Oxford Seminar in Music Theory & Analysis

The new Oxford Seminar in Music Theory & Analysis (OSiMTA) meets two or three times a term. Its convenors are Professor Jonathan Cross and Dr Sebastian Wedler.

Our conception of theory and analysis is critical, plural and interdisciplinary. In shaping the seminars, we aim to reflect the broad range of activity taking place under the heading of theory and analysis today, as well as to challenge boundaries, embracing not only ‘conventional’ practices and histories of theory, but also new interdisciplinary approaches that engage with cultural studies, ethnomusicology, aesthetics and philosophy, psychology, performance studies, popular music studies, and so on. Speakers will include distinguished local, national and international scholars.

These seminars are open to all, including the general public. Sessions will last 90 minutes, refreshments are served, and lively discussion is encouraged. They take place on Wednesday afternoons, beginning at 16.30, in the Committee Room of the Music Faculty.

Regular updates will appear on these pages. You can also follow OSiMTA on Twitter.

For further information email Jonathan.Cross@music.ox.ac.uk or Sebastian.Wedler@music.ox.ac.uk


Inaugural seminar: Wednesday 17 October 2018

Peter H. Smith (University of Notre Dame)

The ‘Type-2’ Sonata Form in the Nineteenth Century: A Case Study from Mendelssohn’s Octet

This lecture explores musical and theoretical issues raised by a particular type of parallel form that has been interpreted in two strikingly contradictory ways – either as a bi-rotational ‘type-2’ sonata form or as a sonata form with a reversed recapitulation. Insights drawn from Hepokoski & Darcy’s sonata theory, Caplin’s theory of formal functions, and Schenkerian concepts of tonal content argue in favour of a type-2 interpretation of nineteenth-century manifestations. A movement distinguished by its supple form/content synergies serves as a case study: the Andante from Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings in E-flat major, op. 20. Analysis of the Andante demonstrates some of the ways these theories may prove mutually reinforcing, even when they marshal different criteria and model out-of-phase relationships between, say, formal boundaries and Schenkerian tonal pillars. Throughout, the emphasis is on dynamic interactions between a type-2 movement’s generic formal characteristics and its compositional idiosyncrasies.

Professor Peter H. Smith, chair of the music theory department at Notre Dame University, USA, inaugurates this seminar series with a presentation on form in Mendelssohn. His research interests include the instrumental music of Brahms and related composers, Schenkerian approaches to analysis, and theories of musical form and expression. He has published in Music Theory Spectrum, 19th-Century Music, Journal of Music Theory, Music Analysis, Brahms Studies, Intégral, Theory and Practice, Journal of Schenkerian Studies (2013), and Music Theory and Analysis. His books include Expressive Forms in Brahms’s Instrumental Music: Structure and Meaning in His Werther Quartet (2005) and the collection Expressive Intersections in Brahms: Essays in Analysis and Meaning (2012).


Programme 2018–19

17 October 2018: Peter H. Smith (University of Notre Dame) on form in Mendelssohn

7 November 2018: Leah Broad (Christ Church, Oxford) on analysing theatre music

21 November 2018: Richard Widdess (SOAS) on the analysis of music from South Asia

13 February 2019: Julian Horton (Durham University), topic tbc

27 February 2019: Emily Tan (Merton College, Oxford) on analysing late Strauss


Further details, titles and abstracts will be published here shortly.