AMSGNY Meetings


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.

Fall 2014 Meeting "Unusual Music"

The Fall Meeting will take place on Saturday, October 18th at the Center for Remembering and Sharing, located at 123 Fourth Avenue in Manhattan.  The Center is located on the second floor.  It is just south of Union Square, between West 12th and 13th Streets.

The meeting will start promptly at noon.  Come a little early for refreshments and socializing; we will also take a break during the meeting.  There will be seven papers:

Isabella d’Este: Patronage, Performance, and the Viola da Gamba
Elizabeth Weinfield

Isabella d'Estes endorsement of the viola da gamba would substantially alter the current of musical composition at the Italian court. This paper will discuss Isabella dEstes interdisciplinary patronage alongside the rapidly changing musical climate of Mantua at the turn of the sixteenth century, and shall reveal that the viola da gamba granted a great patroness the means to perform through her collection.

“The Most Beautiful Lyrical Masterpiece of the Eighteenth Century”:  Antonio Salieri’s Axur, re d’Ormus on the Warsaw Stage (1789-1825)
 Anna Parkitna

Axur, re d’Ormus by Lorenzo da Ponte and Antonio Salieri (premiered in Vienna on January 8, 1788) was one of the most successful operas presented at the National Theater in Warsaw in the years 1789-1825. Introduced by the Italian troupe of Domenico Guardasoni, the work soon became the favorite adaptation in the repertoire of national singers. The success of the Polish version generated excitement for the skill of the young national opera, and was praised most enthusiastically in the writings of Wojciech Bogusławski, the director and promoter of Polish opera.  Bogusławski’s fascination with the new mixed mode inspired him to name Axur, re d’Ormus “the most beautiful lyrical masterpiece of the eighteenth century.” His comments not only shed light on the success of the Polish production, but also provide important evidence regarding the aesthetics of mixed mode opera in the late-eighteenth century. 

The Concerti of Boris Tchaikovsky
Louis Blois

In my talk today, I will focus on the three instrumental concerti that Tchaikovsky wrote between 1964 and 1971, the Cello Concerto, the Violin Concerto, and the Piano Concerto. They are of particular interest in that they represent the outlying extremes to which Tchaikovsky would take his mature idiom. They also take us into the core of the composer’s musical thinking, and offer a glimpse of the essential characteristics of his music.

Gustav Jenner and the Music of Brahms: The Orchestral Serenades
Jacquelyn Sholes

This paper provides the first serious comparison of Gustav Jenner’s only complete orchestral piece, his little-known Serenade in A major (1911-1912), with its most obvious precedents, Brahms’s orchestral serenades. Given Jenner’s unique status as Brahms’s composition student over a period of years, deeper comparison of the two composers’ works should yield insights into the nature and extent of Brahms’s influence as a teacher and into the music of a forgotten composer whom Brahms, in striking exception to his usual practice, deemed worthy of investing so much pedagogical time.

 Parenthetical Sounds in Haydn’s “Distracted” Symphony
Anoosua Mukherjee

The final movement of Haydn’s Symphony No. 60 (1774) opens with an absurd moment: following a short fanfare, the symphony grinds to a halt and the sound of violinists tuning their instruments can be heard. This impromptu “tuning session” concludes after a few bars and the symphony resumes as if nothing unusual had occurred. By bookending this nonsensical interlude with grand sections of composition, Haydn plays something of a joke on his listener. This paper explores Haydn’s use of parenthetical sounds throughout the symphony as moments of comic relief – or sonic exploration – tucked into an otherwise sublime piece of writing. Haydn was well known for his love of humor and spectacle, but here the composer is at his most child-like, undermining the expectations of a tight symphonic form with playful sound exercises and tangents of whimsical exploration.

Mimetic Silence in the Early Eighteenth-Century Comic Intermezzo
 Keith Johnston

The frequent use of silence as a punchline in operatic comedy of the early-eighteenth century poses a unique interpretive problem for a poetics of opera buffa.  Does it suggest that music itself lacks the power to be funny and therefore simply primes the audience to laugh at the real jokes—at the pauses, looks, and exclamations that don’t find expression in the musical score? Or does it do both?  Might music, to paraphrase Falstaff, be not only witty in itself, but the cause that wit is in other men?

“Do You Know How to Play?”: Music, Violence, and Narrative in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)
 Mark Durrand


Italian film director Sergio Leone, most famous for his series of Spaghetti Westerns in the nineteen-sixties, invests his film-worlds with a bizarre musical significance by relating musicality to both the threat and realization of onscreen violence.  Music and mayhem as a conflicting yet conflated pair are woven most finely into the narrative web of Once Upon a Time in the West (1969).  A pithy exchange in the movie encapsulates Leone’s musico-violent program, which, I argue, engenders a cinematic ethic operating at the core of Leone’s film-worlds and the narratives they contain.

Fall 2014 Meeting

The fall meeting will take place on Saturday, October 18th at the Center for Remembering and Sharing in Manhattan.  The address is 123 4th Avenue, between 12th and 13th Streets.  It is just south of Union Square.  The theme will be "unusual music."  You may define that any way you'd like.  E mail proposals to both DrJSDailey@aol.com and jonathan.waxman@gmail.com by September 7th.  Please put "AMSGNY Fall 2014" in the subject line of the e mail.




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