Season 3 (2020–21)

Philip Ewell (Hunter College, New York)

‘How We Got Here, Where To Now?’ (21 October 2020)

The societal tipping point that is so often cited in the United States these days is intimately linked with our past, a troubled and, at times, violent past that has infused virtually everything that we Americans do. This past is now under great scrutiny in music studies, in how we teach music to our students, how we examine music in analysis, and how we choose the music we professional musicians consider worthy of attention. In this talk I consider our past so that we might chart a path for the future. Only through an exhaustive study of the past can we truly understand why the academic study of music is what it is today, a study that remains exclusionist with respect to musics that are not centred around both whiteness and maleness. In coming to terms with this difficult past we together – white, black, and everyone in between – can create a new academic study of music, rich and inclusive, which will be rewarding and emancipating for all.


Barbara Bleij (Amsterdam Conservatorium)

‘Current trends in jazz theory and analysis: reading Wayne Shorter’ (18 November 2020)

In this paper I will present analyses of two compositions by Wayne Shorter. I will start with an overview of the state of affairs in the field of jazz (theory and) analysis. This field is rather dispersed, while subject matters, methods, and results may, in part at least, be determined by the institutional or geographical context in which an analyst operates. I will discuss three categories: chord-scale theory, academic jazz theory, and conservatory-pedagogical theory. These three categories are by no means mutually exclusive, and may intersect to varying degrees depending on the context. Subsequently, I will summarize the most important findings of my study of Shorter’s ‘E.S.P.’, ‘Infant Eyes’, and ‘Virgo’. This part of the paper serves as an introduction to my views on how to address this kind of repertoire. I will argue that a pluralistic approach is necessary in order to try and capture the many facets of these pieces. The paper will conclude with an analysis of ‘Lester Left Town’ (Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, The Big Beat, 1960) and ‘Harlequin’ (Weather Report, Heavy Weather, 1977). These are two rather different compositions, which invite us to step out of our analytical comfort zone and creatively explore out-of-the-box tools to come closer to these pieces.


J.P.E. Harper-Scott (Royal Holloway, University of London)

‘Tonality and the capitalist mode of exploitation’ (27 January 2021)

Tonal music is a product of human intellectual and artistic labour, dependent on the activity of ideologically interpellated human beings. It therefore imbibes and reflects the relative ideological positioning of the very many human beings who form its laws and customs, as well as its normative and exceptional expressive instances in particular musical works. It might seem trivially true to state that there exists a tight relationship between tonality and the world of late capitalism with which it is coeval. The first part of this paper therefore argues, by considering it alongside a modern analysis of class relations under capitalism, for a more precise articulation of the relation between musical tonality and the historical situation that produced it. Then, in its second part, it demonstrates through a harmonically dualist, Riemannian analysis of a chord in Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata, how some music can seem to negate elements of the currently existing ideology.


Catherine A. Bradley (University of Oslo)

‘Fragments from a medieval motet manuscript in Stockholm: perspectives for theory and analysis’ (24 February 2021)

This paper presents and analyses previously unstudied fragments from a medieval motet book, probably produced in France around 1300 and now preserved in the Riksarkivet in Stockholm. The fragments contain traces of eight compositions, five of which are unknown from any other surviving sources. One of these unique motets—Dies ista celebris/Hec est Dies triumphalis/MANERE, which is almost complete—notates portions of its underlying plainchant tenor quotation in red ink. I suggest, not only that this motet may represent the earliest extant instance of red notation, but also that red ink is employed here to indicate octave transposition. This is a usage described in the fourteenth-century Ars vetus et nova treatise of Philippe de Vitry but of which no examples have hitherto been known in practice. The Stockholm fragments raise questions about the analytical challenges and possibilities of evidence that is—quite literally—fragmentary, and they underline a significant cross-fertilization between practices of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century motet composition, practices often studied in isolation.

This paper seeks to show that the Stockholm fragments came from a type of motet collection, whose contents and transmission is not directly comparable with any other known thirteenth- or fourteenth-century source. It makes the case for an apparent gap in evidence for motet composition and circulation at the turn of the thirteenth century into the fourteenth, exploring the possible explanations for and ramifications of a lacuna in surviving sources around 1300 and proffering new insights into what has been lost.


Nicola Dibben (University of Sheffield)

‘Analysing musical new multimedia: music in mobile apps and extended reality’ (5 May 2021)

This paper investigates an emerging new musical multimedia form—interactive musical/sonic art experiences in audio augmented reality. It is common to think of augmented reality as visual, in which imagery is overlaid onto a scene viewed through a screen. However, it can also take aural form—audio augmented reality— in which (spatialised) headphone sound is integrated with (or more commonly) overlays audio from the physical environment surrounding the listener. Previous research has focused on the technical challenges and realisation of sound spatialisation, interactivity, and storytelling in extended reality formats. It has less frequently addressed what audio augmented reality means for musicking (presentational and participatory) and musical aesthetics. In this paper I identify distinct approaches to music in audio augmented reality, and use this to contextualise analyses of specific musical examples, including Moonmoons AR app(Anna Meredith, 2019) and Bloom: Open Space Hololens installation (Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers, 2018). I use these to highlight specific material, aesthetic and phenomenological characteristics of and possibilities for audio augmented reality music, including compositional and listener agency and interactivity, visualisation of sound, the open-work and ludification. In doing so I reflect on what the important music-analytic questions might be about these media and what kinds of theory and analytical methods might be needed to better understand them.


David Bretherton (University of Southampton)

‘Queering and cripping Schubert’s Atlas’ (19 May 2021)

As a gay graduate student in the 2000s, whose thesis was on Franz Schubert’s songs, learning of the furore surrounding Maynard Solomon’s (1989) and Susan McClary’s (1992; 1994) suggestion that the composer may have been homosexual made quite an impression. Their suggestion also appeared to provide a potential interpretative explanation for some of the odd structural features I was discovering in Schubert’s ‘Der Atlas’ at the time. Such a gay reading of the song is consistent with the approach McClary took in ‘Constructions of Subjectivity in Schubert’s Music’ (1992; 1994), and also with Sara Ahmed’s notion in Queer Phenomenology (2006) that, put simply, queer people’s orientations and experiences render them sensitive to things that straight people, with their heteronormative orientation and experiences, are not. In truth, though, I was never entirely convinced by my gay reading of ‘Der Atlas’, for reasons I will set out. More recently, as someone with unseen disabilities, I also see the song’s depiction of bodily strain, constraint and despair through the lens of disability. In my OSiMTA seminar I will explore how one might interpret the song, by first offering a technical analysis and straight readings, before queering and cripping these readings, reflecting on my own positionality, and (time permitting) speculating on the relevance or otherwise of this type of work.