Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What I Do in Musicology

by Janie Cole
NOTE: The AMS Newsletter of the American Musicological Society features a series of reflections from musicologists who have pursued non-tenure-track careers. We are pleased to co-publish this essay from the August 2014 Newsletter.
I am the founder/executive director of Music Beyond Borders (MBB), an organization that focuses on research, cultural-heritage preservation through oral-history archives, publications, and film documentaries of contemporary music history where crimes against humanity and socio-political conditions of repression, violence, protest, and freedom are critical. MBB seeks to uncover how those suffering oppressive regimes use music to protest human-rights violations and advance social justice globally. MBB aims to capture the rich cultural and musical heritage and diversity of the human experience by transforming real stories into instruments that promote public awareness and incite civic engagement to defend humanitarian values and human rights on a global level.

My move into the realm of public musicology was sparked by a new research project upon which I embarked after being awarded the 2010 Janet Levy Prize from the AMS for travel to South Africa. Having spent the previous fifteen years working on late renaissance and early baroque Italian music and cultural history and lecturing at various American universities in Florence, I had begun to explore new research interests in the field of music and human rights. This evolved into a book project about music during the anti-apartheid struggle and its critical role as a tool for resistance, survival, and propelling social justice by political prisoners, especially at the notorious Robben Island prison (which held Nelson Mandela for eighteen years) and the women’s jails. In South Africa, I worked on various archival collections of liberation-struggle materials and started to record oral testimonies and music by surviving political prisoners of the apartheid prisons.

Thenjiwe Mtintso, former deputy secretary general of the African National Congress
and current South African ambassador to Romania,
being interviewed about her experiences in the women’s apartheid jails
by Janie Cole, filmed Ted Bogosian.
The importance of recording the oral histories of unknown foot soldiers of the struggle and crimes against humanity before time runs out (struggle veterans are aging) led to the founding of Music Beyond Borders as a platform for reaching a wider audience through different media, for building a board of scholars and advisors, for fundraising, and for developing social media. My transition from writing academic books to being an activist in music and cultural-heritage preservation has developed the project into various other mediums for scholarly research and teaching, which will include a documentary film, multimedia museum exhibitions, and a unique digital oral-history archive. These auxiliary outcomes provide the potential for the preservation of rare historical evidence in different formats and for future musicological research and development. The processes of filmmaking and production, for example—involving shooting, scripting, editing, securing rights, post-production, social media, and affiliated web sites—become important components that transform the nature of musicological research.

Through public musicology, a wider following can be reached, and a difference can be made. Recording oral histories acts as catharsis and creates positive change in the survivors’ lives and communities. Future screenings of our powerful visual narratives at international film festivals, higher-educational institutions, and academic conferences and seminars can ultimately stimulate social engagement and create a learning tool for future generations, while preserving a unique cultural heritage.

To conclude, I inadvertently now find myself in a brave new world of public musicology with a challenging mission in cultural heritage preservation and developing new mediums for musicological research. I also fully intend to continue to straddle both public and academic spheres through papers, publications, and teaching in the hope of captivating wider audiences, raising interdisciplinary awareness, and inspiring and fostering a new generation of musicologists who will carry forward our discipline.

Janie Cole is Executive Director of Music Beyond Borders.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Four-Handed Monsters

by Adrian Daub

It seems strange to talk about four-hand piano playing as a lost art or a forgotten practice, given how frequently those of us who make music or think about music professionally still sit down at the piano together. And yet, one look at journalism, literature, and visual art from the nineteenth century makes clear how much more universal four-hand playing was then than it is now. Everybody played with everybody—Queen Victoria with Carl Czerny, Nietzsche with Wagner, Mozart with Johann Christian Bach. Everybody wrote about it, thought about it, painted it.

Today when we look back at the music this boom produced we tend to emphasize those aspects and forms of four-hand playing that we still recognize from the way we make music today—four-hand scores as a tool for instruction, as a tool for composition and practice, as a way for educated music-lovers to reproduce orchestral pieces within the comfort of their own home.

It is the basic contention of my book Four-Handed Monsters: Four-Hand Piano Playing and Nineteenth-Century Culture (Oxford UP, 2014; first published in German, Würzburg, 2009) that that is a partial view of the phenomenon, one that makes invisible several factors the nineteenth century itself often seems to have tried to repress about the phenomenon: that four-hand playing, which often demanded close contact between the players, almost necessarily had erotic undercurrents in the prudish atmosphere of the bourgeois parlor; that the mass of four-hand transcriptions meant that it was far more closely connected to the market and to capital than attendant musical phenomena;  that it seemed to play with categories of subjectivity and personhood that fascinated the nineteenth century.    

Marta Argerich and Nelson Freire,
referenced on p. vii of Four-Handed Monsters

In writing the book, I constantly found myself hitting upon modern-day comparisons that didn’t stem from the field of music-making at all, and instead came from the field of hobbies and games—four-hand piano playing was the nineteenth-century equivalent of the CD, the nineteenth-century equivalent of the stamp collection, the nineteenth-century equivalent of Twister, and so on.

What makes the topic so fascinating is that four-hand piano playing could be both a kind of parlor trick—essentially a novelty act, a fun social game to play after dinner—and could function as a conduit for serious thinking about music and an essential part of the transmission of musical expertise.

And usually composers, critics, players, and literary authors refused to make a distinction between one kind of four-hand playing and another. It was an inescapable part of any serious musical consumer’s repertoire, but it was that part he most frequently suspected of being less-than-serious.

The music critic Eduard Hanslick for instance was as passionate a four-hand player as they came. But when he discusses it in his criticism, it’s never quite clear how seriously he takes the practice—one moment he’ll talk about one’s relationship to “my four-handed person” (i.e., his duet partner) as a kind of marriage, the next he’ll compare their consumption of scores to playing cards.

The sense that there was something all-too-private about four-hand piano pervaded nineteenth-century depictions of the practice. The Austrian novelist Arthur Schnitzler regularly played his way through scores with his mother—but when he restaged that scene in one of his stories, he took the scene out before publishing it.

It is this difficulty the nineteenth-century public had in placing four-hand playing, this inability to decide how serious or how frivolous it is, how public or how private, how much it constitutes art and how much it resembles labor, that makes the practice such a fascinating lens through which to analyze the musical world of the bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century.

Here, at the margins of the musical canons, central questions were debated. When painters, writers, journalists, philosophers, musicians and composers watched  the play of two pairs of hands on a single keyboard, they were deciding, re-deciding and contesting what counted as music, what counted as musicianship, what counted as a person, a community, or a country.

Adrian Daub is Associate Professor of German Studies at Stanford University. In addition to Four-Handed Monsters (published with a subvention from the AMS 75 PAYS Endowment), he is author of  Uncivil Unions: The Metaphysics of Marriage in German Idealism and Romanticism  (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2012) and Tristan's Shadow: Sexuality and the Total Work of Art (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2013).

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dear Abbé

Professional musicologists offer answers and advice. Free.


I was recently working at the Boston Public Library and spotted fifteen familiar names hewn in the stone of the Central Library Building. But who are Reynolds and Turner? Not musicologists, I hope.

                                                                 BEFUDDLED IN BOSTON

Reynolds: Charles Burney (1781)

According to this 1939 Index to the Persons Commemorated by Inscriptions . . . [at] the Boston Public Library, the celebrities in question are the famous English painters Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792) and J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851).

Curiously Reynolds and Turner are buried next to one another at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Reynolds, moreover, did paint a fine portrait of . . . a musicologist: Charles Burney.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

C. P. E. Bach (II):
Another Year, Another Anniversary

by David Schulenberg
Four years ago, while many of us were celebrating the two hundredth birthdays of Chopin and Schumann, a smaller number were observing the three hundredth birthday of another composer-keyboardist: Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, the oldest surviving son of Johann Sebastian. Now in 2014 rather more attention is being paid to the life and music of Sebastian’s second son, Carl Philipp Emanuel. In addition to the conferences and the festive German observations previously mentioned by Annette Richards on this blog (“C. P. E. Bach at 300,” Aug. 2, 2014), new books, articles, and editions have been published this year or are in the press. Among these are several volumes in the new collected edition being issued by the Packard Humanities Institute, as well as a special issue of Early Music (August 2014) and my own book The Music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (Univ. of Rochester Press, 2014).

All this activity centered around one only moderately well-known musician suggests that individual composers, although no longer the focus of every current style of musicology, retain their interest and attraction not only for performers and the general public but for scholars. My book, although I call it a “compositional biography” unconcerned with CPEB’s personal life and circumstances, reflects my view that the individual composer remains a nexus within which society, culture, and environment connect to produce something that is unique and valuable: in this case, a repertory of about a thousand diverse works. As much as my own work has been shaped by academic trends and the admonitions of critics and scholars that favor focusing on the music itself and its cultural and historical context, in writing the book I have found myself considering what caused CPEB to write what he did; why he “swerved away” (as Peter Williams puts it) from the style of his father and emulated composers we consider far less significant, such as Hasse, Graun, and Homilius; how he could consider certain vocal compositions to be “masterpieces,” his own word for several late works that I find more problematical and less appealing than the well-known keyboard pieces; why in his later years he devoted what seems excessive effort to exercises in melodic embellishment and récherché harmony, never returning to the dramatic, sturm-und-drangisch style of certain relatively early compositions—the First Württemberg Sonata, the D-minor Concerto W. 23—that more readily captivate modern audiences and students.

One reason for the continuing focus on the individual composer must be the sheer human interest that, together with the music itself, remains the underlying motivation for so much contemporary work by performers and musicologists. The Bach family—or any family—automatically elicits a certain type of interest, and when we try to explain how one family member turned out as he or she did, producing a particular type of music or following a particular sort of career, we engage serious historical issues while establishing an imaginary yet genuinely empathetic connection with another human being. An austere view of musicology as a study of cultural products within a particular society or economy, or the equally austere concept of performance and analysis as dealing primarily with notes and their relationships to one another, certainly has its place within a learned discipline. Yet it doesn’t inspire many listeners or performers, and on its own it is unlikely to produce satisfying explanations for the aesthetic aspects of the music: how it moved its original audiences, how it does so today, what if anything it means.

Perhaps, then, part of the value of observing composer anniversaries lies in the reminder they provide—for both musicologists and the general public—that individual musicians of the past were historical figures, actors within a given time and place whose works manifest their own and their society’s values and experiences. What makes these musicians really interesting, however, is that by reading about them, or hearing their music in performance, those values and experiences mingle with our own; music history becomes musical presence. This, at least, seems to be one of my own motivations as reader, writer, and performer. A musicologist who shares this view could do worse than bearing it in mind when trying to communicate insights and discoveries to someone else.

David Schulenberg’s publications include the textbook Music of the Baroque (3rd edn. Oxford UP, 2013) and recordings of chamber music by Quantz, C. P. E. Bach, and Frederick II of Prussia on Naxos, Hungaroton, and Albany Records. Chair of the music department at Wagner College (Staten Island, NY), he also teaches in the Historical Performance program at The Juilliard School.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Copland as Good Neighbor

Note: The next installment of the AMS-Library of Congress Lecture Series will be on 7 October in the Library of Congress’s Coolidge Auditorium. Carol Hess’s lecture is titled “Copland as Good Neighbor: Cultural Diplomacy in Latin America during World II.” Prof. Hess writes:
Scholars and the general public have long acknowledged Aaron Copland’s attraction to Latin America, noting his associations with several composers from that region and his Latin-themed works such as El salón México, Danzón cubano, and Three Latin-American Sketches. Between 1932 and 1972, Copland made eight visits to Latin America, four as a cultural diplomat under the auspices of the U.S. State Department (1941, 1947, 1962, 1963). His cultural diplomacy in Latin America remains largely unexamined, however, despite the rich trove of materials in the Aaron Copland Collection of the Library of Congress. Here we find the diaries Copland kept during these visits, his reports for the State Department, correspondence with Latin American musicians, concert programs of his performances, reviews of his works from Spanish- and Portuguese-language presses, and scripts of the radio broadcasts he gave in various Latin American capitals.

My talk focusses on Copland’s 1941 trip, the most extensive and, from the standpoint of cultural diplomacy, the most urgent. It took place at the height of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy, which sought to counter Nazi infiltration in the Western hemisphere. Copland, who had enthused over “a new world with its own new music” that could challenge the European tradition, was ideally suited to promote a fundamental tenet of the Good Neighbor policy, namely, the idea that the Americas are united by shared historical and cultural experiences. Analyzing the Library of Congress materials enables us to explore the musical ramifications of this principle as manifested in Latin American reaction to Copland’s works. I will propose that the 1941 trip, undertaken when U. S. cultural diplomacy was in its fledgling stages, anticipates the ultimately ephemeral nature of Good Neighborly ideology, which Copland nonetheless enthusiastically promoted during this most overtly political of his Latin American trips.

Carol Hess is Professor of Music at the University of California, Davis. Her most recent book, Representing the Good Neighbor: Music, Difference, and the Pan American Dream, was published by Oxford University Press in fall 2013.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

C. P. E. Bach at 300

by Annette Richards

In the 300th anniversary year of the birth of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714–1788), the music of this experimental, ambitious, and ever-elusive composer continues to baffle and amaze listeners, as it did many of Bach’s own contemporaries. Famously, the English music historian and traveling journalist Charles Burney (a self-diagnosed sufferer of Carlophilipemanelbachomania) saw Emanuel Bach as having “outstript his age,” his music “made for another region, or at least another century.” Perhaps. In any case Emanuel Bach’s music is as arresting and original now, in the 21st century, as it was in the Europe of his day.

C. P. E. Bach’s reputation as one of the great German composers of his age rested on choral and orchestral masterpieces as well as his sets of publications for keyboard (and especially the famous Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, 1753, 1762). Above all, he was the unparalleled master of intimate expression at his favorite instrument, the clavichord. In all genres, Bach’s highly affective music cast new light on, and was heard in terms of, contemporary theories of sentiment and the sublime.

The C. P. E. Bach Jubiläumsjahr 2014 is being observed across Germany and can be followed on a handsome WEBSITE with good video features, audio clips—even a C. P. E. Bach Online-Shop.

In Ithaca, New York, this October 2–5, the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies and the Cornell Department of Music will present the celebratory conference and concert festival Sensation and Sensibility at the Keyboard in the Late 18th Century.

The Cornell conference will explore the constellation of philosophical and aesthetic ideas, and the conditions of musical production and reception, clustered around concepts of sentiment, feeling, and sensation in Emanuel Bach's sublime and idiosyncratic art. Topics will include notions of Empfindsamkeit (sensibility) and theories of sensing, from medical inquiries into the physiology of the nervous system, to the operation of the inner fibres of the aural canal in sensitive listening, to the effects of Bebung at the clavichord; theories of expression and vocality, from the musical ode to singing with the fingers at the keyboard (Bach’s famous “cantabile” style); from concepts of melancholy and pain to theories of narrative and humor in the Hamburg Bach circle.

And looking beyond Northern Europe, a significant section of the conference and festival will consider American contributions to the (keyboard) culture of sensibility, from Benjamin Franklin’s glass harmonica to, in a reverberant after-echo, the Chickering-Dolmetsch clavichords of late nineteenth-century Boston. Concerts during the festival will feature the clavichord, fortepiano, harpsichord, and organ, as well as the period instrument ensemble Ars Lyrica Houston. A full list of participants and preliminary concert program may be found HERE.

Finally a conference at Oxford University, November 29–30, will consider C. P. E. Bach and Eighteenth-Century Keyboard Culture. Bringing together scholars from the UK, Germany, and the US, the Oxford conference aims not only to explore C. P. E. Bach’s music in relation to Affekt and feeling, character, and expression, but also to examine the composer’s role in the development of what might be termed an eighteenth-century Austro-German culture of keyboard music. Preliminary program HERE.

Annette Richards is professor of musicology and performance at Cornell, where she is also University Organist and executive director of the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies. She is the editor of CPE Bach Studies (Cambridge UP, 2006) and author of a highly regarded study that treats her reconstruction of C. P. E. Bach's extraordinary collection of musical portraits: “Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Portraits, and the Physiognomy of Music History,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 66/2 (Summer 2013), 337–96.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Reading Matter

The American Musicological Society awards publication subventions for books and editions in all fields of music scholarship. Twenty-eight books were recently granted $44,000 in funds to support publication expenses during the first of two rounds for 2014. In spring and fall 2013 some 43 books were funded; covers and links for all books published over the history of the program are given HERE. Altogether the Society currently spends some $100,000 a year on the initiative.

Bequests from Manfred Bukofzer, Otto Kinkeldey, Gustave Reese, Dragan Plamenac, Paul Pisk, and Lloyd Hibberd formed the nucleus of an endowment established in 1971 to support the publication of books and editions of music. These funds were considerably augmented by the OPUS capital campaign in 2002–09, which funded AMS 75 Publication Awards for Younger Scholars (AMS PAYS), a program providing for members in the early stages of their careers to be able to count on subventions for their first books.

Here a few recent examples, chosen more or less randomly from the exhaustive lists cited above:

John H. Baron
Concert Life in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans

Louisiana St. Univ. Press, 2013
Oxford UP, 2014
Martha Feldman
The Castrato: Reflections on Natures and Kinds
Univ. of California Press, 2015
Nadine Hubbs
Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music
Univ. of California Press, 2014
Drew Massey
Univ. of Rochester Press, 2013
Catherine Saucier
Alexandra Vazquez
Listening in Detail: Performances of Cuban Music
Duke Univ. Press, 2013