Nico Muhly’s Compositional Style in Relation to his Connection to an Audience: Modern Methods of Self-Promotion

When listening to the music of Nico Muhly, a composer whose compositional voice owes an enormous amount to his musical heroes, it

became apparent that Muhly does not prescribe to the idea that for new music to be “good” it must therefore be “different”. His music is firmly rooted in the Western tradition through its strong amount of influence from his predecessors. For example, in Muhly’s Cello Concerto, a formal concerto which does not stray from the traditional western f​ ast-slow-fast​ (Part One, Two and Three) structure, the overwhelming presence of Reich in “Part Three” coupled with the direct (self-proclaimed as “stolen”) quote from Dutilleux’s M​ etaboles​ in “Part One”, the concerto is overflowing with rehashed ideas and revisited concepts. However many influences can be directly found in Muhly’s music, Muhly’s own compositional voice shines through in the way which he combines seemingly disparate influences into a convincingly cohesive texture. What some may deem as unoriginal or stale in Muhly’s music is in reality what composers, artists, writers and filmmakers have done since the beginning; to take from the old and to synthesize their past experiences, influences and inspirations into a lifelong journey of expression that becomes something uniquely their own. What does stand out to me in Muhly’s music is the constant dialogue between minimalism and romanticism. For example, while Part Three of Muhly’s Cello Concerto begins firmly rooted in an insistent Reichian pulsation, it soon becomes overlayed, via the solo cello line, with a wash of lyricism reminiscent of Hollywood film composers such as Korngold or John Williams. These two musical styles in juxtaposition of each other create a unique voice that is enticing to the ear.

It seems like Muhly has found his compositional strength not in trying to do something “different” that would set him apart, but rather by composing sincere music that is most true to his own musical preferences. In fact, today’s American contemporary classical music scene contains many concert-goers, music students and composers alike who seem to hold a common misconception: it is a living composer’s job to do what has never been done before; to imagine a new type of music that breaks down every boundary and bends every rule to create a truly unparalleled musical experience. While it takes true innovators to move the Western musical language forward into the modern day, the novelty of being different has been the root of widespread alienation among concert audiences of contemporary classical music, leaving orchestras and chamber music presenters with no option other than to feature the Greats of the past. While living composers must not all simply become poor simulacra of their musical influences, it releases an enormous amount of pressure from composers life to realize that the most important thing is to focus on writing “good” music, not “different” music.

A graduate of Columbia University and Juilliard School of Music, Muhly is certainly no stranger to the academic world. But while some composers’ scholarly backgrounds have set them apart from popular culture, for Muhly, the opposite is the case. In fact, an area where

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Muhly stands out among his contemporaries is his skill for writing anecdotal and relatable prose. Many of the articles found when researching his views on music are written by the composer himself, often describing a specific experience or viewpoint related to a specific musical event. Through his colloquial language skills, blog posts on his personal website, New York Times editorials, and writings on NPR, Muhly has constructed a public image for himself of a connection to academia, but an underlying “down-to-earth” mentality. Similarly, Muhly’s intuitive music stands firmly in this camp of the accessibility of modern classical music, in opposition to the 20th century music of composers like Arnold Schoenberg or Brian Ferneyhough that may present an impenetrable wall to most listeners due to its academic or cerebral qualities. Within an art form that has historically been produced by and for the upper classes of European society, Nico Muhly’s innovation within the classical music world lies in his ability to provide a himself as a companionable millennial figurehead for the world of contemporary classical music. In addition to the accessibility of his music, he has been able to use his relatable personality to attract wider audiences and ensuring the “relevance” of the Western classical tradition in the modern day.

Chris Beroes-Haigis

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Muhly, Nico. “Nico Muhly’s ‘Mathematical, Organic And Achingly Beautiful’ Phillip Glass”, NPR Music, January 24th, 2017. (https://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2017/01/24/511268723/nico-muhlys-mathematical-organic-and-achingly-beautiful-phil ip-glass)

Muhly, Nico. “If You See Something, Say Something”, Nico Muhly, October 25th, 2016. (http://nicomuhly.com)

Muhly, Nico. “Cello Concerto (2012)”, Music Sales Classical, Chester Music. (http://www.musicsalesclassical.com/composer/work/47277)

Kings Place. “Nico Muhly Discusses Minimalism — Part One”, YouTube, January 19th, 2015. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQqpWG0N_q4)

Muhly, Nico. “Nico Muhly on Why Choral Music Is Slow Food For The Soul”, The New York Times, April 1st, 2017. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/01/arts/music/nico-muhly-andrew-gant.html)

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Sound.

The musicological study of the psychological effect of musical experiences  — “Psychoacoustics” —  struck me immediately due to its incredible history. While it appeared in 1863 in one of the earliest treatises on modern psychology,[1] Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen als physiologische Grundlage für die Theorie der Musik by German physician Hermann von Helmholtz, the link between music and brain has been on the close watch of human civilization since the time of classic Greece.[2]  From the human tendency to deal with all sensory information in patterns, to the suspenseful use of tension and release in music as a way of communicating narrative, to the ability of “great” music to transform us emotionally, the study of psychoacoustics has a multitude of areas to offer us as musicians who are curious about the potential effects that our music can have on listeners.

When considering the strong psychological effect of music on the brain, I have often found it interesting how, as humans, we generally have a clear perception of what music “is”; in other words, we all instinctively decide for ourselves whether or not what we hear is music or simply noise. In 1952, this seemingly simple definition was blown open to interpretation through the premiere of John Cage’s 4’33, a piece of music that includes no typically “musical” sounds at all, rather, only the sound or “noise” of the environment of the listener. In this legendary work, Cage was able to completely subvert our expectations as audience members and turn the experience of listening to music inward on itself, towards the listener and away from the performer. Now, our experience of sound as music or music as sound depends only on our psychological projection of aesthetics on a given situation. In other words, the sounds we hear only become music when we set our mind to perceive them in a certain “musical” way. Although our focus is now on the music of the 21st century, subverting the audience’s expectation in music is certainly an age old technique, so much so that one could say this technique is intrinsically tied to the act of musical composition. Even further, one could argue that the ability or lack thereof to allure the audience with expectation and surprise, tension and release, is where we can finally draw some line between what is noise and what is music.

The strong link between psychology and our human perception of sound. offers a clear pathway into the study of why these subverted expectations affect us so deeply. This connection becomes even more apparent when we consider the fact that the act of listening to or playing music uses more parts of the brain than almost any other activity.[3] When exploring the link between psychology, music and the science of sound perception, it is interesting look to the work of musicologists who “would like to bridge the gap between compositional and perceptual theory by making the results of psychoacoustic research more accessible to composers.”[4] Musicologists Richard Parncutt and Hans Strasburger in their article “Applying Psychoacoustics in Composition: “Harmonic” Progressions of “Nonharmonic” Sonorities,” present of compositional method which attempts to construct harmonic progressions of non-harmonic sonorites. Again, we are dealing with pattern recognition as a link to the human ability to perceive any sound as music, similar to the way in which human language evolved from the ability to perceive the difference in a variety of harmonically complex tones or vowels.[5]

Chris Beroes-Haigis


[1] Eric F. Clarke, “Musicology: Psychology and Hearing,” Oxford Music Online: Grove Music Online (2001, updated and revised, 31 January 2014), https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.46710 (accessed January 28, 2019).

[2] Clarke.

[3] Daniel J. Levitin, This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession (New York: Dutton, 2006), 31.

[4] Richard Parncutt and Hans Strasburger, “Applying Psychoacoustics in Composition: “Harmonic” Progressions of “Nonharmonic” Sonorities,” Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 32, No. 2 (Summer 1994): 88-129, https://www.jstor.org/stable/833600, (accessed: January 29th, 2019).

[5] Richard Parncutt and Hans Strasburger.

The Song of Psychology

No matter where you travel, near or far, there’s always something that accompanies your presence and allows for rumination: music. The amalgamation of psychology and music is the study of a person’s “thoughts and behavior from a scientific perspective” in an acoustical manner. The structure of a musical work has a diverse effect on human behavior and thoughts including: the distinction between patterns, similarities and dissimilarities, recognition, and the reactions that occur due to the simulation of said music. It is generally easy for a trained musician to understand the discrepancies between intervals, timbre, rhythm, and several other determining factors that affect and shape a musical work. However, while humans can discern these aspects, the combined study of music and psychology is what ultimately helped us comprehend our perceptions and behavior towards music.

Often, one of the most notable instances of human thought and music (in a scientific perspective) is the story of Pythagoras and the famous harmonies of plucked strings from the 6th century B.C. It is said that Pythagoras heard a blacksmith hammering on varying-sized anvils and observed that certain tones were produced that, when played together, were either consonant or dissonant. Of course, his observation was based on three intervals of a fourth, fifth, and octave which created generally consonant sounds and a dissonant one between the fourth and fifth-degree notes. Pythagoras took it upon himself to test said theory by applying it to fixed strings of varying lengths, based upon those anvil sizes, and recreated the intervals by numerical means. While some people believe that Pythagoras was not a real person, someone must have understood the relation between certain objects and how the tones they produced could be altered by size. In addition, the intervals and its tones were perceived to either have “pleasant” or “unpleasant” harmonies that did not base itself quite in math terms. Though these sounds were viewed with some relation of sensation, the matter was primarily based on re-creating sounds by using mathematical studies and theory rather than musical aesthetics.

Around the 4th century B.C., music began to surpass the mere thoughts tied to numbers and eventually fell into the process of human emotions. Aristoxenus found that there was a reason to believe in “musical intuition” or “musical synesis” rather than relying on mathematics to simply create pitches. In his document Harmonics, Aristoxenus describes music and its activity as “. . .something hidden deep down in the soul, and is not palpable or apparent to the ordinary man…”. These non-tangible perceptions and responses to music would relate to how a person would react to sounds based on its aural effects, despite Pythagoras’ idea of having calculated exact values for “perfect” tones. It is like our own practices in the current music world where we all have a different perception of what is considered “pleasant” or “unpleasant” due to the aural effects of a work. One might be thrown off to hear pieces that are more atonal, filled with chromaticism, or including microtones; tonality has pervaded and shaped our ideas and thoughts on what we consider acceptable, which allows us to express our emotions based on how it is performed and experienced. A person’s behavior and thoughts on music psychology opens a world that is understood through our interactions with music, so we must always reflect on those interactions in order to fully comprehend them.

–              Ashley Venegas


References

Anderson, Gene H. “Pythagoras and the Origin of Music Theory.” Indiana Theory Review 6, no. 3 (1983): 35-61. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24045969 (accessed January 28, 2019).

Clarke, Eric F. “Musicology: Psychology, Hearing.” Grove Music Online. (Updated January 2014) https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.46710 (accessed January 28, 2019).

Deutsch, Diana. “Psychology of Music: Antiquity to the 19th Century.” Groves Music Online. (January 2001) https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.42574 (accessed January 28, 2019).

Levin, Flora R. “Synesis in Aristoxenian Theory.” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 103 (1972): 211-34. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2935976 (accessed January 28, 2019).

Music, Hearing, and the Psyche

Writings and reflections on the psychological effects of music have been written as far back, or further, than the year 500 BCE. In the time of Pythagoras, many believed that because our senses and perceptions of the world around us were so different, we could not count on them to explain the phenomenon of music. They trusted only in hard, scientific evidence based on mathematics and physics. [1]

In some ways these Greek scholars were correct. When gathering data on the human ear, the absolute threshold of hearing among people of the same age group is close, but every person is different. This gap in perception of sound becomes wider as we compare different age groups. Younger children tend to be able to hear much higher and lower frequencies than adults. [4] Therefore no two people hear sounds alike and their experiences when listening to music will be unique.

During the scientific revolution, scientists like Galileo helped to contribute important discoveries in the acoustical phenomenon of music. Some of these discoveries such as the harmonic series and consonance and dissonance were studied immensely. Galileo believed that consonance was the effect of a certain pattern of beating (or waves) on the ear drum while dissonance would create an irregular pattern. [1]

Some more modern writings discuss the idea of consonance and dissonance and its scientific explanations. [2] However, even these writings lead to an entirely different thought: the tonal system itself. [3] This system is different for different cultures (e.g. Western Music vs. Eastern Music). Who is to say that a consonance or dissonance has the same effect on someone here in the U.S. – where we are accustomed to Western scales and harmonies – as it would in the Middle East – whose people are comfortable with scales that include quarter tones and whose scales are different from those we have in Western music?

A couple hundred years after Pythagoras, Aristoxenus objected to the mathematical approach taken. He felt that it could not be explained fully without the senses. He stated that in order for music to have an effect, one must be able to recall the previous sonority from the one heard in real time. A melody cannot exist without having a successive nature. Experiencing one must be through both perception and memory. [1]

Some composers and artists of today do not write their music based on common practice theory. They write their music based on how the harmonic structure makes them feel. Composers, like Eric Whitacre, develop a style of music that surrounds the listener with what could be called an “ethereal environment”. The music provides the listener a feeling of being transported to another world. This cannot be explained by any scientific measurement but can only be understood through the senses of the listener. The composer associates a certain mood with a particular sonority and writes his/her harmonies based on the mood he/she wants to portray to their audience. Composers like Whitacre have taken the psychology of music beyond that of mathematical explanations and utilized the senses to create their masterpieces.

Understanding the way music affects our minds through the senses – and not just through the physics of sound waves – can allow us to see the methodology behind the composers who write with the intent to evoke more emotional response and create a connection with the listener on a whole new level.

-Michelle Shaheen

 

Works cited:

[1] -Deutsch, Diana. 2001 “Psychology of music.” Grove Music Online. 27 Jan. 2019. http://0-www.oxfordmusiconline.com.lib.utep.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000042574.

[2] -Eric F. Clarke. 2001 “Musicology.” Grove Music Online. 27 Jan. 2019. http://0-www.oxfordmusiconline.com.lib.utep.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000046710.

[3] -Helmholtz, Hermann von. Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen als physiologische Grundlage für die Theorie der Musik (english translation). Braunschweig, 222. F. Vieweg, 1863.

[4] -Moore, Brian C.J. 2001 “Hearing and psychoacoustics.” Grove Music Online. 27 Jan. 2019. http://0-www.oxfordmusiconline.com.lib.utep.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000042531.

Organology

Amongst the many disciplines of musicology, Organology is the one that I found the most appealing. Organology is a discipline that studies musical instruments.[1] Throughout history, instruments have greatly evolved, shaping the music, performance practices, and composition styles differently. Organology focuses on the “design and construction”[2] of instruments, and how those factors influenced and changed musical and social settings.

As a cellist, I want to focus specifically on the changes that occurred in the evolution of the cello. The modern cello we know today is not only used in chamber settings and orchestra, but is widely recognized as a solo instrument. This is due to the fact that the modern cello has a wide range, projects in big halls quite well, and allows for various virtuosic techniques. This was not always the case. During baroque times, the baroque cello’s construction was completely different. The baroque cello had no end pin and had gut strings. Furthermore, the bow was curved[3] and was played with a different technique, the musician’s hand being placed further away from the frog. Due to the nature of the baroque cello, the tuning was set around 422.[4] Today’s modern cellos are tuned to 440-444. During most of the baroque period, the cello was seen as an accompaniment, not a solo instrument. Therefore, this construction allowed for the desired lightness in sound and texture. Since the sound production was small, most performances were held in small, intimate settings.

Approaching the end of the baroque period a change occurred, thus reducing the popularity of these formerly used practices. Performance practices shifted to big halls, orchestras grew larger and the cello became viewed as more of a solo, virtuosic instrument. To my knowledge, due to the society’s and composers’ need for a change, the nature of the cello, as well as other instruments, evolved. However, in Musicology: Organology, Vincent Duckles and Laurence Libin point out a discovery that instrument construction changed first[5], before the move to big halls and the need for greater sound production. Based on the extensive data collected by various musicologists, it was the production of higher quality instruments that gave composers the liberty to write more technically demanding pieces. This shift in instruments also caused a change in dynamics, as instruments could now project in front of an orchestra as a solo instrument. Specifically when looking at a cello, it received an end pin, metal strings and a bow with less flexibility than the baroque bow, resulting in a more powerful and dominant sound. These changes were made by one of the most prominent luthiers up to date, Antonio Stradivari.[6] His revolutionary approach to musical instruments changed the perception and reputation of the cello and allowed for a greater range in musical compositions that could be created for it.

It is hard to fathom the value and magnitude of Organology in shaping a number of factors that go into music today. If the change in the instruments truly changed the attitude towards composing, as well as the approach to the music by both performers and the audience, it is safe to say that luthiers were far ahead of their time. Thanks to them and all of the different possibilities with instruments made possible by their ingenuity, music continued changing and from their time on has never ceased evolving.

Ivana Biliskov

Works cited:

Duckles, Vincent, Jann Pasler, Glenn Stanley, Thomas, H. Christensen, Barbara Haggh, Robert Balchin, Laurence Libin, Tilman Seebass, Janet K. Page, Lydia Goehr, Bojan Bujic, Eric F. Clarke, Susan McClary, Jean Gribenski, Carolyn Gianturco, Pamela M. Potter, David Fallows, Miloš Velimirović, Gary Tomlinson, Gerard Béhague, Masakata Kanazawa, and Peter Platt. “Musicology.” Grove Music Online. (2001). http://0-www.oxfordmusiconline.com.lib.utep.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000046710 (accessed 29 Jan. 2019).

Neece, Brenda. “The Cello in Britain: A Technical and Social History.” The Galpin Society Journal 56 (2003): 77-115. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/30044410.

Romano, Nel. “Out of the Air: Baroque Instruments.” Early Music 4, no. 4 (1976): 511-13. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/3126190.


[1] Duckles, Vincent, et. al., “Musicology,” Grove Music Online. (2001), http://0-www.oxfordmusiconline.com.lib.utep.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000046710 (accessed 29 Jan. 2019).

[2] Duckles.

[3] Romano, Nel, “Out of the Air: Baroque Instruments,” Early Music 4, no. 4 (1976): 512, http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/3126190.

[4] Romano, 512.

[5] Duckles.

[6] Brenda Neece “The Cello in Britain: A Technical and Social History,” The Galpin Society Journal 56 (2003): 78, http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/30044410.

Textual Scholarship.

Musicologists are those who take our past music history of great works, musicians, composers, and archives, and dig deeper into theories and procedures by making connections to our present, creating new narratives as well was contributing their own personal perspective and interpretation.  Due to my personal connection to classical composers’ music having worked closely with their pieces, I find that the notation was altered to fit the changing music demands of new musicians. The field of textual scholarship is such a vast topic that it allows much discussion and debate among musicologists since many artists today have reworked textual content and imprinted their own ideas and concepts into these newly notated pieces. The article about textual scholarship talks about deciphering different forms of old texts such as manuscripts, books, music, or documents, as well as the development of printing, or binding these works.[1]

The article by Vincent Duckles talks about how musicologists throughout the 21st century researched the origins of music notation and their process to improve the notation and provide new revised editions to selected works. As a musician myself, I could relate to Duckles statements of keeping true to traditional roots. When finding an edition to use we tend to seek out the ones with the most original content, as we want to feel a connection to the composers and stay true to their idea of how they would have wanted to play it. For example, to me, J.S. Bach is one of the most iconic composers, whose works present little notation for the musician to work from, yet there are bowings and dynamics that help to guide the phrasing of the piece. There is a lot of room for artistic interpretation but in the eyes of a musicologist, you see the music in a different light. Therefore, musicians have relied on information passed down to them from their teachers, who most likely received their knowledge from their preceding teachers.

Through there are many studies in this discipline, manuscript studies, editing, and ‘Urtext’ are ones I find be the most discussed.[2] Before programs such as “Sibelius” were invented, composers would write their music out by hand. Musicologists in the 20th century such as Aubrey and Beck[3] have spent time trying to piece together markings from their original content and create more legible and revised copies. Musicians tend to look at mainly the surface of knowledge in their music, bowings, phrasing, articulations, while musicologists research further into those fundamental techniques given and ask more questions related to what is appropriate to revise and how to go about this, or is it better to give something that is of original content but more challenging to decipher. As for ‘Urtext’, this connects to the understanding of editing, as the ‘Urtext’ presents the most original material found, yet with some subjective additions to who made the editorial changes. Since we all have our own perspective on music, musicologist scholars go through this same process to discuss and collaborate with connecting works and eras, bringing it all together.

Works Cited:

Bent, Ian D., David W. Hughes, Robert C. Provine, Richard Rastall, Anne Kilmer, David Hiley, Janka Szendrei, Thomas B. Payne, Margaret Bent, and Geoffrey Chew. “Notation.” Oxford Music Online, January 20, 2001.

Cronne, H.a. “Handwriting in England and Wales. By N. Denholm-Young. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. 1954. Pp. 102, 31 Plates. 30s.” Irish Historical Studies10, no. 37 (1956): 120-25. Accessed January 28, 2019.

Pope, Stephen Travis. “Perspectives of New Music Vol. 24, No. 2.” Perspectives of New Music26, no. 1 (1988): 156-89. Accessed January 28, 2019. https://www.jstor.org/stable/833219.

Hamm, Charles. “Ensemble Music.” Music Educators Journal Vol. 63, No. 724, no. 6 (1938): 148-49. Accessed January 28, 2019. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3395246.


[1] Charlton Hinman’s The Printing and Proof-Reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare (Oxford, 1963)

[2] Tyson, Wolf.  “Musicology: Textual Scholarship,” The Grove music online(2001, updated and revised, 31 January 2014), https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.46710 (accessed January 28, 2019).

[3]Duckles, Vincent.  “Musicology: Textual Scholarship,” The Grove music online(2001, updated and revised, 31 January 2014), https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.46710 (accessed January 28, 2019).



Performance Practice Method

The study of performance practice is an area of musicology that includes the study of how music was traditionally performed in the time period it was written in. This encompasses many different aspects of musicality such as ornamentation, phrasing, dynamics, and articulation. It can also include nonmusical elements such as the seating of an orchestra. For example, the seating diagrams of 19th-century orchestras have been published many times, giving a glimpse into how musicians of the era thought an orchestra should be set up. An interesting pattern with many of these diagrams is when a chorus was present; the chorus was placed in front of the orchestra.[1]Along with studying many aspects of music (history, theory, performance practice, etc.), musicologists also study the compositions of prominent composers such as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven to create an understanding of what their intent was for the piece.

The scholarship of performance practice is an area that is only a little over a century old as one of the first books that covered the topic was Edward Dannreuther’s book Musical Ornamentationpublished in 1893-1895. Throughout the 20thcentury, more books were published discussing performance practice including Lanowska’s La Musique Ancienne in 1904 along with Dolmetsch’s The Interpretations of the Music of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuriesin 1915. Due to the increase of the study of performance practice in the 20thcentury, scholars began to create programs were the subject could be studied and perfected. This began with the opening of the Basel Schola Cantorum in 1933. This institute was founded with the goal of studying and implementing the performance practice of musical compositions from earlier time periods. The students that attended this institution had to follow a curriculum that included the study of many different aspects of performance practice, such as ornamentation and notation.  Over the next 30 years, the institute had amassed a large collection of instruments from earlier periods. With the creation of this institution, the groundwork of academic study of performance practice had been created.[2]

Throughout the 20thand 21stcenturies, research has been conducted on the performance practice of almost every major composer throughout different musical periods. Musicologists have researched performance practice from Medieval chants to Modern compositions. This research allows musicians of all levels to develop an understanding of what the composer originally intended with the compositional techniques commonly used in their music. However, this research has also opened the room for debate about what was the composer’s intent. Frederick Neumann and Richard Maunder argue that Will Crutchfield’s statement that “… that every feminine ending in Mozart, be it in recitatives of closed numbers, musthave an appoggiatura of some kind”[3]is not accurate, because Mozart left the decision up to the singer. Neumann argues that appoggiaturas should be left out when “its specific effect is out of place.”[4]Neumann then continues to discuss the interpretation of vocal appoggiaturas by presenting the idea of using the instrumental parts to reference how the vocal line should be performed. He also mentions that if no appoggiatura is written for the vocal or instrumental parts that does not mean one could not be added, but should be a guideline to consider for adding or leaving out the effect. 

The study of performance practice has led many musicologists and musicians to answer a big question – Is the music being performed authentically? David Irving says, 

“Historians emphasize the importance of the currency of interpretation,  .. an underlying assumption of historical method is that in writing history our understanding of the past is informed and constructed by our present-day concerns. If history is the interpretation of the past, and historiography is the way we interpret the past through the written word, then historicization is the act of making or representing something as historic. … Crucially, it involves the careful positioning of our own perspectives on the most abstract dimension of past human cultures – organized sound – and intentionally recreating some form of representation.”[5]

Irving continues to discuss this idea of an “authentic” performance by addressing two concerns. The first being that an “authentic” performance is derived from the concerns of a musician’s taste in music rather than a performance that strictly follows the original intent of the composer. The second concern is the idea that performance practice has become influenced by the interpretations of modern-day musicians. Irving goes on to point out that musicians who perform Baroque or Classical music approach the pieces as a modern musician rather than approaching the music using performance practice techniques of those eras.[6]

The study of performance practice has allowed musicians to gain a broader understanding of the intent of composersin earlier time periods. It has also allowed musicians to perform the music closer to the original intent on historically accurate instruments. However, this has led to debates on what is a historically “authentic” performance, and what is not. 

Work Cited

Duckles, Vincent, Jann Pasler, Glenn Stanley, Thomas Chistensen, Barbara H, Haggh, Robert Balchin, Laurence Libin, et al. 2001 “Musicology.” Grove Music Online. 6 May. 2019. https://0-www-oxfordmusiconline-com.lib.utep.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/978156592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000046710.

Irving, David R. M. “Historicizing Performance Practice: Early Music Through Time and Space” Early Music 41, no. 1 (2013): 83-85. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/43306805

Joseph, Deanna. “NINETEENTH-CENTURY PERFORMANCE PRACTICE: Reassessing Tradition and Revitalizing Interpretation.” The Choral Journal 54, no. 9 (2014): 18-31. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/43051020.

Neumann, Frederick, and Richard Maunder. “Performance Practice in Mozart.” Music & Letters 74, no. 4 (1993): 653-55. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/737627.

Somorjay, Dorottya Fabian. “Musicology and Performance Practice: In Search of a Historical Style with Bach Recordings.” Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 41, no. 1/3 (2000): 77-106. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/902569.

Trice Mayhall


[1]Joseph, Deanna, Nineteenth-Century Performance Practice: Reassessing Tradition and Revitalizing Interpretation, No. 1, 2013, 83. 

[2]Somorjay, Dorottya Fabian, Musicology and Performance Practice: In Search of a Historical Style with Bach Recordings, 2000, 78.

[3]Nuemann, Frederick and Maunder, Richard, Performance Practice in Mozart, 1993, 653.

[4]See Neumann and Maunder, 653.

[5]Irving, David, Historicizing performance practice: early music through time and space, 2013, 83.

[6]See Irving.


Works Cited

Irving, David R. M. “Historicizing Performance Practice: Early Music Through Time and Space” Early Music 41, no. 1 (2013): 83-85. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/43306805

Joseph, Deanna. “NINETEENTH-CENTURY PERFORMANCE PRACTICE: Reassessing Tradition and Revitalizing Interpretation.” The Choral Journal 54, no. 9 (2014): 18-31. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/43051020.

Neumann, Frederick, and Richard Maunder. “Performance Practice in Mozart.” Music & Letters 74, no. 4 (1993): 653-55. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/737627.

Somorjay, Dorottya Fabian. “Musicology and Performance Practice: In Search of a Historical Style with Bach Recordings.” Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 41, no. 1/3 (2000): 77-106. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/902569.

Human Sexuality, Gender, and Musicology

In recent years gay, lesbian and gender studies have become relevant topics among music scholars. More importantly, these studies are being examined by musicologist. These studies have recognized connections between the politics of gender and sexuality in composition and performance.

Studies have determined that the practice of pop music is more that just sounds that are produced. Judith Peraino states music practice itself is “an extension of sensual/sexual practices and dynamics of power that forge non-normative subjects or erotic relations.” This is well-recognized in popular music. On the other hand, classical music is perceived as “untainted by sexual bias.” In comparison to literature and visual art, sexuality can be explicit depending on how it is portrayed. In addition, gender and sexual desire can play a role in these forms of art. Be that as it may, music has a more effective way of portraying such characteristics. For instance, since music is more complex aurally, the effect it has on a person reveals our own most private feelings. Ergo, music subtly influences our individual identities.


In the book, Queering the Pitch: The new Gay and Lesbian Musicology by Philip Brett, it is further explained how even playing music plays a role in personal identities. Brett explains the connection between sexual identity and identifying as a musician. He compares the statement of coming-out as “I’m queer” can have as similar effect as coming-out as “I’m musical.” He proceeds to explain, that both sayings make you feel vulnerable, therefore, it becomes a part of your identity. As you can see, the connection between sexual identity and identifying as a musician can result in similar vulnerabilities.

Furthermore, queer composers have been overlooked considering they have made remarkable achievements in music. For example, Leonard Bernstein, whose sexuality was kept secret for many years, was a composer who lived through repression and hatred during his lifetime as a young composer. It became a challenge for the composer to continue his exposure, however, his music has captivated many listeners to overlook these prejudice views.

In conclusion, human sexuality, gender, and musicology are all connected in one way or another, from the perspective of the performer to the composer.

Judith Peraino, and Suzanne G. Cusick. Music and Sexuality. Journal of the American Musicological Society 66, no. 3 (2013): 825-72. doi:10.1525/jams.2013.66.3.825.

Keathley, Elizabeth L. “Postwar Modernity and the Wife’s Subjectivity: Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti.” American Music 23, no. 2 (2005): 220-56. doi:10.2307/4153033.

McClary, Susan. Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 69.

Smart, Mary Ann, Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas. Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian MusicologyNotes 51, no. 4 (1995): 5. doi:10.2307/899102.

Theoretical and Analytical Method

Theoretical and Analytical Method

Music theory has been around for thousands of years in some form or another. It is impossible to know when or how it started, but it can be traced back at least to ancient Greece. The field of music theory and analysis is very wide and diverse but The New Grovesubcategorizes it into three parts: speculativeregulativeand analytictraditions.

             The Speculative Traditionis arguably the oldest form of music theory. It is the study of basic music elements such as sounds, intervals, rhythmic proportions, scale systems, modes, etc. Regulative and Practical Traditionsdeal with music notation, vocabulary, structure, scales/modes, etc. Some of the early important speculative traditions began in the 9thand 10thcenturies and were developed to systemize and notate the Church’s growing musical needs.  Analytic traditionsare mainly concerned with structure and individual features of a piece of music. This normally involves identifying certain components and/or explaining the importance, disposition, or relationship of the components.[1]

            The study of music theory, in its most basic and superficial sense, is based on patterns and set rules of tonal hierarchy, harmonic progressions, voice leading, form, meter, etc. Analyzing these basic components is essential for any music theorist, or anyone in the music field, but one can go much deeper when analyzing a musical work. Theorists and musicologists, such as Peter Burkholder, study other composers to enrich their own compositional style. Burkholder claims he wants to know why the composers he studies made the choices they did and why they preferred those choices over other possibilities.[2]Other theorists, such as Brian Hyer, have a more abstract approach. Hyer notes that “an objective account of what is ‘in’ … music is … impossible, because what is ‘in’ … music varies according to the subjective interpretive pressures that constitute perceptual contexts.” [3]

            Theorist Benjamin Boretz practiced “attributive” theorizing as opposed to more common “descripitive” methods. In his view, an attributive theory “isn’t descriptive or explanatory of anything; what it does is ascribe properties to and thereby determine what there is.” Attributes such as melodies, rhythms, harmonies, are treated as ideas and not facts. Boretz notes the involvement and complicity of the listener in determining the “shape and content of reality.” Theorist Robert Morris notes that “music theory, taken as the study of structure, could be considered a kind of science, analysis is clearly a form of criticism.”[4]In other words, the notes and markings should be the same on the score of a specific work. That should not change no matter who is studying that score. The analysis, interpretation, and meaning, however, will vary immensely from person to person.

Music theory, especially the analytic tradition, is a grey area of music where anyone with a compelling argument could put forth their thoughts on a specific piece.  Music can be full of patterns, rules, and trends. Theorizing and analyzing all of those simpler things can turn out to be very abstract and there is no limit as far as how deep or surreal one can get.


[1]The New Grove p. 494-497

[2]Burkholder, Peter

[3]Pearsall, Edward 

[4]Morris, Robert

             The Speculative Tradition is arguably the oldest form of music theory. It is the study of basic music elements such as sounds, intervals, rhythmic proportions, scale systems, overtones, etc. Pythagoras was an important theorist in this field. Regulative and Practical Traditions deal with music notation, vocabulary, structure, scales/modes, etc. Some of the early important speculative traditions began in the 9thand 10thcenturies and were developed to systemize and notate the Church’s growing musical needs.  Analytic Traditions are mainly concerned with structure and individual features of a piece of music. This normally involves identifying certain components and/or explaining the importance, disposition, or relationship of the components.[1]

            The study of music theory, in its most basic and superficial sense, is based on patterns and set rules of tonal hierarchy, harmonic progressions, voice leading, form, meter, etc. Analyzing these basic components is essential for any music theorist, or anyone in the music field, but one can go much deeper when analyzing a musical work. Musicologists, such as Peter Burkholder, study other composers to enrich their own compositional style. Burkholder claims he wants to know why the composers he studies made the choices they did and why they preferred those choices over other possibilities.[2]Other theorists, such as Brian Hyer, have a more abstract approach. Hyer notes that “an objective account of what is ‘in’ … music is … impossible, because what is ‘in’ … music varies according to the subjective interpretive pressures that constitute perceptual contexts.” [3]

            Benjamin Boretz practiced “attributive” theorizing as opposed to more common “descripitive” methods. In his view, an attributive theory “isn’t descriptive or explanatory of anything; what it does is ascribe properties to and thereby determine what there is.” Attributes such as melodies, rhythms, harmonies, are treated as ideas and not facts. Boretz notes the involvement and complicity of the listener in determining the “shape and content of reality.” Theorist Robert Morris notes that “music theory, taken as the study of structure, could be considered a kind of science, analysis is clearly a form of criticism.”[4]In other words, the notes and markings should be the same on the score of a specific work. That should not change no matter who is studying that score. The analysis, interpretation, and meaning, however, will vary immensely from person to person. 

Music theory, especially the analytic tradition, is a grey area where anyone with a compelling argument could put forth their thoughts on a specific piece.  Music can be full of patterns, rules, and trends. Theorizing and analyzing all of those elements can turn out to be very abstract and there is no limit as far as how deep or surreal one can get.

Carlos Barba

References

Burkholder, J. Peter. “Music Theory and Musicology.” The Journal of Musicology 11, no. 1 (1993): 11-23. doi:10.2307/764148.

Morris, Robert. “A Few Words on Music Theory, Analysis and about Yours Truly.” Intégral 14/15 (2000): 38-48. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/40214076.

“Musicology” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and
            Musicians. Edited by Stanley Sadie and J. Tyrrell. London: Macmillan, 
            2001. xvii: 494-497

Pearsall, Edward. “Mind and Music: On Intentionality, Music Theory, and Analysis.” Journal of Music Theory 43, no. 2 (1999): 231-55. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/3090661.


[1]The New Grove p. 494-497

[2]Burkholder, Peter

[3]Pearsall, Edward 

[4]Morris, Robert

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