AMSGNY Meetings

Winter 2018 Meeting Schedule

Location: Columbia University Department of Music (Dodge Hall)
Date: January 27, 2018

Lynette Bowring (Rutgers University): Musicking or Musical Work? The Passamezzo from Improvised Formula to Composition

Liu Ye (Columnist for the Chinese Monthly Musical Instrument): The Piano Art in China since the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and the Beginning of the “Reform and Open Policy”

Luca Levi Sala (New York University): Muzio Clementi’s Output Beyond England: Dissemination, Issues of Authenticity and Textual Problems in Vienna (1787-1799)


Panel: Music and Leadership

Danielle Bastone (Music in Gotham): The Sublimity of Dussek's Suffering Queen of France

Heather Platt (Ball State University): “A Novel Affair”:  The Establishment of Lieder Recitals in 19th Century America

Reuben Phillips (Princeton University): Brahms as Reader: Examining the Young Kreisler’s Treasure Chest

Jon Churchill (Duke University): A Second Battlefield: Semantic Exchange in Vaughan Williams’s London and Pastoral Symphonies

Winter 2018 Meeting Abstracts

Lynette Bowring (Rutgers University): Musicking or Musical Work? The Passamezzo from Improvised Formula to Composition

Formulaic patterns such as the ciaccona, romanesca, or bergamasca frequently structured compositions in the early 1600s. Many of these formulas originated in the previous century, when—to use Christopher Small’s term—they could be considered as vehicles for “musicking,” rather than unique musical works. Scholars have identified these formulas in many pieces, and analysts have suggested that adaptations of these harmonic patterns also underpinned compositions in less audible ways. Nevertheless, there remain important questions to ask about the roles that these formulas played in musical life, and how they relate to issues of ontology and creativity in this period. Using the passamezzo as a case study, I argue that the increasing prevalence of these formulas in notated compositions marked changing attitudes towards creativity and individuality in the early seventeenth century, and that this change in the fundamental nature of the formula allowed composers to consider their compositions as artistic creations from individual minds.

Liu Ye (Columnist for the Chinese monthly Musical Instrument): The Piano Art in China since the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and the Beginning of the “Reform and Open Policy”

Today China has about 30 million people who are learning the piano. This enormous interest in the piano has led to China’s current notable strengths in the classical music field.  It is based, in part, on a “spiritual hunger” that arose since World War II. For many years before 1976 classical music was absent, creating a cultural “vacuum.” Music is a spiritual necessity for people; thus, after three decades of constraint, the need for appreciating and playing music was suddenly being met. In addition, there was the issue of fulfilling the hopes of Chinese parents, particularly the parents born before the 1970s who rarely had the chance to study classical music. When their social situation improved, the parents strongly wanted their children to meet their dreams. And finally, there is the “role model effect” observed in recent years. There are great young pianists such as Lang Lang, Wang Yuja, and Zhang Haochen performing actively around the world. Many children who study piano admire them, and see them as role models.

Luca Levi Sala (New York University) : Muzio Clementi’s Output Beyond England: Dissemination, Issues of Authenticity and Textual Problems in Vienna (1787-1799)

Between 1780 and 1820 Clementi’s output circulated widely throughout continental Europe. His works were reissued by numerous French publishers, including Bailleux, Imbault, Castaud and Porro, Boyer, Sieber and Pleyel and also reprinted and redistributed by many others. The same can be said of the publishing networks encompassing German speaking countries, including Artaria, Torricella, Mollo, and Hoffmeister, Kühnel, Peters, Schott, and so forth. Clementi is likely to have been one of the most frequently and widely published foreign composers in Vienna during the last quarter of the eighteenth century and Artaria was probably Clementi’s most frequent publisher.

In this talk I will examine a great number of editions issued before 1800 by Artaria, whose output exemplifies the widespread dissemination of Clementi’s work among publishers that operated mainly throughout Paris, Leipzig, Offenbach, Mannheim and Vienna. Examination of these facilitates an increased understanding of the process by which errors, erroneous readings and variants were inherited in Artaria’s Clementi editions, raising doubts about the quality of the text eventually transmitted and performed.

Danielle Bastone (Music in Gotham): The Sublimity of Dussek's Suffering Queen of France

In the late summer of 1793, the London press provided almost daily accounts of Marie Antoinette’s captivity and trial. Concern for her welfare and repugnance at the accusers who compromised it became regular topics in the columns about France, as did English support for the Queen’s absolution. News of the regicide in October accordingly elicited fresh condemnations of the sanguinary French leaders and an exaltation of their former monarch, who, it was incessantly reported, met her unjust fate with dignity.

Within weeks of the guillotine’s fall, virtuoso pianist and composer Jan Ladislav Dussek published a new piece in London for solo piano titled The Sufferings of the Queen of France. Each of the work’s ten movements would depict a stage of the Queen’s demise, beginning with her imprisonment and culminating with her apotheosis. The piece belongs to a body of English music written in response to Marie Antoinette’s ruination, much of which unabashedly commercialized the execution for a staunchly monarchist public. Yet beneath its own commercial exterior, The Sufferings sets itself apart from other music of its kind. Dussek’s musical and narrative choices portray the Queen not as a figure to be pitied, but rather as a sublime heroine.

Heather Platt (Ball State University): “A Novel Affair”:  The Establishment of Lieder Recitals in 19th Century America

In 1898 Max Heinrich recalled “Why, twelve years ago I could not get even my friends in America to listen to Schubert and Schumann songs”;  and  he repeatedly claimed he was responsible for introducing the American public to Lieder.  Heinrich, a German immigrant, was known for recitals that had the aura of gentleman's club; he sat at the piano singing,  playing and talking to the audience. I examine his claims by tracing the genesis of Lieder recitals in America to their establishment in the 1880s.  Although scholars of the transatlantic transfer of German music have ignored Lieder, singers in America, such as Heinrich, belonged to the network of proponents of the other German genres.

Reuben Phillips (Princeton University): Brahms as Reader: Examining the Young Kreisler’s Treasure Chest

One of the most fascinating sources of information about Johannes Brahms’s early artistic inclinations is a collection of quotations, aphorisms and poems known as Des jungen Kreislers Schatzkästlein. Comprising four notebooks, the Schatzkästlein, or treasure chest, was begun by Brahms in his native city of Hamburg with the majority of subsequent entries added by the mid-1850s. Titled in homage to E. T. A. Hoffmann’s fictional character of Johannes Kreisler, these notebooks provide evidence of the young Brahms’s voracious consumption of German literature. For his biographer Max Kalbeck, the entries seemed to provide the key to Brahms’s “innermost being”. The Deutsche Brahms Gesellschaft published an edition of notebooks in 1909, but despite this and, in recent decades, the presence of an English translation, the Schatzkästlein has rarely been subjected to scholarly scrutiny.

Drawing on surviving primary source materials housed in Vienna, including the last of the four notebooks and Brahms’s library inventories, this paper provides a critical account of the Schatzkästlein in the context of Brahms’s youthful passion for borrowing and buying books. Which sources did Brahms turn to in harvesting the poems, aphorisms and quotations? What ideas about music, art and society do the entries articulate? And how does the aesthetic world-view of the Schatzkästlein relate to that of Brahms’s mentor Robert Schumann? In pondering these issues, I consider the notebooks variously as a document of Brahms’s self-directed education, an expression of his high aesthetic ideals, and as a kind of secular psalter that was integral to the development of his distinctive musical sensibility.

Jon Churchill (Duke University): A Second Battlefield: Semantic Exchange in Vaughan Williams’s London and Pastoral Symphonies

As a stretcher bearer in WWI, Ralph Vaughan Williams survived events that fundamentally altered his personal life and later works. The clearest musical changes emerge in A London Symphony (1912), begun before the war and edited during, and the Pastoral Symphony (1921), a work first conceived on the Western Front. While the latter work earned the moniker “Vaughan Williams’s War Requiem,” the trenches’ effects first appear in the edits to A London Symphony. There, the composer deletes a gesturally-rich section named “Nocturne” that contains three features common throughout his larger oeuvre: sarabande rhythms, harmonic stasis, and arch-shaped interruptive gestures. Pages of near silence take their place.

The features’ reappearance in the Pastoral reveals their traumatic associations and suggests a protective drive behind their removal. By engaging Vaughan Williams’s own remarks, semiotics, and traditional analysis, this work is the first to illuminate the psychological links between musical gestures and physical experiences that motivated Vaughan Williams’s sweeping edits.

This multifaceted approach uncovers specific changes in Vaughan William’s compositional language and their causes. Both discoveries stand to reveal much about the workings of a sparsely-researched figure, his puzzling later works, and his relationship with one of humanity’s darkest periods.

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" and jonathan.waxman "at"  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 ( "“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.   

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