AMSGNY Meetings


Winter 2018 Meeting CFP

Our winter meeting will take place on Saturday, January 27th at Columbia University.  There is no theme for this meeting, but there will be a grand piano in the room, which you may wish to use in your presentations.

Send 250 word proposals by November 1st to both DrJSDailey "at" aol.com and jonathan.waxman "at" gmail.com.  Please put "AMSGNY Winter 2017" in the subject line, and include your name, affiliation, e mail, and phone numbers in your e mail.  Please do not send attachments, but include your proposal and other information in the body of the e mail.

Fall 2017 Meeting Abstracts

Composers and Music Critics

Beverly Jerold (Princeton, NJ) - “Beethoven Reception as Affected by Performance”

While historically-informed performances of Beethoven’s music seem to imply that early musicians were as well equipped as we to handle his rhythmic and harmonic complexity, critics in the press at that time indicate otherwise. Matters that technology has made child’s play for us—such as good intonation and rhythmic stability—were enormous barriers for most musicians. From critics in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung and elsewhere, we learn about various performers and ensembles, including Ignaz Schuppanzigh, Beethoven’s friend and the violinist/leader considered by some as best able to convey the spirit of his music.

Bruce MacIntyre (Brooklyn College) - “Debussy as Critic:  Crystal Ball for the 20th Century?”

As an homage to next year’s centennial of Claude Debussy’s death, this paper begins to reassess the composer’s critical writings to elucidate what new perspectives they offer us in retrospect today about the twentieth century -- its historiography and aesthetic approaches.  Using Debussy’s own words, significant quotations from his letters and articles will be cited to demonstrate the rich variety of the composer’s views.  For example, one notes his perceptive appraisal of “modern” music, his approach to composition (and what he suggests to young composers), his constant search for what was new (“the dust of the past is not always respectable”), his impressively multifaceted intellect and artistic sensitivity regarding things musical, artistic, poetic, and dramatic, his cautiously critical respect for the “Masters” of music,  his pessimism about the Conservatoire (“where the dust of unhealthy traditions still sticks to the fingers”) and about music critics (“a critic rarely loves what he has to talk about”), his anti-German aesthetic, his views of music critics (“lamentably misinformed”), his high expectations from performers,  conductors, and music editors/publishers, and his enthusiastic concern for preserving folk music.

Through Debussy’s words, one sees how the intellectually gifted but highly opinionated composer was remarkably realistic and even prescient about the musical world during the astoundingly diverse and productive century that followed his death.

Sasha Metcalf (Brooklyn Academy of Music) - "How Critic Robert Brustein Positioned Philip Glass as the Future of American Theater"

Robert Brustein was part of a milieu of theater critics who wanted alternatives to the commercialism of Broadway and the realism of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. In 1980, he put his aesthetic vision into practice by founding the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) at Harvard University, which became known for unconventional music theater at a time when U.S. opera companies produced few new works. Philip Glass in particular appealed to Brustein because of his connections to avant-garde theater, including collaborations with the performance group Mabou Mines and auteur-director Robert Wilson. Tracing correspondence and interviews, I show how Brustein promoted Glass through his writings and provided the composer’s first U.S. opera commissions. This unlikely pairing of critic and composer highlights the tension between Brustein’s desire to espouse collaboration between theater artists—playwrights, directors, composers, and an acting company—and his idolization of Glass as a singular artist.

Keynote Address

David Hurwitz (ClassicsToday.com) "“Acidy” Cassidy and the Birth of the Modern Record Review: 1942-1950"

The period from 1942-50 was momentous for the recording industry. Technological advances led to the invention of the long-playing record (“LP”), and the medium became the primary means of music consumption in the home, a true mass-market product. Adapting to this trend, music critics at major newspapers began devoting increasing time and attention to reviewing recordings. None did this more enthusiastically or successfully than the Chicago Tribune’s theater, opera, and music critic Claudia Cassidy (1900-96). Of all the American critics at major city newspapers, perhaps none was as feared (and reviled) by performers, yet beloved by her readers, as Cassidy. Her acerbic wit and “take no prisoners” style quickly earned her the nickname “Acidy Cassidy.” Cassidy’s reviews, in fact, reveal her as a consummate professional with a genuine gift for crafting a memorable phrase. This ability appears most tellingly in her record reviews--short pieces where she conveys information swiftly, entertainingly, and emphatically in just a few lines. She had the true popular touch, and this made her an ideal exponent of recordings at a time when the newly invented LP forever changed the way listeners experienced music.

Music Criticism and Fascism

Luca Lévi Sala (New York University) "Cultural Purification: Musical Autarchy and Antisemitism in Italian Music Criticism of the 1930s"

During the 1930s many non-specialized journals came into being or were developed, following closely the debates regarding the evolution of ‘new’ music, according to the paradigms and the needs of the increasingly autarchic strategies in Fascist Culture. As a parallel, what was it that the specialized newspapers, that took the side mainly of intellectuals, composers, music critics and amateurs.

Karen Uslin (Rowan University) - "Critiques Under the Gallows: The Music Criticisms of Viktor Ullmann"

Austrian journalist Karl Kraus once asked: “Is the press a messenger?” He answered his own question with the following: “No, it is the event. Is it a speech? No: life.” In the field of music criticism, the musical event being reviewed and the speech surrounding it often intersect in a conglomerate of politics, religion, aesthetics and the society surrounding the event. Yet a question remains: what happens when this confluence occurs in some of the worst conditions humanity offers?  Between 1943 and 1944, in the Terezin concentration camp, composer Viktor Ullmann wrote twenty-six critiques reviewing music and theater performances that occurred in the camp. Despite the fact that these performers suffered from starvation, disease, and the constant threat of being deported to Auschwitz, Ullmann critiqued each performance as if it was taking place in a major venue in Europe. In addition to reviewing performances, Ullmann also wrote about his personal views on music: his ideas about the state of music, his philosophical leanings on the subject, even his opinions on the history of music. What message is Ullmann attempting to convey by using pre-war critical standards in a concentration camp?

Evolution of Twentieth-Century Music Criticism

Jonathan Waxman (Hofstra University) -  "Music Critics as Program Note Annotators for Early Twentieth-Century American Orchestra"

We typically view the music critic as an individual whose purpose is to write reviews of performances for daily newspapers. However, in the early twentieth century these critics also shaped the analytical program note into the piece of writing we receive in the concert hall today. This paper will examine the contributions three early twentieth-century annotator/critics had in standardizing the form of the concert program note.

Georg Burgstaller (RILM) - "Damages: Heinrich Schenker's Reception as a Key to His Views on Music Criticism"

Among Schenker’s abundant views on society cleansed from publications in the course of the dissemination of his theory in the United States, his attacks on music critics count as one of the most neglected by scholars: Not merely a by-product of the rough-and-tumble of music criticism in early-20th-century Vienna, Schenker’s polemics correspond with a ream of unpublished writings on this subject in his archive. Rather than offering an apology for his diatribes against the profession, I will look at the impact of the reception of his publications on his assessments, emphasizing not only the social workings of music criticism but also the link between criticism and the human need to destroy—even in “constructive” criticism, in which aggression is obscured by semantics.

Solomon Guhl-Miller (Rutgers University) - "How we got out of Critical Music Criticism and Why We Should Get Back into it"

Is criticism today part of the reason that interest in new music is waning?  If so it isn't because of a conservative press spouting opposition to the music of the future, which had been the norm in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but of a press apathetic toward what composers are trying to do and displaying equal interest, or lack thereof, to all types of music. This paper proposes an alternative to this type of criticism.   

Fall 2017 Meeting Schedule

Music Critics and Composers (11AM-12:30PM)

Beverly Jerold (Princeton, NJ) “Beethoven Reception as Affected by Performance”

Bruce MacIntyre (Brooklyn College) - “Debussy as Critic:  Crystal Ball for the 20th Century?”

Sasha Metcalf (Brooklyn Academy of Music) - "How Critic Robert Brustein Positioned Philip Glass as the Future of American Theater"

Lunch (12:30-1:00)

Keynote Address (1:00-1:30)

David Hurwitz (ClassicsToday.com) "“Acidy” Cassidy and the Birth of the Modern Record Review: 1942-1950"

Music Criticism and Fascism (1:45-2:45)

Luca Lévi Sala (New York University) "Cultural Purification: Musical Autarchy and Antisemitism in Italian Music Criticism of the 1930s"

Karen Uslin (Rowan University) - "Critiques Under the Gallows: The Music Criticisms of Viktor Ullmann"

Evolution of Twentieth-Century Music Criticism (3PM-4:30PM)

Jonathan Waxman (Hofstra University) -  "Music Critics as Program Note Annotators for Early Twentieth-Century American Orchestra"

Georg Burgstaller (RILM) - "Damages: Heinrich Schenker's Reception as a Key to His Views on Music Criticism"

Solomon Guhl-Miller (Rutgers University) - "How we got out of Critical Music Criticism and Why We Should Get Back into it"

Fall 2017 Meeting CFP

For our Fall meeting, we will look at music criticism--past, present, and future.  The meeting will take place on Saturday, September 23rd, at the AMS national office at NYU.

We invite proposals on any aspect of music criticism.

Send 200-300 word proposals by September 1, 2017 to both DrJSDailey@aol.com and jonathan.waxman@gmail.com.

Follow these guidelines:

1.  Put "AMSGNY Fall Meeting" in the subject line
2.  Include your name, address, phone number, e mail address in the e mail
3.  Do not include attachments; put your proposal in the e mail
4.  Make sure your proposal clearly states what YOU will be discussing--too many proposals are mostly summaries of other people's research
5.  Explain how your topic fits into the meeting's theme

If you are not an AMSGNY member, you may submit a proposal; you will need to become a member prior to the meeting.

This is the first of a number of exciting events the Greater New York Chapter has planned for this year.




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