AMSGNY Meetings


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.

Abstracts for Spring Meeting

Music and Other Arts

Victoria Aschheim: Seeing Different Trains through Walter Benjamin and Photography

Steve Reich’s Different Trains (1988) responded to the aporia surrounding art that remembers the Holocaust; in his sketchbook, housed at the Paul Sacher Stiftung, Reich frames the work as history-writing. By reading Different Trains and its sketches through concepts of photography in three essays by Walter Benjamin, whose ideas have not entered the discourse on Different Trains, I address the terms of history, remembrance, and re-experience with which Reich frames Different Trains, and connect those terms to the work’s identity as a product of technical media. Using Reich’s sketches, not investigated by other scholarship, I argue that Different Trains’ compositional process is an analog to photographic technology that engenders historical memory. My paper provides a framework for understanding Reich’s method of recalling historical trauma. Different Trains’ sketches are a link between Reich’s postmodern inscription of language and Benjamin’s conception of history as event and image.


Jeff Dailey: Sullivan on the Titanic


Although Arthur Sullivan died twelve years before the Titanic sank in 1912, his influence was felt on the doomed liner. This paper looks at the connection between Sullivan and Wallace Hartley, the Titanic's band leader, and the music played on board during the fateful voyage.


Performance Practice

Jane Hettrick: Musical Treatment of the text Sub tuum praesidium in Connection with Marian Worship in Viennese Liturgical Practice of the Eighteenth Century


Sub tuum praesidium (under thy protection) is believed to be the oldest Christian prayer offered to the Virgin Mary. Originally in Greek, this text appeared first in an Egyptian papyrus dating from between A.D. 250 and 280. Of great theological importance, it sets forth the concept of Theotokos (God-bearer or Mother of God). Probably the work of the Greek church father Origen (known for his controversial doctrine of “universal salvation”), it entered the Roman rite in Latin translation around 870. The long history and great number of compositions based on Sub tuum mirror important changes in the theological view of Mary (Mariology). Musical settings flourished in 17th- and 18th-century Austrian practice, when the cult of Mary rose to renewed prominence, and the Habsburg court celebrated numerous Marian feasts. My paper will examine the various ways that this text functioned liturgically and demonstrate how certain composers represented the Mariology of their time.

David Hurwitz: Vibrato, the Orchestral Organ and the ‘Prevailing Aesthetic’ in Nineteenth-Century Symphonic Music


The absence of recorded evidence does not pose quite the insurmountable barrier to ascertaining certain aspects of period performance practice as we may have been led to believe. This is particularly true in the case of orchestral vibrato in the 19th century. One group of performers and composers--the organists--not only discussed the subject in detail, they indicated in their orchestral transcriptions of specific works whether vibrato was used, how frequently, and to what degree of intensity. In this study, original source material provides a vivid picture of true period performance practice, while meticulously preserved and restored instruments allow us to hear the same sounds as did period listeners.

Problems with Text

Lawrence Ferrara: “The Amount of Music Copied in Copyright Litigations: How Much Is Too Much?"


Music copyright infringement claims are directed at sound recordings and/or the musical compositions embodied in those sound recordings. A key question for musicians is “how much is too much”, i.e., how much copying represents copyright infringement?


James Newton, a noted jazz flutist, sued the group, Beastie Boys, for their use of a six-second “sample” from Newton’s composition, “Choir.” The presenter, Lawrence Ferrara, was the music expert on behalf of the defendants. Olly Wilson (Professor of Music Composition at UC Berkeley) and Christopher Dobrian (Professor of Music Composition at UC Irvine) were the music experts on behalf of the plaintiff, James Newton. A discussion of the legal and musicological implications of this landmark case answers “how much copying is too much?” and “how much is not too much?” within the context of Newton v. Diamond.

Andrew Unger: Recollection, Inner Feelings, and Actuality: Exploring Text and Music in A Child of our Time


On November 8-9, 1938, Jewish communities throughout Germany and Austria were put to ruin by Nazi paramilitary groups and civilian instigators alike, during what became known as Kristallnacht. The pretext cited by Adolph Hitler for this anti-Semitic pogrom was the assassination of a Nazi Party diplomat, Ernst vom Rath, by a seventeen-year-old Polish Jew, Herschel Grynszpan.


For the former schoolteacher and young choral conductor Michael Tippett, Grynszpan was both a martyr and a moral singularity. The competing personae of a young hero and a convicted murderer inspired Tippett to simplify and universalize the pacifist message of his emerging oratorio, A Child of Our Time. Through the left-leaning sentiments expressed in the piece, Tippett lent a unique voice to the international public conversation. In this paper, I will explore his fusion of texts ranging from war poetry to the African American folk idiom with music blurring the line between the modern and the traditional.




Nineteenth Century Topics
Catherine Ludlow: "Ancient wonders reappear in moonlight": Nighttime in Robert Schumann's Text Settings


While Robert Schumann explores a number of natural subjects in his text settings, nighttime is of central importance: many compositions feature stories set in the evening hours, or contain important allusions to the moon, stars, and nocturnal animals.

Many of Schumann’s night-themed works are from his Liederjahr. After 1840, Schumann highlights nighttime less frequently, but it remains central to the Nachtlied, Szenen aus Goethes Faust, and Manfred. These later works demonstrate enduring ideas of night—of its literary importance and appropriate musical representation—that Schumann developed early in his career.

While a small number of his night-themed compositions involve morbid tales, the vast majority are positive, contemplative, and even soothing. Schumann’s literary and compositional choices can create meanings for night quite different from those found in the original sources. This paper explores the place and prominence of nighttime in Schumann’s text settings, examining the changing cultural conception of night, as well as Schumann’s literary influences, text selection, and musical realization.


Styra Avins: Brahms in the Wittgenstein Homes


Johannes Brahms, averse to formal attire and formal occasions, the darling of the super-wealthy Viennese Wittgensteins? Really? "Brahms in the Wittgenstein Homes" is based on a number of previously unknown Wittgenstein family letters and a memoir written by a member of the family who knew him from her childhood. What they had in common was not just music.

Spring 2014 Meeting

The spring meeting will take place at New York University on April 26th. The location is room 220 in the Silver Center of Arts and Science, which used to be called Main Building--100 Washington Square East. http://www.nyu.edu/footer/map.html


12-1 Music and Other Arts
Victoria Aschheim: Seeing Different Trains through Walter Benjamin and Photography
Jeff Dailey: Sullivan on the Titanic

1-2 Performance Practice
Jane Hettrick: Musical Treatment of the text Sub tuum praesidium in Connection with Marian Worship in Viennese Liturgical Practice of the Eighteenth Century
David Hurwitz: Vibrato, the Orchestral Organ and the ‘Prevailing Aesthetic’ in Nineteenth-Century Symphonic Music

2-3 Break and Business Meeting

3-4 Problems with Text
Lawrence Ferrara: “The Amount of Music Copied in Copyright Litigations: How Much Is Too Much?"
Andrew Unger: Recollection, Inner Feelings, and Actuality: Exploring Text and Music in A Child of our Time

4-5 Nineteenth Century Topics
Catherine Ludlow: "Ancient wonders reappear in moonlight": Nighttime in Robert Schumann's Text Settings
Styra Avins: Brahms in the Wittgenstein Homes




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