Fourth Annual Conference

Westminster Choir College
Princeton, New Jersey

March 17-18, 2006

Download as .pdf file.


Dorothy Payne Award for the Best Student Paper

Mathew Boyer (Indiana University)
"Topical Pairing as Compositional Strategy in Mozart"

The surface of Classical music is heterogeneous, featuring rapid and often dramatic alterations in style.  Since the publication of Leonard Ratner’s Classic Musicin 1980, topics have emerged as a valuable means to characterize these kaleidoscopic shifts.  The music of Mozart is exceptionally rich in topical variety, and topical pairs capture a unique type of stylistic change found in Mozart’s music.  Topical pairing is distinct from mere succession or juxtaposition; it consists of the varied repetition of a passage in a new topical guise.  In such a succession, thematic, motivic, and other salient features of a passage are retained, while other parameters are modified to effect a topical change.  The resultant topical pair is heard as a whole, binding the music into a single formal unit.  Mozart strategically manipulates these paired thematic groups to expressively shape larger expanses of music.  The return of the first half of a topical pair has implicative strength; it generates expectation for the return of the second half of the pair.  With this expectancy comes the possibility for denial, postponement, and fulfillment, inviting a hermeneutic reading of Mozart’s treatment of pairs across large-scale formal designs.  This presentation will draw upon a number of examples, particularly from the first movement of the piano concerto, K. 503.

Karen Fournier (University of Michigan)
"A Structuralist View of the Growth and Development of Knowledge in Music Scholarship"

In his reflections upon the structure of academia and the limitations imposed by this structure upon those who seek to build academic careers, the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu observed, to his surprise, that "the full implication of the fact that an author writes for a public [has] never been completely explored.  Few social actors depend as much as artists, and intellectuals in general, for what they are and for the image that they have of themselves or the image that other people have of them and what they are."  (Bourdieu, "Intellectual Field and Creative Project," Social Sciences Information 8/2, April 1969: 95)  This observation forms the core of this work, in which he has established a quasi-Marxist model of academic life that measures success in terms of the acquisition of what he calls "cultural capital," defined loosely as a set of markers that includes such things as academic affiliation, tenure and promotion, publication volume and venue, access to research funding, and so on. Bourdieu argues that in their quest for "cultural capital," academics tend to orient their research towards what they perceive as the expectations of their peer readership, upon whose approval the future of every academic career rests.  This paper will examine music scholarship in this light, and will speculate upon what constitutes "cultural capital" for music theorists and, with examples drawn from recent theoretical literature, will illustrate how this capital might be secured through allegiances and to certain established research questions and methods.  But the paper will also be critical of Bourdieu’s quasi-Marxist conception of academia, as it will demonstrate that the evolution of an academic community depends upon the occasional introduction of revolutionary ideas and research methods that may not, at their outset, appear to guarantee their proponents access to the "cultural capital" that they might need to survive within academia.  This paper will address one key question that arises for music scholars:  how do we square the need for our work to be accessible to our peers (a seemingly static view of academia) with the ever-changing interpretations of musical works that characterize the scholarly literature in our field and that reflect our subjective engagement with musical works (a more dynamic view of academia)?

Cynthia Gonzales (Texas State University)
"A Nostalgic Farewell to Tonality:  Arnold Schoenberg's Setting of Richard Dehmel's Poelm 'Alles'"

In September 1905, Schoenberg turned again to Richard Dehmel’s Weib und Welt to set one more poem:  "Alles," Op. 6, No. 2.  I will investigate "Alles" as Schoenberg’s nostalgic farewell to tonality.  "Alles" clings to the tonic-dominant axis, yet is prescient of the atonal world that Schoenberg will enter only a few years later.  Structural harmonies are obscured by an overabundance of foreground chromatic culprits that ornament the diatonic framework of common-practice chord progressions and linear intervallic patterns.  Moreover, the chromatic ornaments often resolve in such unusual ways that the non-chord-tone-cum-resolution unity is broken asunder.

Dehmel’s poem is a nostalgic lament ironically cast in hopeful language.  Schoenberg signed and dated the "Alles" manuscript on 6 September 1905, only a week before his 31st birthday.  His music gives voice to the protagonist, a "blessed child of thirty years," even though Dehmel’s poem does not.  With each hopeful assurance by the narrator, the child’s response is revealed by the melody ascending to cadence on a dissonant apex.  The lack of hope is confirmed by the piano postlude, which descends from scale-degree 5 through flat-3 in this major-mode song.  Schoenberg engages Dehmel’s poem to take a nostalgic journey, weaving contrapuntal textures into a harmonic frame that upholds the tonic-dominant axis, while at the same time freeing chromatic culprits toward atonal independence. 

Justin Hoffman (Columbia University)
"A Probability Function for Subset Embedding and its Implication for Abstract Pitch-Class Set Relations"

Abstract pitch-class set (pcset) relations offer ways of comparing non-equivalent pcsets with one another independently of musical context.  Such relations include similarity measures, mathematical operations that return a numerical value representing the perceived similarity of two pcsets.  For example, John Rahn’s total mutual embedding measure counts the number of subsets of all cardinalities mutually embedded in two pcsets.  Rahn’s similarity measure, like most abstract pcset relations, proceeds with the assumption that all mutually embedded subsets function equally as determinants of pcset relatedness.

This view of abstract pcset relations thus proposes that a shared instance of a trichord of set class 3-2 (013) is just as significant as a shared instance of set class 3-12 (048).  Intuition, however, suggests that a shared 3-12 trichord is more significant.  By generating a probabilistic distribution for each trichord class, showing the likelihood of selecting a given number of instances of the set class in question when choosing a larger pcset at random, we can find confirmation of this intuition.  Subsets that are more salient occur far less frequently than those that are less salient.  The relationship between this probabilistic distribution and intuition can be demonstrated using interval cycles, as the probability of selecting a pcset containing subsets of a particular set class is determined by the number of cyclic adjacencies included in the set class in question and the cardinalities of the cycles involved.  In order to demonstrate how this observation might be of use in a discussion of abstract pcset relations, we can construct a similarity measure that weights subset relations based upon such a probabilistic distribution.

Kevin Holm-Hudson (University of Kentucky)
"Emerson, Lake and Palmer's 'Toccata' and the Cyborg Essence of Alberto Ginastera"

Critical response to the British progressive rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP) was invariably hostile.  Critics especially targeted the group’s penchant for deconstructing well-known classical works such as Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.  Occasionally their "covers" (such as their version of Bartók’s Allegro Barbaro) were made without proper attribution to the original composer.

However, ELP’s version of the "Toccata" from Alberto Ginastera’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra (1961) not only properly credited the work’s composer and publisher, but Ginastera himself reportedly enthused that ELP’s version contained the "essence" of his work.  To discover this "essence," I present a close analysis of both Ginastera’s work and ELP’s version from their 1973 recording Brain Salad Surgery.  Ginastera’s piece is based on the obsessive development of a single motive, presented at the outset:  <B-flat3, E4, E-flat4, A4>.  This motive is clearly seen to be the union of two inversionally related [016] trichords.  Ginastera extends this motive into longer thematic lines and also stacks combinations of the [016] set type into larger sonorities.  My analysis accordingly draws primarily upon Fortean set theory and elements of transformational theory.  The structural sets of Ginastera’s work are also found in ELP’s extrapolated additions and even in the cross-modulated synthesizer timbres, or "split tones," that Emerson employs.  ELP also omit largely repetitive sections from Ginastera’s work and extend some climactic passages, thereby arguably improving the pacing of Ginastera’s piece; such alterations may also be understood to convey the "essence" of Ginastera’s composition.

Brian Hulse (Christopher Newport University)
"Repetition Theory"

Kierkegaard tells us that recollection means to stand at a distance from a past that is irretrievable, but repetition is to bring what is past back into existence.  Thus, repetition approaches not from the past but from the future.  In musical discourse, the past is generally accorded great weight in determining what constitutes the present:  a tendency prone to slipping into absolute notions?metaphysics?driving an obstinate wedge between analysis and an understanding of what makes music musical. Kierkegaard’s recollection-repetition distinction has proven a useful tool for sorting out the post-structural project.  It is also useful for detecting the metaphysical underpinnings of musical theories and interpretative modes.  Beyond this, the distinction provides a clear basis for a post-structural hermeneutic approach to music based on repetition, a repetition theory.  Repetition theory interprets the processes of music bringing back itself, of binding itself to itself across the dimensions of pitch and rhythm on the basis of what repeats, rather than relying on metaphysical measures, matrixes, and other contexts to understand the musicality of musical expressions. 

Bruce Kelley (Shepherd University)
"Constructing 'Musical Horse Sense':  Applying Fink's Paradigms"

This paper will examine how L. Dee Fink’s Creating Significant Learning Experiences:  An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses (2003) can help teachers of music theory to redesign their courses to encourage a wide range of significant learning.  Fink’s text examines Bloom’s (1956) traditional content-centered learning taxonomy, which consists of a hierarchical sequence of educational objectives, and proposes a new taxonomy, one that describes multiple dimensions of learning.  Content becomes just one of the six major categories of significant learning.  The other categories include application, integration, human dimension, caring, and learning how to learn.  Fink’s taxonomy provides a valuable alternative to traditional models for thinking about course design.

This paper will:  (1) explain briefly the foundation of Fink’s theories and his taxonomy of significant learning; (2) examine how I have incorporated Fink’s taxonomy into a specific course, MUSC 303 (Forms and Analysis); (3) explore the strengths and weaknesses of my application of this new taxonomy; and (4) critique the strengths and weaknesses of Fink’s theories when applied generally to the field of music theory.  Fink’s taxonomy provides a foundation from which we can design classes to give our students significant learning experiences—a thorough soaking in the sonorous nature of our art.

Martin Lee (University of Buffalo)
"Emancipation of Dissonance:  Music, Text and Gesture in Schoenberg's Second String Quartet, 'Entrückung'"

Schoenberg declared that "the transition from composition which still emphasized key (while always containing many dissonances) to one where there is no longer any key, any tonic, any consonances, happened gradually, in accordance not with any wish or will, but with a vision, an inspiration; it happened perhaps instinctively."  This process can be designed radically within a single composition but not necessarily within a compositional period.

Composed in 1907-08, the Second String Quartet is one of the earliest works which demonstrates this notion.  This presentation discusses the compositional method of the movement in order to reveal the conflicts between tonality and "atonality," thematic and athematic, continuity and discontinuity.  On one hand the music seems to be non-tonal and dissonant, on the other the music will contain tonal references.  In the second part, the author argues Schoenberg’s choice of Stefan George’s poem, which is not only coherent to the music and enhances presenting the new musical style explicitly with text as tone-painting, but also becomes an autobiography of Schoenberg himself.  The third part is the discussion of Schoenberg’s ideas of consonance and dissonance through his writings and how they are reflected in the music.

In conclusion, although Schoenberg brings in a new way of presenting musical ideas and a riot-deconstruction of the genre by introducing voice into the piece, the preservations of traditional characteristics and tonal reminiscences are clear in the last movement, "Entrückung."  They are internalized with the new musical style and serve as a point of departure for his emancipation of dissonance.

Thomas Robinson (The Graduate Center, City University of New York)
"Core Components of Jimmy Webb's 'Didn't We'"

Many analysts of popular song first employ a single recording as a text for study.  This text is often compared to other recordings or versions of the song for analysis.  It is my assertion, however, that both cover and original are also referential to a single abstract structure, made of the song’s core components, of which any recording or version (including sheet music, transcription, or score) is merely a reflection, a representation, or an interpretation.  This formation, itself possibly devoid of meaning, is traceable because although many structural elements are changed in a cover version, a certain few necessarily are retained in order to preserve the song’s identity.

This paper focuses on Jimmy Webb’s "Didn’t We" as recorded by several artists from Gene Ammons to Stan Kenton to Barbra Streisand.  Its task is not to showcase meaning inherent in the differences but, conversely, to look at the few related elements and to construct a contour notation to represent the melody’s definitive features.  The formation comes more into focus with each additional version studied, just as a person’s character becomes clearer after multiple subjections to different situations or environments.  The abstract structure emerges as the song’s unchangeable core or "soul" that no interpreter would do without, while the ancillary contributions of performers, producers, and arrangers—refracting the core through their own prisms—contribute richer meaning.

John White (Ithaca College)
"Asymmetric Meter Pedagogy for the 21st Century:   Classification, Iconography, Solfège, and Musical Examples"

Today, it is commonplace for musicians to perform music in some type of asymmetric meter.  Accordingly, musicianship training must accommodate the challenges posed by these designs.  Unfortunately, in many ways current pedagogical thinking about asymmetric meter remains nebulous and inexact.

This presentation offers a clear and practical classification of the various types of asymmetric meter design commonly found in contemporary concert music, jazz, and select popular styles.  This classification is based fundamentally on asymmetric meter as perceived rather than as notated, an approach that fosters clear definitions and effective skills pedagogy.  I distinguish between two principal types of asymmetric meter:  (1) TYPE 1, which features asymmetry with respect to the number of beats in a measure, the total not divisible by 2 or 3, with the beats all being the same duration; (2) TYPE 2, which features asymmetry with respect to unequal beat lengths within one measure, with the value of the beat division remaining constant (most often beats within this type of meter consist of either two or three division pulses).  In addition, I demonstrate practical ways of using conventional iconography to aid the pedagogy of asymmetric meter in the aural skills classroom.

I demonstrate effective pedagogical approaches using the Takadimi system of rhythm solfŹge.  Because of its flexibility and comprehensiveness Takadimi solfège is ideally suited to address performance and pedagogical challenges presented by asymmetric meter designs.  In addition, taken from well-known concert repertoire and CD recordings, representative music examples are provided that demonstrate each type of asymmetric meter discussed.

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