AMSGNY Meetings


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

Abstracts for Winter Meeting


Edward Klorman (Juilliard School)

The String Quartet Before the Concert Hall: Did the Players Rehearse?

This paper examines an essay attributed to “Cambini in Paris” entitled “Ausführung der Instrumentalquartetten” (AmZ 1804), in which the author harshly criticizes the practice of playing string quartets at sight and argues passionately for the necessity of serious rehearsal (ernsthafte Studium) in order to move listeners in performances. Although the author claims to have engaged in a youthful six-month period of intensive quartet rehearsals and performances together with Boccherini, Manfredi, and Nardini—an account that many scholars cite as the earliest record of a professional string quartet with fixed personnel (c. 1765)—I argue that the account is unlikely to be true due to its various inconsistencies and the lack of independent corroboration. Nevertheless, the essay is historically significant evidence of changing attitudes about quartet rehearsal and performance as the genre began to migrate from the salon to the concert hall.

William E. Hettrick (Hofstra University)

During the fifty-year period from 1880 to 1930, the piano industry contributed greatly to the economy of New York. Manufacturers, both established and new, built larger and larger factories in parts of the city that offered sufficient space as well as convenient transportation and shipping: eastern Harlem and especially the southernmost section of the Bronx. This paper summarizes this final surge of piano manufacturing by offering a guided tour of historical factories in the area, augmented by maps, pictures and descriptions of significant buildings both surviving and long gone, and a complete check-list of hundreds of companies.

Lynette Bowring (Rutgers University)

“The coming over of the works of the great Corelli:” The influence of Italian violin repertoire in London, 1675–1705

It is widely accepted that English instrumental music of the late seventeenth century was influenced by Italian styles, yet the nature of the influence and the repertoires used as models remain relatively little studied. This paper attempts to reevaluate the violin sonatas published in London around the turn of the eighteenth century through considerations of Italian expatriates working in the city, particularly Nicola Matteis, and of the trade in prints of music by Corelli.

Jordan Stokes (CUNY Graduate Center)

John Graziano (CUNY Graduate Center)
The celebration in Philadelphia for the centennial of the United States was intended to be the major cultural and political event of the 1870s. The country, on the surface, was reunited; it had withstood the intrigues of several European powers; and it was eager to show to the world its intellectual and artistic prowess. While America could not compete with the wealth and history of Europe’s musical establishment, it did possess several first-rank orchestras, and one conductor, Theodore Thomas, who, by the early 70s, was generally considered the best in the country.
Thomas took charge of the fair’s ‘classical’ music. He was certainly involved in choosing the composers who would be commissioned to write celebratory pieces. To buttress the international character of the fair that the planning committee sought to project, he asked Wagner, through the Women’s Centennial Committees, to write an orchestral piece that would be performed at the opening festivities. Wagner agreed to provide a piece appropriate to the occasion.
There has been considerable negative comment on the musical worth of Wagner’s Grand Festival March. Several commentators, for example, have alluded to its alleged triviality and inadequacy, through the anecdote that Wagner expended minimal effort on the piece, took his $5,000 commission award, and laughed all the way to the bank. An examination of the score of the Festival March, however, affords a different view. In this presentation, I discuss the negotiations that led to the commission, I analyze the formal and harmonic structure of the piece, and I speculate on the reasons for the generally negative reception of this little-known work.


Paul Christiansen (University of Southern Maine)

“I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”: How the 1972 Ad “Nixon Now” Changed Political Advertising by Adopting the Musical Style of a Coca-Cola Commercial

By the 1970s, television commercials had all but given up discussing the relative merits of their products or services, instead focusing on lifestyle and other abstractions.  Political advertising followed suit, and “Nixon Now” is a prime example. With this 1972 ad produced by Billy Davis and the November Group, Richard Nixon’s campaign, in a revolutionary move, tapped into the commercial style of Coca-Cola’s ad “Hilltop song,” better known as “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.”

Heather Platt (Ball State University)

“No, Dear Readers, Brahms is Not Married”:  Brahms and his Mädchen

“No, dear readers, Brahms is not married.”  With this sentence Hermann Kretzschmar concluded his 1880 article about Brahms for the popular family magazine Die Gartenlaube.  Despite the composer’s own statement that “poeticizing or music-making females have indeed been a horror to me,” Brahms was well aware of his female fan base, and he acknowledged suppressing lines of poetic texts so that his lieder would be appropriate for “every young lovely maiden.” Moreover his interactions with members of the Hamburg Frauenchor and his ability to sensitively and realistically recreate the emotional world of young women reveal that his view of the female sex was not unrelentingly harsh and that he did —at least at times—demonstrate an understanding of societal conventions regarding women.

Reba Wissner (Montclair State University)

Music for Murder, Machines, and Monsters: "Moat Farm Murder,” The Twilight Zone, and the CBS Stock Music Library

 The reuse of storylines from radio plays on early television was not uncommon; indeed, much of the television programming of the 1950s and early 1960s consisted of repurposed radio scripts. Among the many radio programs from the 1940s that had music featured in The Twilight Zone was Columbia Presents Corwin “Moat Farm Murder” (Bernard Herrmann, 18 July 1944). Of the radio plays to feature music in The Twilight Zone, this episode provided more cues than any other CBS radio score. This was not simply a radio play, but a radio documentary based upon real-life events, a verbatim confession of a 1903 murder in London from a murderer himself, Dougal, played by Charles Laughton and his victim, Cecile, played by Elsa Lanchester.
     Cues from “Moat Farm Murder” are found in ten episodes of The Twilight Zone. The use of music from this radio score and their appropriation into the television scores has thus far not been examined. This paper discusses the appropriation of radio music in The Twilight Zone and discusses Herrmann’s consciousness that his music would be reused in television, composing it appropriately for reuse. 

The Humanities in Crisis




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