AMSGNY Meetings

Spring Meeting--May 1, 2010 at New York University

AMS-GNY Spring Meeting
May 1, 2010
New York University
Silver Center, Room 220
32 Waverly Place

Session 1: French Music at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (10:00-11:30am)

Mark Seto, Columbia University
Chausson's Viviane, "Déwagnérisation," and the Problem of Descriptive Music

Ernest Chausson made two major aesthetic decisions in the late 1880s: he resolved to "dewagnerize" himself, and declared he would no longer write program music. This paper builds on the work of Steven Huebner, Annegret Fauser, Carolyn Abbate, and Jean Gallois by considering what Chausson's renunciation of influence might have meant in terms of musical style. My exploration focuses on Viviane (composed 1882-83, revised 1887 and 1893), a symphonic poem that shares musical material and subject matter with Chausson's magnum opus, Le Roi Arthus (1886-95). Drawing on unpublished sketches and manuscripts held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, I will trace how Chausson suppressed evidence of Wagnerian mimicry over the course of his revisions to Viviane. This erasure stands in pointed contrast to an overt reference—acknowledged as such in his sketchbook—to a piece by Chausson's mentor, César Franck. In addition, Chausson brought Viviane more closely in line with sonata procedures, inviting the listener to appreciate the work on its purely sonic merits at a time when the composer was becoming less sympathetic to the idea of “descriptive music.”

Sylvia Kahan, CUNY-Staten Island
"Bent Scales and Stained Glass Attitudes": Critical Reception of Debussy's Music in the United States, 1884-1918

While the musicological literature has dealt extensively with French critical and press reception of Debussy's music during the composer's lifetime, no similar in-depth study has been done of contemporaneous critical attitudes in the United States towards Debussy or his œuvre. Through a study of articles in newspapers and music journals from 1884 (the year that Debussy won the Prix de Rome) through 1918 (the year of his death), I propose to examine trends in writings about Debussy's music by American critics and the influence that these writings may have had in shaping public perception of the composer in particular and modernist music in general. Shifts in critical language over the course of these thirty-odd years signify the evolving acceptance of Debussy's “ultra-modern” works into the mainstream of twentieth-century repertoire.
My study will focus on reception of first American performances of the String Quartet by the Kneisel Quartet (1901-04) and of Debussy's major orchestral works in New York, Boston, and Chicago (1904-09); d'Indy's five-city tour with the Boston Symphony (1905); and New York performances of Pelléas et Mélisande (1908, 1918). Additionally, the study will examine early essays on Debussy's aesthetic ideas and the first interviews by American reporters of the composer.

Kassandra Hartford, SUNY-Stony Brook
From "O Boi no Telhado" to Le boeuf sur le toit: Milhaud, Brazil, and the Discourse of Latinness
Darius Milhaud’s Le boeuf sur le toit, a fantasy on Brazilian themes written after the composer’s two-year stay in Rio de Janeiro, has often been linked to American jazz. Cocteau’s ballet staging set Boeuf as “an American farce done by a Parisian, who has never been to America,” obscuring the work’s Brazilian roots. Scholars like Bernard Gendron have thus seen Le boeuf­ and La création du monde as part of a single exoticist project, undifferentiated in its attitudes about its subjects and in its presentation of musical material.
I demonstrate that Milhaud’s compositional and personal relationship to his sources in Le boeuf sur le toit is much more complex, mediated by his personal and musical connections to Brazil and tempered by his position as a Jew in 1920s Paris. In Le boeuf and in his writing on Brazil, he negotiates a relationship between Rio and Paris specifically through the idea of “Latinness.” This conception allows him to construct an understanding of “Frenchness” that is both musically and discursively more inclusive of his Jewish identity and his formative experience in Brazil. The work itself demonstrates this negotiation at work, as Milhaud juxtaposes the sonic worlds of both Rio and Paris.

Break (11:30-11:45am)

Keynote Address (11:45am-12:30pm)

Michael Beckerman, New York University
"Michna's Crucible"

Adam Michna z Otradovice was a leading figure of the Czech Baroque, a poet, composer and music publisher. Among his five masses is the Christmas morning mass, “The Sun Has Come Forth from the Star,” based on a Christmas carol which is heard in each movement. This study looks at the moments at the core of the work, from “Descendit,” through “et incarnatus est,” and the crucifixion, ending with “Ascendit in coelum,” and argues that the composer consciously created a musical "crucible" in line with an overall aesthetic plan.

Lunch and Business Meeting (12:30-2:00pm)

Session 2: Varied Topics (2:00-4:00pm)

William E. Hettrick, Hofstra University
Joseph P. Hale (1819–1883), Piano Manufacturer of New York: His Work, Reputation, and Legacy

Unlike piano makers such as Chickering and Steinway, Joseph P. Hale had no background in the piano trade, but he knew how to make a profit. Hale established his piano business in New York, the center of American piano manufacturing, in 1863. His success was considerable, but not easily won. The first factory he built collapsed in 1870, and its expanded successor burned to the ground in 1877. But the larger replacement, built in 1878, still stands as a venerable relic. From parts acquired at bottom prices, Hale made thousands of instruments that he sold at low cost. He employed the contract system and used stencils exclusively, although there is no evidence that he perpetrated oft-mentioned stencil frauds such as “Steinmay & Sons” and “Chickening.” Hale’s reputation was damaged by the vicious attack launched against him by the ambitious trade-journalist John Christian Freund in 1875–1878, but he overcame this also, and died a wealthy man.
This paper examines Hale’s manufacturing practices and products; his relationships with J. C. Freund, William Steinway, and others; and his contributions to the American piano industry. Sources include trade journals, newspapers, records of the NYC Department of Buildings, William Steinway’s diary, and personal observations.

Ronald Cross, Wagner College
Matthaeus Pipelare, a Fresh Look

The purpose of this presentation will be to update information about the works of Matthaeus Pipelare, a Flemish composer who was a contemporary of Josquin des Prez and Pierre de la Rue. Among his surviving works are eleven Masses and a special Credo de Sancto Joanne evangelista in five voice-parts. The Masses range from a simple Missa da feria to complex Masses of ingenious construction, such as the Missa L’Homme armé. The basis for one of his two Sine nominee Masses has now been identified. Altogether there are eleven motets that range in style from simple contrafacta to the beautiful Magnificat and the richly textured Memorare Mater Christi.
There are four chansons in French, though Pipelare may not be the composer of one of them. His setting of Ockeghem’s Fors seulement melody is one of some 30 or more chansons based on Ockeghem’s original. However, Pipelare’s own polyphonic setting of the Fors seulement text also served as the basis of a number of Masses by other composers. There are also four Flemish Lied. We know of other works that he wrote, but for which the music has unfortunately not survived. So far no early Mss. or prints have come to light in which they are preserved.
The composer’s compositions underwent an enormous transformation of style. However, it was in general a transformation that corresponded to the changing musical style during his lifetime. Compositions by Pipelare are beginning to appear more frequently on CDs and concert programs. The talk will deal with the structure of several of the compositions.

Maria van Epenhuysen Rose, RILM
“Like courtiers in the presence of the Master”: The Accompanied Keyboard Sonata and the origins of instrumental balance in Piano Trios

“…The Musicians with deferential timidity soften their tones, like courtiers in the presence of the Master, in whose presence they dare not speak any word for which they have not read permission on his lips.”
This characterization of trio-playing in the 1777 French Almanach Musical is the reverse of many of today’s performances: the lid of the enormous concert-grand piano on stage is (almost) closed and the pianist uses restraints such as the una corda pedal to avoid overpowering the string instruments. Although the genre of the accompanied keyboard sonata was invented in 1734 by violinist Mondonville, the subservient role of string instruments was introduced ca. 1765 by keyboardist Schobert, known to have experimented with pianos. As the Almanach Musical between 1776 and 1782 shows, four times as many accompanied keyboard sonatas were published in France during that period than solo sonatas. The latter were often rewritten as accompanied sonatas. Pianos blended better than the harpsichord with the sound of string instruments, but they could not compete with them in sustaining power and volume. When the mechanical development of the piano reached a plateau ca. 1820, the accompanied keyboard sonata ceased to exist. My paper will explore textures in French accompanied keyboard sonatas between 1765 and 1785 in relation to the development and reception of early pianos. Examples from later piano trios illustrate that the essential dialogue between the instruments preserved many premises of the 18th-century accompanied repertoire.

Edward Green, Manhattan School of Music
“Lovely Ritmos, Meter Mad”—Irregular Phrase Rhythms in the Music of the Beatles
This paper explores the use by the Beatles of surprising hypermeters. Just as irregular deep-level rhythms were a key factor in the enduring liveliness of the music of Mozart and Stravinsky, unexpected hypermeter was an important characteristic of the work of these masters of contemporary vernacular composition.
Subtleties abound. Consider 7-bar phrases. In “Yesterday” the opening phrase is structured 1+ 2 + 2 + 2; in “Baby, You’re A Rich Man,” 7-bar phrases are palindromic: 3 + 2 + 2 / 2+ 2 + 3. And in “Sexy Sady” there is a teasing relation of 7 and 5 bar structures. In all three instances, as will be illustrated, the irregular hypermetric structures support the message of the lyrics.
Among other Beatles songs considered—albeit more briefly—are “Love Me Do,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Your Mother Should Know,” “Lovely Rita (Meter Maid),” “Hello, Goodbye,” and “Baby You’re A Rich Man.” Nor are hypermeters limited to Lennon and McCartney songs; 7-bar phrases, for example, are found in Harrison’s “Long, Long, Long” and “Here Comes the Sun.” And as a means of indicating that the Beatles were not alone among rock and pop composers in playing against the expectation of 4 and 8 bar phrasing, relation will also be made to work by Carol King and Burt Bacharach.
Finally, to bring to this intensely technical topic a wider critical perspective, the phenomenon of irregular hypermeter will be considered in light of a central principle of Aesthetic Realism, as stated by its founder, the philosopher Eli Siegel: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” Successful hypermeter is a study in the expected and the unexpected, agreement and disagreement, surface and depth, symmetry and unrest.

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