AMSGNY Meetings


Abstracts for Spring Meeting


Harmonizing the Fantastical: The Familiar and Unfamiliar in Howard Shore’s
 The Lord of the Rings
Vincent Rone 

Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings film score features thematic material for numerous characters and places. Although authors have discoursed primarily on thematic and pitch relationships, I discuss the score’s harmony. Shore, I argue, tapped into 19th-century compositional traditions to distinguish Hobbits, Elves, and Dwarves. Hobbits, the most relatable and “familiar” races, receive “familiar” harmony, tonality. The unfamiliar races of Elves and Dwarves, however, receive “unfamiliar” triadic harmony, third rotations and so-called “polytonality.” The latter techniques suggest 19th-century practices of signifying the fantastical in music, and Shore extends this tradition in scoring the races and the lands of Middle Earth.



Immersion into Fantasy: Compositional Techniques of Video Game Music from the Late 80s and Early 90s
Christopher Hopkins
The fictional worlds within video games are realized through music, audio cues, and visuals. The experience of playing out these fantasies is most compelling when the music aligns with the dynamic shifts in mood and tension caused by player actions.

The musical tracks composed for games on the Nintendo Entertainment System in the late 80s and early 90s establish trends and characteristics still associated with video game music. Audio limitations, visual content of games, and gameplay elements promote creativity in video game music composers. The diversity of sonorities and musical patterns within the scope of primitive sound chips is a result of technical ingenuity through collaborations of composers and sound programmers. The game soundtracks from the Sunsoft company during the late 80s are examples of such abilities, exhibiting properties like reverberation, simultaneous sounds, and repitched instrument samples. Such properties back then were technical feats, but today are easy to implement and expected by composers.

​The pursuit of the composer complements the player by creating a convincing and appropriate musical backdrop. This aids in the total immersion of the player in the game-generated world. 



The Tempest in Opera from the Eighteenth Century to Thomas Adès
William Germano
Operatically speaking, The Tempest is the most popular of all Shakespeare’s plays.  But why? This talk explores how composers made their way to Shakespeare’s island and what they found once they got there.


Shakespeare’s The Tempest:  Music, Structure, and Fantasy
Ren Draya
This paper traces the nine-scene structure of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and reveals a symmetry that parallels musical composition.   The play’s strong elements of fantasy are emphasized in the music and magical sounds of The Tempest:  I shall discuss individual songs, instrumental pieces, the sumptuous Act IV masque, and a range of dramatic “noises.”   The Tempest is a romance whose continued popularity is proven by its many productions and adaptations over the years.

Spring Meeting--April 25th 2015 at The Juilliard School

The Spring  Meeting will take place on Saturday, April 25th, at the Juilliard School at Lincoln Center.  The theme for the meeting is Music and Fantasy.  We will also feature a panel discussion on changes in music delivery and reception, featuring speakers on copyright, recording, live performance, and entrepreneurship.  


12-1  Fantasy and Media
Harmonizing the Fantastical: The Familiar and Unfamiliar in Howard Shore’s The Lord of the Rings
Vincent Rone (UC Santa Barbara)

Immersion into Fantasy: Compositional Techniques of Video Game Music from the Late 80s and Early 90s
Christopher Hopkins (Five Towns College)

1-2 Panel Discussion—Changes in Music Delivery and Reception in the 21st Century
Panelists:  David Cohen (Institute of Audio Research), Lawrence Ferrara (NYU), Philip Nuzzo (Metro Chamber Orchestra), Benjamin Sosland (Juilliard)

2:15-3:15  The Tempest
The Tempest in Opera from the Eighteenth Century to Thomas Adès
William Germano (Cooper Union)

The Tempest: Its Structure and Music
Ren Draya (Blackburn College)

3:15-4:15  Business Meeting, Elections, Reception


Abstracts for Winter Meeting

Ryan Taussig: Of Soldiers and Second Prologues: Early Comic Relief as Interpretive Frame in Claudio Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea


Opera in seventeenth-century Venice existed in a symbiotic relationship with the political atmosphere of its time. Most prominently, opera frequently served to bolster the Myth of Venice, a legendary origin story that links Venice to the ancient Roman Republic, and viewpoints proffered by the Accademia degli Incogniti, an influential intellectual institution. Following the examples of Ellen Rosand and Wendy Heller, I position L'incoronazione di Poppea as Incogniti propaganda. However, rather than offering a hermeneutic analysis of major dramatic characters, this paper focuses on the role of two minor comic characters, the soldiers from scene 1.2. Through a close reading that incorporates textual and musical analysis, I demonstrate that the soldiers, despite their minor role, convey an important ideological message to the audience that frames the entire opera.


Joseph Salem: Why isn’t anyone laughing? Humor in Pierre Boulez’s Penser la musique aujourd’hui


Why isn’t anyone laughing? Humor in Pierre Boulez’s Penser la musique aujourd’hui While few would deny Pierre Boulez has a healthy sense of humor, most would not associate the composer’s writings or works with this disposition. In my paper, I discuss how humor plays an important role in Boulez’s critique of contemporary practices in his monograph Penser la musique aujourd’hui, as well as how his sardonic critiques may reveal some deeper aesthetic struggles faced by the composer during the late 1950s.


Sharon Mirchandani: Humor through Biphasic Sequence in Prokofiev’s “Ridicolosamente”


What does the old W.C Fields’ joke about clubs for young people tell us about humor in musical structure? This paper analyzes Prokofiev’s “Ridicolosamente” using psychologist Thomas R. Schultz’s “biphasic sequence” to find out!


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1:30-3:00
Mimi Lekic: Winking it – Humor in Claude Debussy’s La Boîte à joujoux


In his final and most unusual ballet La Boîte à joujoux (1913), Debussy delights in surprising, imitating, quoting, exaggerating and parodying, combining pure musical humor with references to the classical canon, as well as to children’s, folk and popular tunes little known to today’s audiences, especially outside France.


David Hurwitz: Héraclius Djabadary—a “Perfect Storm” of Awfulness


Bad music, bad performance, bad packaging and presentation--a "perfect storm" of awfulness. In this discussion, Goerogian composer Héraclius Djabadary's abysmal Piano Concerto in A asks the musical question: How do we decide what terrible music really is, and why do we so often find bad music funny?


Joe Drew: From Caged Birds to Camel Dung: A survey of humor in Karlheinz Stockhausen’s music


Most audiences and analysts do not associate Stockhausen with laughter, but he was an incorrigible cutup. Traces of the composer’s impishness can be found in even his earliest works. Humor is such an important leavening force in Stockhausen’s music that he sometimes treats it as a parameter subject to serial control.


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3:15-4:45
Jordan Stokes: Garbo Laughs! Garbo... Emotes! Music, Humor, and the Golden-Age Comedy Soundtrack


Humor is an experiential phenomenon, comedy is a genre. Prior research has demonstrated that film music can be funny, but as of yet there is no adequate theorization of music's role in film comedies. Careful attention to the scores reveals that, in fact, funny music appears only rarely in the Hollywood comedy. But if the music in comedies isn't funny, what purpose does it serve? To ask the same question in a different way: do comedies have a purpose other than simply making us laugh? These questions will be addressed through a reading of Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotchka.


Reba Wissner: Hearing That Old Black Magic: Humor and Fred Steiner’s Score for The Twilight Zone’s “The Bard” (1963)


Of the seven original scores Fred Steiner composed for The Twilight Zone, only one, an hour-long episode called “The Bard,” was a comedy. The episode concerns a failed screenwriter who, through black magic, accidentally conjures up William Shakespeare to be his ghostwriter. “The Bard” contains both music that is meant to be funny—Steiner’s original cues—and those that are not intended as funny but are, when paired with the episode’s context and camerawork. The purpose of this paper will examine the way that Steiner’s music developed from his early television underscores for comedies and how they function here, and how music that is unintentionally funny, when placed in the right places, can successfully function as comic underscore. I will show that when used together, the music carries a television comedy that otherwise falls flat.


S. Alexander Reed: They Might Be Giants’ Flood and Post-Coolness


They Might Be Giants has been categorized in rock media variously as “geek rock” or as a novelty act, but the fervency and seriousness of fan discourse over their music belies these categorizations. In theorizing the band's curious endurance and navigation of the tragicomic, this paper looks at how their iconic 1990 LP Flood offered its young audiences a way to understand themselves wholly outside pop's traditional equations of authenticity, sexuality, and coolness. Released at a cultural turning point in geek identity, Flood might be most productively be considered "post-cool."

Program for Winter Meeting--Funny Music


The winter meeting will take place on January 24th at Columbia University. Note the slightly earlier start time.

It will be held in room 622 Dodge, which is where we have met in past gatherings at Columbia.

You will need to enter from College Walk, up the steps, to the left, into the main door of Dodge, which is actually on the third floor above campus level. There will be student from Columbia in the lobby to let you in and to direct you to the right floor.

11:30-1:00
Ryan Taussig: Of Soldiers and Second Prologues: Early Comic Relief as Interpretive Frame in Claudio Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea

Joseph Salem: Why isn’t anyone laughing? Humor in Pierre Boulez’s Penser la musique aujourd’hui

Sharon Mirchandani: Humor through Biphasic Sequence in Prokofiev’s “Ridicolosamente”
***

1:30-3:00
Mirna Lekic: Winking it – Humor in Claude Debussy’s La Boîte à joujoux

David Hurwitz: Héraclius Djabadary—a “Perfect Storm” of Awfulness

Joe Drew: From Caged Birds to Camel Dung: A survey of humor in Karlheinz Stockhausen’s music
***

3:15-4:45
Jordan Stokes: Garbo Laughs! Garbo... Emotes! Music, Humor, and the Golden-Age Comedy Soundtrack

Reba Wissner: Hearing That Old Black Magic: Humor and Fred Steiner’s Score for The Twilight Zone’s “The Bard” (1963)

S. Alexander Reed: They Might Be Giants’ Flood and Post-Coolness

The AMSGNY is thankful to the Music Department at Columbia for offering to co-host the meeting.




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