AMSGNY Meetings

Winter 2016 Meeting

The 2016 winter meeting will take place on February 13th at Columbia University. 

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.  Once inside, take the elevator to the sixth floor, make a right and walk to the end of the hallway.

The first four papers, as described below, will be given from noon to 2 PM.  Then we will have a break and a special presentation.  The remaining papers will then go from 3 to 5 PM.

Here are the abstracts for the presentations:

Veiled Muse, Poetic Collaborator: Infusions of Luise Hensel in Wilhelm Müller and Franz Schubert’s Settings of Die schöne Müllerin
Jane Sylvester (Eastman School of Music)

A Liederspiel—a narrative drama, improvised in poetry and song—was a popular diversion within nineteenth century German salons. Poet Wilhelm Müller participated in one such Liederspiel, which inspired the composition of his poetic cycle, Die schöne Müllerin (1820). Infamous for his appropriations of others’ works, Müller wittily reconfigured trite, folkloric tropes to highlight his own novel variations. Many scholars have argued that Goethe’s set of four miller-ballads served as the primary inspiration for this work. However, considering the social and intellectual milieu of the Liederspiel, a practice which fostered the amalgamation of ideas through creative play, I aim to complicate Müller’s unquestioned authorship of Die schöne Müllerin by introducing another author into this picture: his salon colleague, Luise Hensel. 

While Müller’s Liederspiel character was a narcissistic and flirtatious miller, Hensel’s “trouser role” gardener contemplatively wandered in solitude and communicated with nature. From improvisation to final publication, Müller’s miller increasingly took on an introspective identity—quite similar to that of Hensel’s character—as a man disengaged from bourgeois society. In this paper, I analyze Müller’s edits to his Liederspiel poetry and Franz Schubert’s chosen poems from Müller’s cycle for his later setting of Die schöne Müllerin to explore Hensel’s role in creating Müller’s famed miller. By doing so, I ask: what impact did Hensel’s poetic materials, ideas, and relationship with Müller have in creating both of these well-known works?

The Thousand Hurts of Fortunato: Transforming Gender Expectation in Adapting Edgar Allan Poe’s Short Stories into Chamber Operas 
Robert Butts (Montclair State University)

Creating operas based on “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” the protagonists were changed to represent women rebelling against the expectations of female roles.  In the case of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the perception is the protagonist is male, though there are in fact no specific gender references.  In “The Cask of Amontillado,” the idea came when trying to discover just what the thousand hurts may have been that led to the crime.

Ruth Berghaus’s Vision of Wagner in the Frankfurt Ring Cycle (1985-1987)
Alexander K. Rothe (Columbia University)

Ruth Berghaus was one of the greatest female directors of opera and spoken theater in the second half of the twentieth century. Trained as a choreographer under Gret Palucca at the Palucca School in Dresden, she later became famous for her choreographies and stagings at the Berliner Ensemble, where she served as artistic director between 1971 and 1977. Berghaus came to the attention of the opera world with her stagings of her husband Paul Dessau’s operas Die Verurteilung des Lukullus (1960), Puntila (1966), Lanzelot (1969), Einstein (1974), and Leonce und Lena (1979). Today, she is primarily remembered for her groundbreaking productions at the Oper Frankfurt with artistic director and conductor Michael Gielen, in particular Wagner’s Parsifal (1982), Berlioz’s Les Troyens (1983), and Wagner’s Ring cycle (1985-1987). This paper examines Berghaus’s staging of the Ring, which was her final production in Frankfurt. In addition to discussing Berghaus’s vision of Wagner and how she realizes it on the stage, I will consider the circumstances that made it possible for her – a citizen of the German Democratic Republic – to work in Frankfurt, the financial center of West Germany. To what extent is Berghaus’s interpretation of Wagner shaped by the ideology of her homeland? Finally, I highlight Berghaus’s insightful treatment of the female characters in Wagner’s Ring, and examine the relationship between the treatment of these characters and her broader vision of Wagner.

The Dance of Heresy—Music for the Female Pope
Jeff Dailey (Five Towns College)

All of the istampitte in the fourteenth century manuscript British Library Add. 29987 have names, and all of these titles have subsequently been translated or identified, except for one.  In this paper, I will examine the evidence that ties the one hold-out with a medieval abbess who was elected pope.

Reinforcing Femininity: The Outer Limits and The Musical Undermining of Women’s Agency
Reba Wissner (Montclair State University)

The Outer Limits was one of the most progressive television shows of its time in terms of its portrayal of women. This portrayal of women on the small screen was consistent with the general thoughts about women in real life. On the heels of her seminal 1962 book, The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan published a two-part essay in TV Guide in 1963 and 1964 respectively. Friedan resented television’s portrayal of women as a merely “moronic housewife” rather than as an educated woman who works outside the home. Considering that this was the prevailing view of women on television—and, to a certain extent, women in general—of the time, it is no wonder that The Outer Limits’ portrayal of women was so revolutionary. Though women in the series are often portrayed as strong and independent, the composition of musical cues to represent women concretizes the portrayal of the women as feminized object, all while acting the part of obedient wife, daughter, or employee. This paper examines how the portrayal of women in The Outer Limits proves to be in step with the most progressive views on women then available but how at the same time the women in the series are musically scored according to tradition, yet they act in spite of it.

Cold Comfort: Musical Markers of Alterity and the Transmission of Female Agency in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Snegurochka
Martha Sullivan (Rutgers University)

If one makes even a casual habit of attending opera, one quickly notices that female protagonists tend to die grisly deaths, sung to gorgeous music. Audiences watch outsider women die, yet enjoy the spectacle: the horror of death onstage is mitigated by music. How, then, can we assert that these women have any sort of agency? Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1881 opera Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden) treats a character who is the epitome of alterity: Snegurochka is not human but the illicit love-child of Winter and Spring. She strives for human goals, but her story and her music force us to objectify her; we may not even grieve her death. A close analysis of the score clarifies the topoi that mark her alterity. Tracing their appearances throughout the opera offers clues to ways that a character who is first marginalized, then killed (in this case by a ray of sunlight), may be read not as a victim but as a character who asserts musical agency in surprising ways. Analyzing Snegurochka’s unique music will show fresh instances of women’s voices carrying power.

It’s a Man’s World? The Supremes in 1964
John Covach (University of Rochester)

Standard accounts of American popular music usually cast 1964 as the year of the British Invasion—the storming of the US charts by the Beatles, the Animals, and later the Rolling Stones. These UK-based bands were white but with a clear relationship to black pop, and almost exclusively male but with a passion for girl-group hits.  Was American pop in 1964 then exclusively a "man's world."  The success of the Supremes would seem to sound a definitive "no"--but still, it's complicated.

Ursula Mamlok:  The Path to the New Music, 1960-63
Barry Wiener (City University of New York)

Ursula Mamlok (b. 1923) is one of the most renowned composers of her generation. Originally a neoclassicist, she radically changed her approach to composition while studying with Stefan Wolpe and Ralph Shapey during the early 1960s. In this paper, I focus on Mamlok’s creation of a distinctive style, using techniques that she learned from Wolpe and Shapey. 

Fall Meeting at Hunter College--Music and Politics

The Fall Meeting for 2015 will take place on Saturday, October 24th at Hunter College, 695 Park Avenue, NYC 10065.  Go to room 404.  The topic for this meeting is "Music and Politics."  We will be serving a light lunch, compliments of David Hurwitz.

Hunter College is located at 68th Street and Lexington Avenue. Here is a link to directions:

Because of Hunter's new security system, guests are required to enter through the West Building, on the southwest corner of 68th and Lexington. From there, you should take the escalator to the third floor, walk across 68th Street on the enclosed bridge, and turn left into the North Building. You can reach the fourth floor by stairs or elevator. Room 404 is on the west side of the building.

The schedule is as follows:

Session I 12 noon

Eric Hung, Rider University--The History and Politics of Water through Music and Dance: The Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia’s Performance of Turbine

Nathaniel Sloan, Fordham University--Harold Arlen and Tin Pan Politics

Jeff Dailey, Five Towns College--Exploring the Meaning of Utopia, Limited

Lunch 2 PM

Session II 2:30 PM

Barry Wiener, CUNY Graduate Center--“Young Classicality” [Junge Klassizität] and German Cultural Chauvinism

Catherine Coppola, Hunter College--Fear of Feminine Power: Hillary Clinton and the Queen of the Night

David Hurwitz, Vibrato Monologues: Sexual Politics and Expressive String Timbre

Abstracts for Fall Meeting

Eric Hung, Rider University

The History and Politics of Water through Music and Dance:
The Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia’s Performance of Turbine

From 1815 to 1909, the Fairmount Water Works pumped clean water from the Schuykill River to the city of Philadelphia.  A place that combined natural scenery, monumental architecture and state-of-the-art engineering, it was a prime tourist spot throughout the 19th century—a site that inspired numerous writings and paintings. To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Fairmount Water Works, the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia commissioned composer Byron Au Yong and dancer Leah Stein to create a site-specific work entitled Turbine.  Over the course of an hour, four-dozen singers and eight dancers lead the audience from one end of the Water Works to the other, following the flow of the river. This presentation examines how Turbine uses 18th- and 19th-century poetry about Philadelphia, the surrounding natural environment, mimetic gestures and sounds, borrowed music, and artifacts from the turbines to construct an environmental history of Philadelphia. 

Nathaniel Sloan, Fordham University

Harold Arlen and Tin Pan Politics

Harold Arlen's musical output contains scant social commentary, with songs like "I've Got the World on a String" (1931) or "Stormy Weather" (1933) more notable for their bluesy brilliance than their political edge. Still, Arlen wrote such pieces in a locale of heightened racial tension: Harlem's Cotton Club (1923-1936), where Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington performed Arlen compositions, but black clients were not allowed through the club's doors.  This paper explores the uneasy relations between black musicians and Jewish songwriters in interwar New York City.

Jeff Dailey, Five Towns College

 Exploring the Meaning of Utopia, Limited

Utopia, Limited, or the Flowers of Progress was the penultimate collaboration between Arthur Sullivan and William Gilbert.  Not as well-known as the works which preceded it, it explores British institutions in a foreign setting.  Utopia, a kingdom in the South Pacific, seeks to modernize by adopting British ways.  This premise gave Gilbert the opportunity to satirize British government and business policies by breaking them down into their simplest units and presenting them in a foreign setting.  The large scale humor comes from seeing Pacific islanders attempting to become English.  However, there is a violently satirical underpinning to what is happening, and that is what my paper will explore. 

Barry Wiener, CUNY Graduate Center

“Young Classicality” [Junge Klassizität] and German Cultural Chauvinism

During the 1930s, the British composer-critics Cecil Gray and Constant Lambert made extravagant claims on behalf of the music of Jean Sibelius, asserting that he was the world’s greatest symphonist. Both men linked their praise for Sibelius to admiration for continental modernism and a repudiation of cultural nationalism and chauvinism. By tracing their polemic to its origins, I have been able to connect their ideas to Ferruccio Busoni’s thoughts about music history and his speculations about the future of music during the years immediately before and after World War I.

Catherine Coppola, Hunter College

Fear of Feminine Power: Hillary Clinton and the Queen of the Night

The notion of Hillary Clinton as the Queen of the Night may invite knowing nods from those who accept the view of the Queen as a crazed, power-hungry woman, and who see similar representations of Clinton as too obvious for discussion.  I suggest that we have much to learn from the disempowered heroine in the Magic Flute regarding contemporary perceptions of female power. Like the operatic stage, the political arena is full of larger-than-life moments that betray otherwise unspoken biases. I trace connections among Hillary Clinton, Christine Quinn, and Carly Fiorina, and two of Mozart’s women whose strongest feminist statements are almost always cut from contemporary productions: the Queen and Marcellina.
This connection to the treatment of today’s women has not been fully made, as critics focus on the mindset of Mozart and his contemporaries (a mindset that was actually much more nuanced than is commonly recognized) when grappling with misogyny. As I demonstrate in the treatment of American female politicians, rather than luxuriate in our presumed distance from arguably misunderstood 18th–century views, we should see Mozart’s females in the context of an early twenty-first century that is still not ready to accept women as rational beings. 

David Hurwitz,

The Vibrato Monologues: Sexual Politics and Expressive String Timbre

The attitude of nineteenth-century musicians, critics, and other tastemakers towards vibrato reveals a striking level of ambivalence. Among purely musical techniques, vibrato is virtually unique in being linked specifically to the wider dangers of pervasive effeminacy characteristic of a period that embraced a strongly gendered discourse on aesthetics and culture. Exploration of this phenomenon raises interesting questions for proponents of “historically informed” performance. Specifically, this discussion suggests that it is not sufficient to know merely what musicians may have done. We must also know why. Absent the “why,” we cannot make truly musical decisions about what constitutes historically informed performance. Instead, we risk letting irrelevant, ignorant, or even morally repugnant ideas govern our approach both to technique and interpretation.

Nathaniel Sloan, Fordham University

Harold Arlen and Tin Pan Politics

Harold Arlen's musical output contains scant social commentary, with songs like "I've Got the World on a String" (1931) or "Stormy Weather" (1933) more notable for their bluesy brilliance than their political edge. Still, Arlen wrote such pieces in a locale of heightened racial tension: Harlem's Cotton Club (1923-1936), where Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington performed Arlen compositions, but black clients were not allowed through the club's doors.  This paper explores the uneasy relations between black musicians and Jewish songwriters in interwar New York City.

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.

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