains in the immigrant choirs in Canada. This research analyzes forty-eight songs in audiovisual records of live performances by seven Latin American choirs in Canada from 2006 to 2019: Cantares Latin Choir, Canto Vivo, Fusión Latina, Los Parranderos de Vancouver, Nuestras Voces, UNAM-Canada Choir, and Viene Sonando. The aim of this study is to examine the choral practice of these choirs to understand the scope, characteristics, and function of the use of choreography and body movements in their performance.
My preliminary findings suggest that choreography and body movements are recurrently used by these choirs as a way of preserving the Latin American repertoire in its most genuine way of interpretation. This is achieved by uniting the musical styles with elements of dances associated with them, in such a way as to highlight their characteristic properties and reveal the multimodal nature of Latin American choral music.
Informed by works regarding the influence of musical “gestures” and body movements on choral performances (Camurri & Volpe, 2011; Camurri et al., 2004; Ordás & Blanco, 2013; Gualchi & Ordás, 2019; Seighman, 2015), and studies addressing different approaches to the concepts of “choreography” and “choralography” (Kolo, 2016; Lepecki, 2007; Green, 1984), I analyze the videos from a comparative perspective that allows me to find tendencies and common patterns regarding the physical performance developed by these choirs, considering in turn, the repertoire interpreted, its musical style, the attitude of the choristers, and the role played by the conductors. From my research I can suggest that these choreography and body movements fulfill a function that goes beyond the enhancement of choral performance to forge Latin American representative elements of identity in the Canadian context.
“Teaching Musicality to Dancers: The Musicality Class in Swing Dance Communities”
Megan Batty | McGill University
Dancers in the contemporary swing dance community are often taught about swing music through a musicality class specifically devoted to exploring the music. Guided by the belief that dancers can further their practice by improving their musicality skills, teachers often devote a single class to exploring technical aspects of swing music (such as formal structures and the roles of instruments on the bandstand). The musicality class aims to improve dancers’ understanding of swing music and develop their active listening skills yet the practice of relegating discussion of musical concepts to one class does not accurately capture the reciprocal relationship between musicians and dancers on the dance floor. In this paper I explore the limitations of some common strategies used in the musicality class and instead suggest an approach that reflects the conversational dynamic of the musician-dancer relationship.
I begin with a discussion of how musicality is conceptualized by scholars; I then investigate several common strategies used in the musicality class and assess their effectiveness. Next, I propose an approach to teaching musicality that centers the dialogic relationship between dancers and musicians. Using Stephanie Jordan’s concept of choreomusical conversations, I suggest a framework for including these strategies not in only in the musicality class but for embedding them in swing dance pedagogy more broadly. This paper draws on interviews with individuals who are both swing dancers and swing musicians in Montreal. Their experiences are particularly pertinent to discussions on musicality because their dual practice affords them a privileged perspective within the community. Situating my informants’ experience in relation to existing scholarship, this paper reimagines how musicality is taught within the contemporary swing dance community.
“‘Only Shooting Stars Break the Mold’: Comedy and Subversion in the Mashups of Mouth Sounds and Mouth Moods”
Kate Schau | University of Oregon
Like many successful works of music, comedy relies on subverting audience expectations. Few musical genres are as well-suited to comedy as the mashup. Once vilified as a derivative, even parasitic form of music making, scholars have noted that its reliance on existing music enables the mashup to make hilarious juxtapositions between seemingly unrelated genres (Adams 2015; Brövig-Hanssen 2012). Current scholarship on mashup humor focuses on disparate genres and contextual incongruity (Boone 2018; Brövig-Hanssen 2019), but mashups’ comedic features go deeper than simple friction between similar and contrasting elements.
In this paper, I demonstrate that comedy mashups display complex musical humor beyond our current understanding by identifying four new types of musical comedy and subversion in the mashup albums Mouth Sounds (2014) and Mouth Moods (2017). The first of these four types, the “blasphemy” effect, expands on observations made in the works of Adams and Brövig-Hanssen. Here, the two songs being combined are so culturally divorced that their combination is offensive to some listeners. The second, “absurdist humor,” is characterized by deliberately nonsensical elements which defy conventional comedy logic. In “comedic timing,” the album format allows for long-form jokes with complex and continuously developing punchlines spanning multiple songs. Finally, “recontextualization as redemption” inverts Boone’s recontextualization theory to argue that if a “serious” song can be decontextualized to seem ridiculous, then a “ridiculous” song can be recontextualized as serious or dignified.
Mashups have long been regarded as a peculiar side effect of popular music and Internet lawlessness. However, the complexity demonstrated by my analysis proves that mashup albums like Mouth Sounds and Mouth Moods are worthy of scholarly attention precisely because they are a uniquely twenty-first century form of musical creation, the conventions of which will likely inform online music-making in years to come.
“Establishing Setting through Battle Music in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne and Final Fantasy XIV”
Marcos Acevedo-Arús | Temple University
Japanese Role-playing Games (JRPGs) often feature only one normal battle theme. If a JRPG uses several battle themes, they usually coincide with crucial narrative markers. These themes play during generic enemy encounters, and are thus a critical component of a game’s soundtrack. This paper explores the cases of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne (2003) and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (2013), two games that subvert the norm by featuring numerous normal battle themes that correspond to the location of a battle rather than narrative concerns. Through a semiotic analysis of both soundtracks that draws on previous scholarship on topic theory (Hatten), video game genre conventions (Summers), and the music of RPGs (Grasso, Gibbons), I show how these normal battle themes are used to establish and develop their games’ settings. Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne’s rock-centric soundtrack includes five normal battle themes that play according to what type of area of the game’s world, post-apocalyptic Tokyo, a battle occurs in. As such, a battle in one of Tokyo’s city areas would be accompanied by “Normal Battle ~Town~”, while battles in the vast desert area have “Normal Battle ~World Map~” playing. In Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, the instrumentation of the normal battle theme varies according to which region the game’s world players fight in. These variations use certain instruments or instrumental families as signifiers to paint an area’s scenery and express the values of the civilizations that inhabit them, such as organ and harpsichord being used to demonstrate the harsh cold of the Coerthas region and the antiquated ways of the Ishgardian theocracy. The variations thus flesh out the stories that unfold in these regions. I conclude by examining how this interaction between music, gameplay, and setting ultimately serves to immerse players in a game’s world.
The Democracy That Society Allows: Sounds of Protests in Japan and the U.S.
Prof. Noriko Manabe, Research Keynote Address
Perceived attacks on the foundations of democracy in recent years have sparked large demonstrations, often numbering in the hundreds of thousands, in both Japan and the U.S. This paper will explore the ways in which democracy is sounded differently in street protests of two densely populated cities—Tokyo and New York—as shaped by urban geography (Parkinson), outdoor acoustics (Kang), participatory practices (Turino), and perhaps most importantly, policing. In Japan, heavy policing renders protests less visible, making Japanese protesters rely on sound to make their claims and fill urban space, through chants and music; chanting, recognized as important for building solidarity, is often led and sometimes planned in advance. In particular, the sound truck, piled high with sound equipment and carrying musicians, has enjoyed longevity in Japanese social movements due to its ability to create a wall of sound that both extends its presence in the urban landscape and envelops the protesters. The Women’s March in New York, which had the privilege of being lightly policed relative to Black Lives Matter and other U.S. protests, was a comparatively quiet protest. While less organized than Japanese protests, the leaderless atmosphere of this and other Women’s Marches led to a high rate of innovation in chanting. Using a combination of humor, references to recent events, interaction with popular music, and intertextuality with historical protest culture, the chants and songs of the Resistance engage protesters and address the issues in memorable fashion. Analyzing protests as an interplay between urban space, police, and actors, the talk considers the ways in which the sounds of street protests reflect the kind of democracy that society allows.
Lecture Recital III
Chair: Lara Balikci
“Circle hasu: My Art of Voice and Body”
Aine E. Nakamura | New York University
I will present my lecture-recital about my one-woman art of voice and body, Circle hasu. I produce a sonic and visual space through my idiosyncratic performance grammar and a focus on orality: improvised vocal sound, non-notated melodies, and spoken words in English and Japanese. My voice arises from an association with my body movements. I generated a form where my transnational complexity which is the lens of my lived experience, and my nature-celebrating spirituality can tell stories about nature, animism, peace, and my woman’s body from my site-specific presence. Nature for me is about beings, coexistence, and relations, and the long and vast flow. I devised new techniques of vocalizing puffballs in the air and opening an unknown story from a singing and moving body—I would imagine conceptual images for my physicality, which lead sound-making. For this work, I was awarded the Honorable Mention Award for the 2020 Pauline Oliveros New Genre Prize.
I switch smoothly between ‘voice as body’—as when my voice is and of my body, and ‘voice and body’—as when my aesthetic choice in sound guides my physical sensation. In mid-March, I experienced harsh verbal attacks in the NYC subway right before the documentation. In the first take, “my voice as my body” ended the work with a fear I felt in my body. In the second take, my voice chose kindness over fear; as a result, the voice healed the body. Performing and showing Circle hasu, and several examples of my art of voice and body, I would like to discuss about possibilities of switching between “voice as body” and “voice and body,” and site- and time-specificity in telling stories about different places from different time.
Sunday, March 14
Investigating Identity Formation
Chair: Kiersten Van Vliet
“Voicing the Liminal: Examining Gender and Liminal Identities through the voices of Operatic Witches”
Shauna Louise Caffrey | University College Cork
In her book, Woman and Power: A Manifesto, Mary Beard writes that “when it comes to silencing women, Western culture has had thousands of years of practice.” Beginning in antiquity, Beard charts the troubling history of the exclusion of the women from public and political fora, an exclusion which has synonymised the voices of men as those of power and authority. Numerous studies have supported Beard’s thesis, indicating a continued association between deep, low registered voices with authority, trust-worthiness, and competence, that persists to the present day.
Within the field of musicology, much time and ink has been dedicated to the examination of the voice – from timbre through technique, to the preferred vocal ranges of performers for historical practice. Such questions regarding gendered authority are, however, largely absent from musicological discourse. In this paper, I aim to examine the ramifications of gendered concepts of vocal authority to a musico-theatrical genre synonymous with ‘powerful’ voices – opera. Within the worlds of seventeenth century opera and its related media – enchanted isles, deep vaulted cells, fairy realms – the ‘female’ voice has, in contrast to the external realities of the period, ruled supreme, with displays of inhuman power resting firmly in the hands and mouths of sorceresses. Although the product of European ‘elite’ cultures, the anti-heroines of works such as Armide, Médée, Dido and Aeneas and their ilk subvert the patterns of exclusion present in the political, social and legal discourse of the seventeenth century, placing the voices of female characters front and centre. In the pages that follow, I will explore the allegorical implications of such characters and their voices with regard to the cultural context of their creation and liminal identities, with a view towards expanding our understanding of ideals of power and who can wield it.
“Naming the Rural Brand and Branding the Rural Name: Spacetime and Commodified Personhood in Punjabi Popular Music”
Davindar Singh | Harvard University
Contemporary Punjabi popular song, like many prior generations of Punjabi popular music, frequently depicts bucolic scenes of rural life. The countryside is often described in these songs as timeless, and talk of tradition seems congruent with the comparatively limited subject of these songs. Changes in agricultural conditions, however, have recently given rise to songs of farmers’ protests, poverty, drug addiction, and suicides. Today, massive protests against the recent deregulation of agricultural commodities– estimated to be the largest in human history–clog India’s highways. Many Punjabi musicians participate in these protests to decry the poor compensation for agricultural labor.
At the same time, many famous Punjabi musicians give self-help and “inspirational” speeches that valorize labor, however poorly compensated, and that describe the process of leaving the countryside for urban work. Across these speeches, musicians uniformly describe their accomplishments in terms of brand, often with respect to Western luxury brands. They also uniformly describe the ultimate vindication of their efforts, the point when they’ve truly “made it,” in terms of personally adopting the name of the rural village where they were born, and which they had to leave to get urban work.
In this paper, I outline concurrent and related changes in Punjabi musical depictions of rurality, and in Punjabi musicians’ depictions of rural selfhood. I trace how the process of acquiring fame in Punjabi media industries follows spatial patterns of extraction that structure India’s urbanism and political economy, bringing resources to the city and extractive pressures to the country. I show that temporal logics underpinning this economic extraction also shape how musicians describe their work and their personhood. I then discuss conflicts that ensue–some violent–when urban musicians who brand themselves as rural are caught up in Punjabi urban- rural political tension.
Women in Hip Hop
Chair: Jeremy Tatar
“‘Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number’: Adultification by Timbre”
Emily Milius | University of Oregon
[Content Warning: sexual abuse, gendered racism]
Aaliyah was only 15 when she released her 1994 debut album Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number. The album was produced by R. Kelly—subject of multiple sexual abuse cases and singer-songwriter—and the titular song’s lyrics are shockingly explicit for a young singer, expressing that “throwin’ down ain’t nothin’ but a thing,” and depicting a young girl coaxing an older man to go “all the way.” While it was public knowledge in 1994 that 27-year-old R. Kelly lied about Aaliyah’s age to marry her, we are only coming to terms with his abuse after Surviving R. Kelly (2019). Kelly’s public abuse of a 15-year-old girl with minimal outrage serves as a striking example of adultification—the assumption that Black girls are more mature and knowledgeable about adult topics, especially sex, than their white counterparts (Epstein, Blake, & González 2017). In this paper, I examine how Aaliyah’s adult-sounding vocal timbre combined with adult lyrics, presented her as a mature adult rather than a teen girl.
Since Aaliyah’s smooth, breathy timbre resembles other Black women performers, e.g. Sade and Janet Jackson, listeners prescribed womanhood onto Aaliyah, saying she was “old for her age.” This was exacerbated by reviews describing her voice as “mature” and “sultry.” Drawing upon the “acousmatic question” (Eidsheim 2019), through which listeners infer specific ideas about the singer as a person from purely sonic information, I examine how listeners made assumptions about Aaliyah’s age and sexual knowledge based on timbre, lyrical content, and race to show how these align with the implicit adultification of Black girls, allowing her, and other Black girls, to be abused for decades.
The act of listening, therefore, is not as innocent or passive as it may seem, and may actively endanger Black girls and other marginalized people.
“‘I Dream It, I Work Hard, I Grind ‘Til I Own It’: The Labour of Dance, Motherhood, Community, and Public Pedagogy in Beyoncé’s HΘMΣCΘMING”
Rebekah Hutten | McGill University
HΘMΣCΘMING: A Film by Beyoncé was released April 17, 2019, for streaming on Netflix. Throughout the concert film, Beyoncé and her collaborators construct a narrative out of the recorded live “Beychella” performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, combined with video footage of rehearsals leading up to the performance. Beychella was thematically “set” in an HBCU HΘMΣCΘMING, combining Black pop musics, Black social dance, and Afro-American intellectual work. The concert film re-contextualized the original live performance, shaping up additional narratives through Beyonce’s voiceover and the inclusion of quotes from prominent African American cultural and intellectual leaders such as Malcolm X, Audre Lorde, and Martin Luther King Jr.
A major sub-theme established in the rehearsal sections of the HΘMΣCΘMING film is Beyonce’s pregnancy and the birth of her twins, Rumi and Sir Carter. Beyoncé characterizes the dance rehearsals for HΘMΣCΘMING as a means through which she was able to reclaim her body after her difficult, and high-risk, pregnancy. This essay situates the filmic narrative of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood alongside the visuals of dance rehearsals as a labour toward empowerment, asking how HΘMΣCΘMING reshapes and resists stereotyped tropes about Black motherhood, ultimately arguing that dance and motherhood work together to deconstruct pervasive controlling images of Black women as unfit, pathological, and within the “controlling images” of “mammies” matriarchs, welfare recipients, and hot mammas (Hill Collins 2000, 69). Through a labour-focused analysis, I argue that HΘMΣCΘMING acts as pop culture pedagogy, extending Beyonce’s project of Afrofuturist feminist worldmaking by de-pathologizing Black motherhood and adding her labouring and dancing body to the communicative system of “corporeal orature” (De Frantz 2004). In presenting the intersecting labours of rehearsing, dancing, learning, and pregnancy, Beyoncé participates in a worldmaking that actively resists the systems which would otherwise render her voiceless.
“Flow in the Alter Egos of Nicki Minaj”
Hanisha Kulothparan | Michigan State University
Alter egos have played a prominent role in the history of rap like Ghostface Killah as Ironman and Tupac as Makaveli. In hip-hop’s approach to fiction, the vocal differentiation of characters is important. Nicki Minaj portrays alter egos in her music, with her most popular personas being “Roman Zolanski” and “Harajuku Barbie.” In this presentation, I explore these two personas and how Minaj differentiates them using her vocal pitch, her lyrical vocabulary, and the structure of her verses. Ultimately, these elements of her personas align beyond just these qualities and relate to the stereotypical portrayals of men and women in rap music.
Kyle Adams (2009) states rappers distinguish their styles through a set of parameters. Looking at specific parameters that are manipulated within Minaj’s flow can distinguish her alter egos. Robert Komaniecki argues that “some songs exemplify a high unity of flow, where rappers manipulate their delivery to conform to or differentiate from other artists featured in a song” (2017, 1.3). Minaj differentiates her flow to enhance the stereotypical differences of Roman and Barbie. Finally, Lerdahl and Jackendoff (1983) use grouping preference rules (GPRs) to define how listeners interpret groupings in a passage. GPR6 states that two or more passages of the music that can be construed as parallel preferably form parts of groups. I will revise this rule to three specific elements of each persona: textual parallelism, rhymed parallelism, and rhythmic parallelism.
Through several elements in her flow, Nicki Minaj is able to differentiate her alter egos in a nuanced and sophisticated way, which will be proven through the mentioned methodologies. My revision to L+J’s GPR6, I argue, might be useful in analyzing flow in rap music as a whole.
Technology in Performance and Research
Chair: Lena Heng
“Was Musical Theater Truly Live? Is it Now? Audio Mediation and the Virtual Liveness of the Pit Orchestra”
Makulumy Alexander-Hills | Columbia University
This present historical moment – where live performances have largely ceased in order to protect the health and safety of the public – demands a re-evaluation of the notion of auditory liveness in popular musical theater on New York’s Broadway and London’s West End. What has been lost in this new era, where audiences are limited to only live-streamed or pre-recorded performances? What was perhaps already lost, even with “live” performances in the theater?
Most all modern musical theater productions utilize amplification and mixing techniques for both singers and pit orchestras; these audio mediation norms trace their roots to Burt Bacharach and his 1968 Broadway hit, Promises, Promises. These techniques call the liveness of musical theater performance into question, as amplified sounds from unseen and often spatially removed pit orchestras lack the appropriate audio-visual cues to conventionally signify liveness. Instead, audio technology enforces a phantasmagoric orchestral presence, where elements other than visual or audile signals must contribute to any notion of live performance. Working with Paul Sanden’s multivalent definition of liveness, I explore what elements of audile liveness remain in “live” musical theater performance. I modify Sanden’s notion of virtual liveness to describe the invisible audio-mediated pit orchestra as a virtual persona. By contributing indicators of “recognizably human performance” despite intense audio mediation and mediatization, the virtual liveness of the pit orchestra is crucial to the perception of many musical theater performances as truly “live.” But how does this virtual liveness interact with further mediation in the mediatized “live” performances of our present moment? This paper seeks to elucidate how we might still perceive the liveness of “live theater” through these many layers of mediation.
“How to Jam on Zoom: Reflections on Ten Months of Meaningful Music-Making at Distance”
Brendan Kent | Carleton University
This paper will detail various strategies that can encourage participation and engagement in a range of networked performance arts. I will discuss how the conferencing platform Zoom was used to develop community arts practices during COVID-19 lockdowns. To accomplish this, I will describe three case studies: the Music on the Rebound Festival’s community support initiative the “World Wide Tuning Meditation,” the networked improvisational collective the Mannlicher Carcano Radio Hour, and finally, informal networked improvisations by small ensembles. These practices range in participation from two performers to several hundred at a time. Drawing on nearly a year of online music-making in real time as well as theories of participation and social aesthetics, I will describe how these three different practices created a wide array of artistic and social outcomes.
During my master’s thesis research on live networked music-making during COVID-19, I participated in these case studies and conducted interviews with organizers and participants. Reflecting on these experiences, I will detail and analyze the creative approaches to networked music-making that these groups used. For anyone who has not had the chance to make music online in real time, I hope this talk will inspire them to explore their own networked musical practice.
“Karaoke of Dreams: A multi-modal neural-network generated music experience”
Sofy Yuditskaya | University of California San Diego
Sophia Sun | New York University
Derek Kwan | Georgia Tech
In the world of technology we see Machine Learning (ML) as the new catchall solution to social and technical problems. From directing our financial markets to doing our political organizing, from what music we consume to the healthcare we receive, so much of the fabric of our society is mediated by ML algorithms, and their influence is only likely to increase. What does it mean to forgo control of our environments to algorithms? How would it change our human experiences? How do we coexist, and better yet, collaborate with these impenetrable systems?
With this project we translated these questions into a tender and intimate musical experience. Karaoke of Dreams (KoD) creates a space where a participant, a human singing karaoke, can experience what it feels like to perform in a totalizing environment created by Machine Learning. The song lyrics, music, harmonies, and stage lighting are all generated and leave nothing for the human to do but sing the song. In this action, we, the viewers get to witness the very empathetic, emotional, and personal experience that is Karaoke, and the singer gets to perform it, while also experiencing it themselves.
KoD is an ML Karaoke that generates songs and video based on user input of song titles. Karaoke, literally ”empty orchestra” in Japanese, refers to singing with a sing- along machine which provides the singers with prerecorded accompaniment and vocal. We chose the karaoke as a medium because (1) Karaoke is a performance of intimacy, often done in front of friends, to songs that are collectively known (Mitsui & Hosokawa, 1998); (2) it is an activity enabled by technology, where the machine assist and supports the human, often an amateur singer, to perform; (3) as a form of entertainment, it exists virtually everywhere in the world, and most people know how to interact with it. (Mitsui & Hosokawa, 1998) In some contemporary cultures, the karaoke box even signifies an escape from corporate and domestic norms, providing an emotional safe space while creating a sense of belonging. (Ma, 1994) With Karaoke of Dreams, we challenged our participants by adding machines and neural networks to the mix and make them a proactive creator of the music being performed. How did our experience change? How did we build rapport with the machine?
“Creating the Canadian Encyclopedia of Canadian Opera: from collecting data practices to digital implementation”
Sophie M. Bisson | York University
The online Encyclopedia of Canadian Opera aims to be the most comprehensive searchable database on the Canadian operatic repertoire. The repertoire, which now counts almost 500 operas, is searchable via numerous parameters built with the advancement of Canadian opera expertise in mind. The encyclopedia will serve as a tool for all performers, music departments, and lyrical companies to discover and perform arias or entire operas. The encyclopedia features a ‘submit your opera page’ for composers to submit their work and will feature a built-in purchasing platform for scores.
In this presentation, I discuss the challenges and possible solutions for disseminating large-scale projects in music and in the humanities in general. Against the backdrop of my experience with the encyclopedia, I cover the seemingly small decisions that ultimately help or undermine the success of a project, the platforms that are available to disseminate research, the skills required to implement data on these various platforms, and existing outlets available to gain experience in digital humanities. I combine my experience with the knowledge gained by speaking with other musicologists who have also worked on databases and hope that in the current spirit of making musicological research more accessible to the general public, this paper can serve others wishing to engage in similar work.
Alexandrea Jonker and Rachel Hottle
Co-chairs of the Symposium