Graduate Student Colloquium: Dylan Price, Marinu Leccia, Judith Valerie Engel

Free to attend, those wishing to attend virtually should complete this sign-up form.

Getting Drunk with Dvořák

This paper is about the village inn, opera, and beer. In reception from the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, it was commonplace to associate Dvořák’s music with themes of drunkenness. In no small part, critics made this case by drawing upon Dvořák’s biography, often highlighting his background as the son of an innkeeper. Yet these accounts also partook in a wider set of ethnic slurs, associating Czech composers with what is drunken, uncivilised, or primitive. Without wishing to accept these value judgements uncritically, this paper explores how themes of drunkenness were reclaimed by a variety of Czech composers, including Dvořák, Janáček, and Smetana. Principally, the paper attends to Dvořák’s The Devil and Kate (1899), tracing in this opera an (an)aesthetics of intoxication. However, it also compares Dvořák’s piece to Janáček’s The Excursions of Mr. Brouček (1920), exploring how both operas’ intoxications give rise to strange temporal and spatial effects. In The Devil and Kate, these effects are expressed via a trip to hell; in The Excursions of Mr. Brouček, they are expressed via trips to the moon and the fifteenth century. On the one hand, beer thus comes to function as an expression of disorienting modernity, comparable to those phenomenologies of modern narcosis that have attracted attention elsewhere. In many instances, however, beer functions simultaneously as a mode of communitarian resistance to that same modernity, such that drinking with others becomes a more nostalgic, retrospective, and even premodern activity. By treating the inn as a critical discursive space in this way, this paper will explore the ambivalence of modernity’s symbolic, affective, and ethical consequences—all issues that (beyond these operas specifically) are no less relevant today.

Dylan Price is a scholar of (trans)nationalism and the environmental humanities, exploring music, sound, and other forms of culture in Slavonic and Anglo-American contexts. The methods are at once affective, political, and spatial, examining space-place relations in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. In Price’s doctoral project, these interests converge upon the figure of Antonín Dvořák, whose output exemplifies shifting notions of space, identity, and belonging that emerged at this time. But he keeps a wider interest in developing new theoretical apparatuses, using resources derived from the humanities and social sciences more broadly. 

Child art and cats’ cradle: investigating play and games in Britten’s ‘The Turn of the Screw’ (1954)

Lover of sporting, driving fast cars, having gobbledygook conversations with children, reading children books and poetry, writing music accessible for children as well as adults, and composing music for children to perform, Benjamin Britten displayed all along his life a constant playful attitude. This attitude can be analysed in his aesthetic, at the boundary of violence and play, and in his compositional processes. Moreover, this playful aesthetic finds its sources in the French and Victorian child phantasmagoria, Stravinskyian puppet-like musical motives, or Picasso’s inspiration from child art. This presentation focuses on two passages of ‘The Turn of the Screw’ (1954), where Benjamin Britten and Myfanwy Piper’s playful art meets the playful manipulative techniques of Henry James. Through child art, musical/literal games, and sport-like gestures, this renewed analysis of the opera will demonstrate how an apparent unseriousness participate to a deepened violence.

Marinu Leccia is a third-year DPhil student at the University of Oxford (St Catherine’s College) under the supervision of Dr. Joanna Bullivant and Prof. Laura Tunbridge, working on the playful aesthetic of Benjamin Britten’s music and the modernist ludic turn. He previously studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris where he obtained two Master degrees in Musicology and Music Education. He also graduated in orchestra conducting (Pôle Supérieur Paris-Boulogne), and conducted the Oxford University Philharmonia and the Oxford University String Ensemble.

Marianna Martines (1744-1812) – tracing an identity

This talk revisits the deceptively simple question that has been haunted biographers over the centuries: ‘Who was Marianna Martines (1744-1812)?’. The traces of her life in archival sources are frustratingly limited (owing to losses since the early 19th century). More critically, modern writings on her, especially within non-academic contexts such as concert programmes and modern music editions, have taken liberties inventing half-truths or outright lies about the composer. She is often instrumentalised as a feminist role-model, even if there is no concrete evidence to support this view. My paper explores an alternative approach, going beyond ‘pure’ biographical work, that intends to do more justice to the historical person of Marianna Martines: With the help of feminist theories, particularly pertaining to the politics of identity of a woman during the early stages of first-wave feminism, I want to situate her within the gendered, patriarchal, imperial society of 18th century Vienna. Martines’s music, several of her surviving letters, the dominant narratives emerging from the archive on her family and relationships, as well as a portrait of questionable authorship are instrumental in recovering Martines’s ‘real’ and/or ‘narrative persona’.

As an Austrian concert pianist, Judith Valerie Engel currently pursues a DPhil in Historical Musicology at the University of Oxford, writing about the piano music of Viennese 18th-century composer Marianna Martines. She is recipient of the Stone-Mallabar Studentship in association with Christ Church, Oxford.

Judith Valerie studied the piano with several prominent musicians, among them Neuhaus student Prof. Mag. Nina Igudesman, Prof. Pavel Gililov and Prof. Paul Badura-Skoda. Judith Valerie performed in venues across Europe and North-America. She is a laureate of numerous national and international competitions and has been featured in music documentaries, most recently a film about Marianna Martines that was produced by the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation) in 2019. Her recordings have been widely shared on social media and aired on various radio and TV stations across Europe.

While at Oxford, she was co-lead on a Public Engagement with Research project, funded by TORCH, that ran in collaboration with TransOxford, called ‘Siren Voices’. In late 2022 she collaborated with TORCH visiting fellow and Mbira player John Pfumojena, performing a recital in the Sheldonian Theatre that explored the artists’ respective ‘classical’ traditions.

About the series:
The Colloquia feature leading figures, as well as younger scholars, from across the world. They present their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. Graduate students Chuyu Zhang and Eugenie Dalgleish organise the series. Presentations are followed by a discussion and drinks reception. If you would like more information, please email Chuyu Zhang.