cswnews

Featured WiMT: Kristen Wallentinsen

By Kristen Wallentinsen

Before I discovered my passion for music theory, I studied violin performance. I was constantly enthralled by the beautiful, soaring melodies that violinists get to play, and that drove me to study music. As an aspiring violinist, my days were spent practicing, always with careful consideration of phrasing and melodic construction. I cultivated a passion for melody that made me want to dig deeper, to really figure out how melody works. However, I would often find myself sitting in my core music theory classes, learning about so many different chords and chord progressions, and thinking to myself, “But what about melody? Why can’t we talk about that?” I did well in my theory classes, and my professors noticed my interest. One day, my professor suggested to me that if I was interested in music theory, I should look at some recent music theory journals, and read the first thing that seemed interesting to me. Later that day, I found myself with a few hours to kill, so I took his advice. I went to the library and picked up the first one that caught my eye: the new (and shiny) blue copy of Music Theory Spectrum. I happened across an article entitled “Melodic Contour and Nonretrogradable Structure in the Birdsong of Olivier Messiaen” by Rob Schultz, and it utterly fascinated me; I immediately became hooked. I must have read it five times, at least. Here was someone talking about melodic shape in ways that made a lot of sense to me. By the end, I just knew I had to become a theorist––that I had to study contour. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that something as simple as this one journal article could have such a profound impact on the course of my life as a musician, as a scholar.

The first sentence in my dissertation reads: “All melodies have shape: a pattern of rises, falls, and plateaus that occur as music moves through time.” On its surface, this sentence seems incredibly obvious, yet its assumptions implicitly inform so many of the analytical models we use in our scholarship, and in our classrooms. I believe that by studying contour in a more rigorous way, we can arrive at a more nuanced understanding of both the music we study, and the ways in which we study it. I want to reintegrate contour into the dialogs we have about music and music analysis, following in the footsteps of Robert Morris, Michael Friedman, Elizabeth West Marvin, Ian Quinn, Rob Schultz, and others.

To that end, my dissertation research focuses on families of related contours. I investigate these families by developing a new transformational model that examines contour relationships using a fuzzy lens, based on shared transformational pathways. This approach has allowed me to comment on contour’s role in melodic coherence or development across a wide variety of musical genres. I examine relationships between regional variants of medieval plainchant, explain how melodic shape contributes to motivic development in the works of Johannes Brahms, and show how repetitive patterns in minimalist music support variable perceptions of melodic shape.

In many ways, this seems like a niche topic, but as I explore the model’s applications, I am struck by how many different angles it can touch upon. For example, in my analysis of Brahms’s Regenlied Op. 59, No. 3 and the related violin sonata Op. 78, not only was the model able to illuminate how Brahms developed and related his motive families, but it also shed light on a narrative of nostalgia for youth centering around Brahms’s feelings for his godson, Felix Schumann. In another study, I use the model to explore the element of surprise and subsequent recovery that listeners experience in the minimalist work of Philip Glass. These studies have shown me just how valuable it can be to examine those aspects of music that often are overlooked. Every day I sit down to do my research, and I am consistently surprised at how many areas of music theory, and how many different genres of music this has the potential to inform. Indeed, it is this diversity that has captivated me throughout this project, and I imagine it will have the power to inspire my curiosity for many years to come.

Since picking up that new shiny blue Music Theory Spectrum, my journey has led me to amazing places, and given me the opportunity to meet and work with so many incredible people. I have received tremendous support from my colleagues and professors in ways that have shaped my perspective on music theory, as well as my own talents as a scholar. During my master’s degree, I had the great privilege to work closely on contour with Rob Schultz, who advised my master’s thesis. His constant support and his faith in my abilities as a theorist is truly a gift that I will never forget. The faculty at the University of Western Ontario have also provided tremendous support as I write my dissertation under the supervision of Catherine Nolan. I am continually motivated by the enthusiastic responses I receive from the music theory community, and I am honored to be chosen as the recipient of the first annual SMT-40 dissertation fellowship. I am thankful to the Society for Music Theory, to the CSW for their incredibly useful resources and mentoring programs, and to everyone else (too numerous to mention) who has had a hand in this journey. These many sources of support are a testament to what music theory can be—a vibrant, constantly evolving discipline that values new dialogs and new ways of thinking about music.

kristen-wallentinsen150x200.jpgKristen Wallentinsen is a PhD candidate at Western University. She has earned Master’s degrees in music theory and violin performance from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from the University of Arizona. Her research focuses on mathematical representations of melodic contour in music, and she is currently working to apply her contour methodology toward the study of familial relationships within a wide variety of repertoires.  She is the inaugural recipient of the Society for Music Theory’s SMT-40 Dissertation Fellowship for her dissertation entitled “Fuzzy Family Ties: Measuring Familial Similarity between Contours of Different Cardinalities.” Her other research interests include the music of Brahms, music cognition, minimalism, music theory pedagogy, transformational theory, and the analysis of early music.

Battling Unconscious Biases

Most of us know that we harbour implicit or unconscious biases, but are at a loss about how to address them. Many orchestras have long acknowledged these biases and have responded by having job candidates audition behind a screen to ensure anonymity, resulting in an increased number of women in these orchestras. Similarly, the Society for Music Theory has worked at removing the impact of these biases by engaging in double-blind review of articles for the Society’s journals; double-blind review has been successful: the acceptance rate of articles by women in Music Theory Spectrum and Music Theory Online is on par with men.

Most scholars, whether male or female, believe that they are not prejudiced against women, or members of the LGBTQ communities, or people with disabilities, or people of colour, but scientific studies show us clearly that unconscious biases shape all of our interactions. As bell hooks says, we are all capable of being both oppressed and oppressor (Hooks, 2000, 16). We unwittingly act on these biases in a number of ways, but I will focus here on letters of recommendation, on our citation habits, and on our invitations to conferences and academic panels. It is only by recognizing and actively countering these biases that we can dismantle systemic barriers and create true diversity in our institutions and in this Society. Here are some concrete suggestions for how to do that.

Letters of reference for male students, whether or not the letter-writer is male or female, are “4x more likely to mention publications” and emphasize research, praising achievement, while letters for women are 50% more likely to use adjectives that praise effort (Commission on the Status of Women, University of Arizona). When we write letters for women, we need to make a deliberate effort to highlight their achievements.

In academic publications in general, we cite more male authors than female, which has a negative impact on the careers of women. You can address this problem by checking your bibliography and resources when writing your next article or course syllabus, and deliberately seeking out work by women.

Finally: avoid the all-male panel; seeing panel after panel of only men presenting reinforces implicit bias. If you can’t think of a female theorist who is working on the topic of your special session or event, review recent issues of music theory journals, and check out the SMT Committee on the Status of Women’s most recent resource, a directory of women in music theory, developed by student member, Stefanie Acevedo.

Jennifer Bain

List of citations:

bell hooks. Feminist Theory: from Margin to Center. London: Pluto Press, 1984; 2nd edition, 2000.

Avoiding gender bias in reference writing.” Commission on the Status of Women, University of Arizona.

October Featured Links from Facebook Discussions

Disclaimer: Not all links are re-posted – please don’t take it personally if things you posted are not re-linked. Links are selected based on number of views/likes/comments and relevancy.

Resources:

Avoiding Gender Bias in Recommendation Letters
1200 Years of Women Composers (Playlists of Music by Women) 

Opportunities:
Music by Women Festival
Job Listing: Post-Doc Resident Scholar at Indiana University
Opera Grants for Female Composers (Opera America)
Arts and Humanities Research Council/BBC Workshop
From AMS List: Call for Compositions from Women & Music Journal

Research/Articles:

Students See Male Professors as Brilliant Geniuses, Female Professors as Bossy and Annoying 

 

New Blog Features!

The CSW is always working hard to develop programs that will fulfill our mission to diversify the field and promote gender inclusion.

We have developed three new ideas, and are launching them just in time for this year’s SMT/AMS meeting!

You will now find three exciting features on our blog:

A) Directory of Women in Music Theory – this new public directory welcomes entries from all women in music theory. We hope this will serve as a resource for those seeking to diversify their conferences, editorial boards, etc. as well as to give a powerful overview of the multitude of research being done by women in our field.

B) Featured Research – New blog series that will feature an article, book, or other project written by or about women. Please send in your suggestions using our online form!

C) Featured Woman in Music Theory (WiMT) – New blog series that will feature a woman in music theory! Please send in your suggestions using our online form!

SMT/AMS 2016 CSW Schedule of Events

Just an update to let everyone know about our events during this year’s conference. See you in Vancouver!

Friday, November 4: 

7:00-8:45 a.m.: CSW Breakfast meeting (Blue Whale) – Committee members only!
8:00-11:00 p.m.: CSW Session – Frauenarbeit: Four Triptychs by Women in Music Theory (Pavilion Ballroom B) 

  • Jennifer Bain (Dalhousie University), Session Moderator
  • Gretchen Horlacher (Indiana University), “Movement in Music and Dance: A Neoclassical Collaboration for Orpheus”
  • Julie Hedges Brown (Northern Arizona University), “Re-Hearing Schumann: A Ballet, a Quartet Adagio, and Multivalent Identity”
  • Robin Attas (Elon University), “Dancing an Analysis: Approaching Popular Music Theory through Dance”
  • Ellen Bakulina (University of North Texas), “Non-Monotonality and Proto-Harmony in Rachmaninoff”
  • Charity Lofthouse (Hobart and William Smith Colleges) and Sarah Marlowe (New York University), “Pushing the Boundaries: Mismatch and Overlap in Shostakovich’s ‘Classical’ Structures”
  • Deborah Rifkin (Ithaca College), “Prokofiev’s Chromaticism in Fairy Tales: Cinderella and Peter and the Wolf ”
  • Nancy Yunhwa Rao (Rutgers University), “Analysis, and the Dilemma of Music Genealogy: The Cases of Ruth Crawford and Johanna Beyer”
  • Antonella Di Giulio (Buffalo State College), “Blind and Imaged: Musical Intuitions in an Open Work”
  • Patricia Hall (University of Michigan), “‘Border Crossing’ in Dario Marianelli’s Score for Atonement”
  • Laura Emmery (Emory University), “Repetition and Formal Destruction in Popular Music”
  • Victoria Malawey (Macalester College), “Analyzing the Popular Voice”
  • Jacqueline Warwick (Dalhousie University), “Listening with a Gendered Ear”

Saturday, November 5:

12:15-1:45 p.m.: CSW Brown Bag Open Lunch (Parksville) – ALL are welcome. Please bring your lunches and suggestions for making SMT more inclusive!

*Also to note: Oxford University Press is hosting a reception on Friday evening from 6:30-8:00 p.m. (Pavilion Ballroom C). The press will be featuring Laurel Parsons and Brenda Ravenscroft’s first book in their series of analytical essays on music by women (more info on the book can be seen here).

July/August Featured Links from Facebook Discussions

Since some of our members are not able to use Facebook (personal, professional, etc. reasons), we have decided to start a blog post that features some of the main links/posts shared on our Facebook page.

Disclaimer: Not all links are re-posted – please don’t take it personally if things you posted are not re-linked. Links are selected based on number of views/likes/comments and relevancy.

Opportunities:

WiMIR Mentorship Program
Luna Composition Lab Mentorship Program

Blog Posts/Opinions:

Reflections on Risk by Ashley Fure
Tacet Acceptance of Structural Inequality in Classical Music
On Impostor Syndrome
How an Orchestra is Using Music to Say Black Lives Matter

Research/Articles:

Gender Composition and Salary of the Music Faculty in NASM Accredited UniversitiesContemporary Music Review Issue on “Gender, Creativity, and Education in Digital Musics and Sound Art.” 

For “Fun”:

Glamour Article on Gap Ads

CSW Update – from SMT Newsletter 39.2

This blurb was originally posted in the SMT August 2016 Newsletter (39.2).


The mission of the Committee on the Status of Women is to promote gender equity in the Society. The Committee pursues this mission by hosting a number of mentoring programs, a Facebook page, and a blog, by sending a letter about illegal interview questions to all universities and colleges posting jobs in music theory, and by hosting both an informal brownbag lunch meeting, as well as a formal session every year at the annual meeting. Some of the formal sessions at the annual meeting have addressed professional issues for women in music theory, while others have been oriented around current scholarship, sometimes focused on recent work in feminist theory and/or on music composed by women. For the 2016 meeting in Vancouver, the session highlights the cornucopia of work produced by women in music theory, with an all-female session of twelve lightning talks that cover a wide range of topics and approaches in the field. With eight papers selected through a blind peer-review process and four invited speakers, the session contains four thematic groupings of papers: music analysis and dance, Russian music, analysis of twentieth-century music, and analysis of popular music. For each grouping there will be three 10-minute talks, followed by 15 minutes of discussion.

For the 2017 meeting in Arlington, Virginia the committee will mark the Fortieth anniversary of the Society and the Thirtieth anniversary of the Committee on the Status of Women by hosting a session on the music of renowned composer, Chen Yi (b.1953). Dr. Chen’s orchestral work, Si Ji (Four Seasons) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in music in 2006. Her music has been performed and commissioned by internationally acclaimed musicians and orchestras ranging from Yo-Yo Ma to Evelyn Glennie, from the Cleveland Orchestra to the New York Philharmonic, from the BBC and Singapore Symphonies to the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden. Studies of her music have been published in English, Chinese, and German, including twenty-three completed doctoral dissertations in which she is named in the title. The Committee will be sending out a call for papers for this session soon, and is delighted that the composer herself will be able to attend the session. —Jennifer Bain (CSW Chair)