Featured WiMT: Lea Fink

In Germany, there are as yet no PhD programs in music theory. The study of musicology takes place in universities, but music theory as a major is only taught at conservatories, and far more as a craft than as a humanistic discipline. Graduates usually become teaching assistants in the final semesters or right after graduation, and career paths afterwards can be highly divergent. This was my experience as well: after six wonderful and rich years of studying piano and music theory, I happily accepted the position of educational director with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. My task was to provide the Leipzig audience with a satisfying program of family, school, and kindergarten concerts, workshops, talks etc. Sometimes I wore the hat of an administrator, but just as often I was involved with the orchestra’s repertoire, exploring analytical and interpretative possibilities of the works they were performing: some of my fondest memories are of discussing Beethoven’s 8th with Herbert Blomstedt as well as exploring Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust with Daniel Harding. These experiences sparked my keen interest in the study of musical form.

After nearly two years, I was honored to leave perhaps one of the most traditional orchestras for one of the most extraordinary: the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, which is entirely owned and governed by its musicians. As shareholders, they debate and vote on all financial and artistic decisions. Their philosophy of allowing and cultivating disagreements or dissonances in order to achieve results as a high-performance team enables a unique work attitude, reflected by their Beethoven cycle with Paavo Järvi. The mission of The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen is directly linked to their education program. The orchestra is housed in a comprehensive school building in a very diverse neighborhood, and the simple idea of sharing space as “flatmates” has led to remarkably durable relationships among musicians, students, parents and neighbors. My time in Bremen showed me something of the myriad ways in which the interaction of performer and audience can be shaped and intensified.


When I designed educational concerts, I regarded them as a kind of experiment that involved priming my listeners and adapting musical works as a kind of stimulus, even when this took the form of monumental opera performances of up to 600 people with diverse backgrounds and skills. These experiences furnished the starting point for my current research at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, the only one of the Max Planck Society’s over 80 non-profit research institutions with a music department. The MPIEA is unusual for hosting an interdisciplinary community of music scholars, literary scholars and linguists, psychologists and neuroscientists, all of whom share a common interest in the question “Who likes what and why?”

For someone like me, fascinated by the role of musical form, the interdisciplinary ambience of the MPIEA offers an ideal work environment. It allows me to call on a wide range of methodologies and expertise in order to answer some questions that intrigue me: How is form is perceived by composers, performers, and listeners, and how has it been understood in the past? I am particularly interested in the mysterious relationship of Formenlehre to the listening experience. As musicians, we sense that performers possess (and use?) a vast store of implicit, practical knowledge concerning the importance of a global structure when it comes to performance and interpretation. Yet as an hypothesis, this conviction remains largely experimentally unsupported. My research attempts to relate 18th-21st century accounts of form to contemporary empirical studies, asking to what extent do theoretical concepts of form overlap with real-time listening experience or performing? Are there categories of individual strategies towards an understanding of musical form?

As an example, let us consider Pierre Boulez’s strategy for quickly learning his short piano piece 2 from Douze Notations:

Boulez, one notes, adopts a traditional, rather static, spatially-oriented approach in discussing the form of his piece. What I find more interesting is his dynamic concept of form: the metaphor of a bike ride could even be regarded as a simplified version of his own compositional process, which he called prolifération. But these two listening strategies are complementary: each offers an indispensable mode of insight. Indeed, structural or architectonic and dynamic or concatenationist categories may well serve completely different, incommensurable ends. My project studies how certain listeners develop a preference for one or the other means of experiencing musical form. And perhaps, along the way, we may find support for the hypothesis of listener sensitivity to large-scale musical structures.



Lea Fink_JörgSarbach

Lea Fink is researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany. She holds graduate degrees in Piano and Music Theory from the University for Music and Drama Rostock, complementing her studies in Boston and Vienna. Before coming to Frankfurt, she was head of education and outreach with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and the director of the Future Lab of The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. Her research is motivated by her experiences in the “field” and focuses on perception and understanding of musical form in Western music theory and from an empirical point of view.


FEATURED WIMT: Rebecca Perry

I live in the fertile but sparsely populated borderland between music theory and history. Though a music theorist in job title, I have found abundant opportunities for cross-pollination between the two fields. My work on Prokofiev’s early adaptations of sonata form relies heavily on paradigms from musicology, taking inventory of specific ways that his idiosyncrasies of thematic process bear the imprint of his aesthetic and sociocultural milieu in early twentieth-century St. Petersburg.

Oddly enough, I migrated to this disciplinary interspace from the adjacent province of literary criticism. As a child, I loved to memorize exquisite turns of phrase that I encountered in poems and novels; I ran through my school’s hallways announcing to my friends that “[t]o make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee” (Emily Dickinson). Studying major literary works later on in high school, I was intrigued to learn that meaning arose not only from a text’s story or graceful combinations of words, per se, but from the fictional procedure itself—from the author’s deployment of particular formal techniques to construct the story in a certain way.

Like many young readers, I operated under the unconscious assumption that proper understanding of these formal techniques would unlock the door to a text’s ultimate meaning. Not until my sophomore year of college did I understand that a text does not possess one true interpretation, like a rare bird locked in a cage. One afternoon in a literary criticism class taught by Daniel Muhlestein at Brigham Young University, an astute fellow student explained that when he read a novel, he tried to view it through several critical lenses simultaneously, including feminism, Marxism, and so forth. While this approach to reading seemed impossibly esoteric to my nineteen-year-old mind, I was nonetheless fascinated at the idea that a text could become a dense, multi-dimensional menagerie of meanings to the trained and searching eye.

It occurred to me later in my college career that a similar critical approach could be productively applied to music. As a piano performance major, I became particularly interested in the early piano concertos and sonatas of Prokofiev. I was often puzzled, however, at the disconnect between my experience of his compositional unorthodoxies and the ease with which many commentators dismissed his works—particularly his formal process—as uninventive or overly reliant on classical models. His sonata forms in particular were often deemed to be mechanical and perfunctory, following “stereotyped formal pattern[s] straight out of the textbook” (Richard Taruskin) or “adhering to ‘sonata form’ as if it were a train schedule” (James McCalla). It seemed to me that such cursory dismissals bypassed much that was experimental and connotatively rich in the composer’s formal strategies, caricaturing them as one-dimensional rehashings of Viennese classical forms.

As I continued my study of Prokofiev in a doctoral program in Music History at Yale, I undertook a more detailed study of the many formal eccentricities in his sonata forms—including the interpolation of unrelated material in the middle of a traditional theme space, the superimposition of two previously sounded themes, the severe truncation of thematic material after the close of the exposition, and the functional repurposing of thematic material following its initial sounding. Often these thematic idiosyncrasies were pronounced enough to disrupt the larger structures in which they appeared, simultaneously inviting multiple interpretations of the overall form. I vividly remember an afternoon spent in a Panera Bread (of all places) on Chapel Street in New Haven, puzzling over the superimposed primary and secondary themes in the slow middle movement of Prokofiev’s Fourth Piano Sonata (1917).

As I struggled to find a formal label for the movement that could accommodate this stratified return of the opening material, it occurred to me that the richness of the movement was actually wrapped up in—not thwarted by—the structural ramifications of this thematic superimposition. The layering of themes placed the movement in dialogue with Type 2 sonata form, Type 3 sonata form, and ternary form simultaneously. There was no single “correct” reading: it was much too beautifully rich and messy to put in any single theoretical box.

After wading more deeply into my dissertation work, I realized that hasty caricatures of Prokofiev’s sonata forms not only ignored much that was interesting in the music itself but also hindered our ability to properly situate the composer historically. I found that Prokofiev did not take his formal cues from a single Viennese “textbook” but was rather in dialogue with a complex network of multiple sonata traditions, particularly the nineteenth-century Russian symphonic tradition, fin-de-siècle Austro-German sonata practice, and the early twentieth-century Franco-Russian avant-garde. In my continued work on early twentieth-century sonata form, I have repeatedly been struck by the deep interrelationship of music theory and history: the more detailed understanding we have of the internal structure of the musical artifact, the more fully and accurately we can piece together the historical traditions with which it is in dialogue.

In the classroom, I have sought to instill in students a similar appreciation for music’s resistance to facile labels, both in terms of internal structure and historical situatedness. Last spring when a spirited debate arose among my students about whether a Mozart minuet could be called a rounded binary form, I suggested that when you attempt to dress a small child in a piece of clothing (a shirt perhaps), and the shirt does not fit, you learn something about both the girth of the child and the limits of the shirt. Though admittedly ridiculous, this metaphor did lead the group to concede that when a piece of music seems to defy existing labels, we can gain a more nuanced understanding of both the complexity of the music itself and of the limitations of our theoretical and historical categories. While I am aware that many of our Conservatory students will go on to pursue careers in other fields, I believe that these kinds of analytical skills will lead them to be more critically thinking members of their professions and broad-minded contributors to society.



Perry high resBecky Perry is an Assistant Professor of Music Theory at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. She received her Ph.D. in Music History from Yale University in 2017. Her work explores idiosyncrasies of form and thematic process in Prokofiev’s early instrumental music. Her work has appeared in Music Theory & Analysis, and she has presented at annual meetings of the Society for Music Theory, American Musicological Society, European Music Analysis Conference, and Music Theory Midwest.


Featured WIMT: Abigail Shupe

I study death.

A lot of days, I read about funeral customs, end-of-life care, the death industry, and I write about death and music. Contrary to what one might imagine, this reading is interesting, not usually depressing, and generally life affirming.

My interest in this topic came about during my doctoral studies at the University of Western Ontario. One of my answers for my comprehensive exams included a narrative analysis of George Crumb’s River of Life (2003), and I was drawn to the ways the piece commented on death. Despite its title, the songs in this cycle dealt with dying and the afterlife; it suggested a kind of symmetry and balance that conceived of death as part of life, necessary to make life complete. My analysis of the pitch structure supported this interpretation. As is typical of Crumb, the harmonic content features symmetrical set classes, aggregate completion, and a symbolic use of certain interval classes like the tritone. I was also compelled to analyze the music this way because of the seeming personal connections in the piece between the Appalachian folk songs and hymns, and Crumb’s identity as a West Virginian. The cycle conveyed a sense of death as a peaceful return home, and I posited that Crumb, in his early eighties at the time, would have found such a notion comforting.

While this project began as an exam answer, it grew into several conference papers, and I continued to work on it on the side, whenever my advisor was busy reading a dissertation chapter. Compared with my dissertation research on Rameau and the reception of Newton’s theories in the French Enlightenment, Crumb’s music and death provided much needed contrast, along with the chance to do score analysis (completely absent from my dissertation). When it came time to enter the job market, it turned out that having two very different research areas was a plus, and committees seemed to be attracted to this odd combination. In fall of 2014 my work on River of Life was accepted into an edited volume, Singing Death, about all manner of issues of music and mortality.

Unfortunately, I had to pause while editing the final draft of my essay for this volume because my father died in May 2015. The editors graciously granted me extra time away from the project in the worst periods of my grief, saying they understood that I needed a break from thinking about death critically when it had happened so close to me. Although unsure about whether I could continue in this particular research area, I found when I returned to it that the topic was richer and more personally rewarding than ever. My experience with grief revealed to me how poorly American culture equips us to deal with topics like death, grief, and mortality. By reading others’ accounts of how death impacted them, along with sociological accounts of American attitudes toward death, I realized I was not alone in my feelings. These authors dealt with topics that I wanted to talk about, but that mainstream culture seemed to deem off limits. I took comfort in reading about deaths in vastly different circumstances or periods of American history, and gained an appreciation for how honestly addressing my own feelings about death could improve my quality of life.

Being a part of Singing Death also alerted me to an entire subfield of the humanities of which I previously had been unaware: death studies. Once I knew that this field existed, I immediately knew it was the best way for me to situate the same issues in Crumb’s music. Death studies, which encompasses studies of death and mortality from various perspectives, specifies how death in the context of war is different, and how the mass deaths during American wars in the past have changed current cultural practices around death. I have been most attracted to discussions of ghosts or hauntings as part of cultural responses to death. Crumb’s music is full of ghostly content, whether abstractly in his choice of timbre, or explicitly in his titles, texts, and performance indications. With this framework in mind, I turned to two of his pieces about war to examine how these pieces commented on American wars or death during wartime.

Specifically, I have focused on Winds of Destiny (2004) and Black Angels (1970), and their relationships to the Civil War and the Vietnam War, respectively. My analysis of Winds of Destiny centers on how Crumb uses timbre and musical content to haunt listeners. I also draw on scholarship about death from this period about how the Civil War produced more causalities than any war before it (and many since). The mass quantities of dead in the 1860s led to the emergence of the modern funeral industry, and especially, the ubiquity of embalming. Aside from new funeral and business practices, this era also led to the government marshaling a sense of patriotism around the deaths of soldiers, as a way of coping with their deaths and maintaining enthusiasm for the war effort. Winds of Destiny does more than comment on the Civil War, however; it ultimately haunts listeners on an allegorical level, prompting us to consider the morality of more recent American military actions. Crumb’s Black Angels is well known, and though it does not explicitly deal with the Vietnam War, this war was central to the cultural conflicts of the 1960s that the piece comments on. Like the Civil War, the Vietnam War changed the way Americans viewed the deaths of soldiers. However, unlike the patriotism rallied for the Civil War dead, the losses in Vietnam became for many a symbol of the futility of Americans’ presence there. Their deaths were seen in some ways as meaningless and stood for the larger meaninglessness of the war. Black Angels haunts listeners on an allegorical level to consider these issues, while also suggesting deeper, cosmic consequences for the social turmoil of the 1960s.

Taking Judith Lochhead’s suggestion in Reconceiving Structure in Contemporary Music, I analyze Crumb’s music taking into account things like intertextual relationships, references, performance indications, timbre, and things generally considered “outside” the primary text. To be sure, this subject matter at times makes for awkward dinner party conversation. But ultimately the project enriches my life as it urges me to consider what it means to be alive, what kind of death I hope to have, and what it means to lose those we love.


ashupeAbigail Shupe is an Assistant Professor of Music Theory at Colorado State University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Western Ontario, and holds an M.M. in Music Theory and a B.M. in Music Composition from Indiana University. Her research focuses on issues of death and mortality in George Crumb’s music about war, and materialism and science in Rameau’s Génération harmonique. Her work has appeared in Theoria (Spring 2017) and in Singing Death (Routledge, 2017). She has served as the student representative for SMT’s CSW and currently chairs the Scholars for Social Responsibility Interest Group.

Featured WIMT: Sarah Iker

I’ve always loved puzzles—the more complicated, the better. But my obsession didn’t seem to have an obvious relationship to my musical ability for many years. My musical trajectory was typical: I started piano lessons in elementary school and did the usual competitions and associated music theory workbooks, which I thought were pretty boring. Perhaps relatedly, I hated Bach (J.S., of course, I didn’t know there were others) until late high school, when my piano teacher, Caryl Smith, showed me how to analyze motivic relationships in imitative polyphony—a puzzle I enjoyed untangling. I didn’t make the connection between my interest in this sort of analysis and a future career in music theory until much later.

When I began college, I knew I wanted to continue playing piano, so I planned to double-major in music and a STEM discipline. I started with chemistry, but found that my favorite part of any class was deriving equations—so I found my home as a math major. As befitted my puzzle-solving interests, I planned to become a cryptographer. But at the same time, I loved my piano lessons, I enjoyed the puzzles of counterpoint and model composition, and I liked learning about obscure musical genres in music history. Still, I thought music theory wasn’t something that was for me—I was starting to consider changing my career path, but I wanted to pursue piano professionally.

Fortunately, I had a wonderful music theory professor, Youyoung Kang, my first year at Scripps College, a women’s college that takes as its motto the charge to help women become confident, creative, and hopeful. Professor Kang was a role model in a place I didn’t know to look: a fellow woman who had dual interests in music and mathematics, someone who didn’t underplay her love for the “geeky” parts of music. She recognized something in me that I didn’t: my excitement over analysis, over the especially “mathy” portions of our classes together (I loved set theory). Professor Kang inspired me to pursue music theory at the graduate level.

In graduate school, I thought I’d continue integrating math and music theory directly: I intended to study transformation theory or some sort of music psychology. But my musical interests and my graduate training led me elsewhere. In an early graduate seminar with Steven Rings, I was introduced to David Lewin’s writing on multiple hearings and experiences of music as wide-ranging as Schubert and Stockhausen. We read T.J. Clarke’s art history monograph, The Sight of Death, in which he re-analyzes the same painting, finding new details, day after day. I thought that this approach to analysis was freeing and fascinating, and I found myself less and less interested in studying a single analytical methodology. Instead, I found myself drawn to a type of music in which I had multiple, different experiences. The music that captivated me was one of Stravinsky’s early neoclassical works, his Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments. I realized I wasn’t alone in my varied experiences of the work—and that this kind of neoclassicism has struck many people in a variety of different ways.

Although I wasn’t conscious of it, my mathematical interests gradually crept into my research: I wanted to catalogue historical experiences of neoclassicism, to understand whether these experiences matched my own, and to use these responses to understand, analytically, how Stravinsky modified expected tonal structures to strategic effect. I was fortunate to receive grants from my department and the university to do archival research that further strengthened my interest in the language the people used to describe these experiences. My preliminary, handwritten attempts to analyze all the adjectives people use to describe this music at different points in time became increasingly mathematical, so Seth Brodsky suggested that I look into text mining and the digital humanities. And, then, it all clicked: the right way to approach the mass of responses I had accumulated was through combining statistical analysis with closer reading of specific responses. I found that my results suggested that relationships between expectation and alteration were quite important to listeners, so I began to look into ways to represent these ideas in music analysis. Ultimately, I found that a combination of recomposition, schemata, and topic theory helped to reflect and reanimate those experiences.

In my teaching, however, I find that many of my students are reticent to explore music theory, in large part because they find its mathematical qualities disinteresting or intimidating. This response seems to come disproportionately from my female students. If we want to encourage more women to pursue music theory, one thing that may help is to consider the possibility that many of our students are afraid, that they have been taught that they are not good at math, that they have been told they have no aptitude for this kind of thinking, and that this predisposes them to dislike music theory and its mathematical trappings. Articles come out frequently about relative lack of confidence in STEM classrooms, indicating that women often underestimate their aptitude and skill in the classroom. Thus, encouraging confidence and creativity in our classrooms ought to be an important focus. Many of my students tell me they simply can’t think this way—and I take this as a challenge to show them that they can.

There are many ways, of course, to encourage students to overcome their anxieties, to enjoy and participate in music theory and analysis, but I want to suggest some that have been especially helpful for me:

  1. I emphasize that at its core, music theory and analysis is a humanistic discipline, not a scientific one. There are multiple ways to interpret a chord, a non-chord tone, or a form, and each interpretation adds richness to our musical understanding. It’s okay, preferred even, to experience the same piece differently on a different day!
  1. I work to demystify the myriad ways that music theorists use numbers to represent musical and music-theoretical ideas (c.f. Megan Lavengood’s “There are too many numbers in music theory”).
  1. I don’t shy away from the psychological and mathematical ties to our discipline. I lean into algorithmic thinking, emphasizing my own excitement at musical puzzles and mathematical ideas, but I also work to help students find ways to interpret these ideas creatively. One common exercise that I find helps with the overwhelming numbers in music fundamentals, for example, is to ask students to draw their understanding of relationships between parallel and relative keys—the results are often surprising and fascinating, and it allows them to encode many numbers in a way that makes more sense to them.
  1. I frequently ask students to bring in musical examples from their lessons, ensembles, or daily listening practices so that we can analyze them together and ground these abstract, sometimes mathematical ideas in music that they find compelling. Sometimes this may mean stretching the boundaries of what might seem acceptable, like analyzing sets in the music of Lana del Rey, but students end up less overwhelmed and more engaged.



Iker_SSarah Iker is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Tampa. She holds a Ph.D. in Music History and Theory from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. in Music and Mathematics from Scripps College. Her research focuses on analyzing historical experiences of neoclassicism, digital humanities, schemata, and musical theater, and has recently presented research at the annual meetings of several regional music theory societies. She is a pianist, handbell player, and swing dancer.

Featured WiMT: Elina Hamilton

As a pianist, it took me a surprisingly long time before I realized I was bound to music notation. Notation informed me what pitch to play, for how long, with specific articulation, dynamics, and with what kind of emotion a phrase should be presented to an audience. At one point I stopped to ponder the power that “The Score” had over me as I spent hours building up a repertoire for my senior recital. Little did I know at the time that my curiosity would lead me into the wonderfully complex world of medieval music treatises.

For my graduate studies, I moved to the UK to study early music at Bangor University (Wales, UK). Unlike institutions in the United States, music departments in the UK do not segregate musicology and theory, and this enabled me to move freely between the two disciplines. My time in the music department coincided with a newly established Center for Early Music studies in 2007 led by distinguished early music scholars such as Thomas Schmidt, Christian Leitmeir, John Harper, Sally Harper, and Hana Vlhova-Wörner. We sang music, organized conferences, studied manuscripts in archives, and reenacted pre-reformation and post-reformation church music together, all in the hopes of understanding a distant musical past. The Center no longer exists and most of us have since moved on to different institutions, making our encounter in Wales a unique confluence.

In graduate school, I learned that theorists from the Carolingian Renaissance had unique ways in which they described sound. The anonymous author of Musica enchiriadis could not explain music without invoking another more commonly studied discipline: grammar. “Just as the elementary and indivisible constituents of speech are letters, from which syllables are put together, and these in turn make up verbs and nouns, and from them is composed the fabric of a complete discourse, so the roots of song are phthongi, which are called soni in Latin.” These soni are comprised of sounds that are specifically designated, selected out of all other sounds. The notation given these soni were only used in the enchiriadis traditions yet were a part of a musician’s pedagogy for centuries. I became fascinated by the way theorists described the soni, and their sometimes clumsy descriptions. I was particularly intrigued by theorist’s depictions of singing improvised organum, and how they eventually argued for and against the smallest levels of dividing rhythm. When Dorit Tanay kindly gifted me her monograph, Noting Music, Marking Culture, I was inspired to write something about the history of theory.

I narrowed my dissertation research to focus on the importance of individual theorists within the long tradition of medieval music theory, and decided to work on texts written in England during the fourteenth century. The fourteenth century was a time when musicians implemented a quick successions of new ideas about notation. Andrew Wathey’s research on the transmission of music from the continent into England allowed me to begin questioning how theorists might have engaged in an intellectual discourse within the country and across the Channel. I began to map out the transmission of ideas among English theorists, only to discover that they seemed to have had an internal network that was well informed by innovations taking place abroad. To date, my most exciting discovery was when archival research led me to discover that Walter Odington, originally believed to have been both a music theorist and an alchemist, was a conflation of two different individuals working in two institutions based on a misreading of the letters v and n. In my dissertation, I argue that the musician hailed from Evesham Abbey, as distinct from Eynsham Abbey near Oxford, where the alchemist conducted his experiments. Who would have known that two small letters could tell us so much about the history of theory!

Walter is most famous today for being one of the first to reason that the interval of a third, though mathematically complex, is audibly pleasant and therefore should be accepted as consonant. Walter’s De speculatione musicae likely dates from the last decades of the thirteenth century, although only one complete copy from the fifteenth century remains today. Only a few sentences can be reconstructed from the original folio but in the introduction, Walter reveals his distress that young musicians do not fully comprehend the study of music in his day. “They begin from the end, skipping the basics,” he writes in one of the fragmented sentences, and later “[…] the great diversity of notation in melodies invented in our time […] all say different things to corrupt that which has been said by the ancients, as though they were plaster.” The treatise that follows addresses the teachings of the ancients, notably Boethius, while offering a concise but careful description of the newest forms of rhythmic notation. Walter was, in many ways, the father of English music theory, and his writings resonated with other English theorists, who mention him as an authority in their treatises.

My current research has turned towards finding direct connections between the music and theory of the fourteenth century. I am particularly interested in finding out how and what theorists may have known about music composed in different geographic regions. My article, “Phillipe de Vitry in England: Musical Quotations in the Quatuor principalia and the Gratissima Tenor”(forthcoming in Studi Musicali), focuses on the use of Philippe de Vitry’s motet tenors as musical examples in the Quatuor principalia. I suggest that certain motet tenors by Vitry were well known among a group of theorists and composers in fourteenth-century France and England, and possibly even circulated independent of the other voices. The immediate dissemination of this “modern music” within treatises as found in the Quatuor principalia reveals an inner circle of music enthusiasts who were continuously engaged in a musical discourse.

Today, I teach a graduate seminar at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee on the history of music theory focusing on medieval and Renaissance theory. Medieval organization of sound is foreign to the modern performer on many fronts, and most of us enter college reading music notation and understanding the organization of sound in one particular way. In my classroom, I look for ways to expand my student’s perspectives through the history of theory rather than shy away from the past. I emphasize that even if the process of organizing sound differs, we share a continuously changing path of comprehension with the musicians who came before us. I like to remind my students that theorists of the past thrived on the same joy of understanding music at a deeper level that we do today.



elinaElina G. Hamilton is Assistant Professor at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in musicology from Bangor University (Wales) and a B.M. in Piano Performance from Portland State University. Hamilton’s graduate research was recognized by The Drapers’ Company with a medal for Outstanding Postgraduate Contribution, only the sixth such medal given in the London guild’s 600-year history. Her work on Walter of Evesham Abbey appears in Musica Disciplina. Hamilton also advocates the need for more research on women in music and her article on Louise Hanson-Dyer appears in Notes.




Music Theory Online (MTO) – Call for Submissions on Feminist Music Theory

Call for submissions: Music Theory Online seeks new research for a special half-issue or issue on feminist music theory. Authors are invited to submit articles of approximately 8,000-12,000 words on the topics listed below by March 15, 2016. Submissions will undergo the journal’s standard blind-review process.

Potential topics are:
(1) feminist critiques of music theory, its methodologies, and/or terminology (either contemporary or historical)
(2) new feminist methodologies for analysis, or expansions or alterations of previous ones
(3) feminist analyses or reinterpretations of works using existing paradigms

Some examples of the kind of scholarship we seek are (this is not a comprehensive list):
– Suzanne Cusick, “Feminist Theory, Music Theory, and the Mind/Body Problem,” Perspectives of New Music 32/1 (1994)
– Marion Guck, “A Woman’s (Theoretical) Work,” Perspectives of New Music 32/1 (1994)
– Marianne Kielian-Gilbert, “Of Poetics and Poiesis, Pleasure and Politics-Music Theory and Modes of the Feminine,” Perspectives of New Music 32/1 (1994)
– Fred Maus, “Masculine Discourse in Music Theory,” Perspectives of New Music 31/2 (1993)

More generally, we publish work that makes a new contribution to scholarship on music theory and/or analysis, situates its contribution within the current published research on the topic, and is well organized and clearly written. We encourage authors to take advantage of our multimedia capabilities to include audio, color graphics, animation, video, and hyperlinks.

Articles may be submitted via email to mto-editor[at] consult our submission guidelines at Music Theory Online is the refereed open-access electronic journal of the Society for Music Theory.

Nicole Biamonte
Editor, Music Theory Online

LP’s Last Post: Reflections on the CSW 2012-15

One day in July 2012, I received an invitation from Harald Krebs, then-SMT president, to take over from Patrica Hall as chair of the CSW. The timing could not have been worse: three days earlier, I’d hit a low point in my career and believed (mistakenly, as it turned out) that my days as an employed music theorist were over. So I told Harald that I didn’t think it made sense for the Society to give me a leadership role. His response was a model of simple Krebsian grace and kindness: “I don’t see why that should be a problem.” And so began three years of working with a host of wonderful people both on the CSW itself, across the entire Society, and beyond.

This period of the CSW has been something of a roller coaster, from the lows of the smt-talk debacle sparked by sexist music theory terminology in April/May 2013 to highs like our leadership of the opening plenary session at this summer’s SMA conference, an international panel entitled “Mind the Gap: Women in the Field of Music Analysis.” But roller coasters always end back down where they began, and this is definitely not the case for the CSW in 2015. For example, I note from one of my first e-mails to Harald that the CSW Facebook group had 115 members but was virtually silent; if someone posted a question or a link to spark conversation, often there were no replies. Today, it has more than doubled in size to 264 and is an active site for discussion, announcements, and sometimes wicked wit!

But our online presence expanded even more with the launch of this blog, thanks to the excellent work of CSW grad student representative Stefanie Acevedo. The home to many resources including our mentoring programs and “Share Your Stories” page, it’s now had over 4,000 views not only from the US and Canada, but the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Australia, Finland, Austria, India, Italy, Singapore, Brazil, Hong Kong, Sweden, Spain, Japan, Belgium, Colombia, Turkey, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Micronesia, South Africa, Switzerland, Norway, Pakistan, Mexico, Costa Rica, Romania, Russia, Nigeria, Belize, Poland, and the Netherlands. Phew!

Our mentoring programs have tripled since 2012, when we only offered the proposal mentoring program that had been launched in the early 2000s. Now under the energetic leadership of Inessa Bazayev and most recently Rachel Lumsden, we also offer an Article Mentoring Program to boost women’s chances of publication success. And last year we added our Situational Mentoring Program, allowing all SMT members regardless of gender the opportunity to contact directly with the mentor of their choice to chat about gender-related career issues, anonymously if they wish.

“Share Your Stories” also allows all SMT members to anonymously share experiences related to women in the field of music theory. As more people contribute, we hope this will provide members or other interested individuals with a sense of the day-to-day issues still facing women in the field, as well as the rewards of a career in a vibrant field that is increasingly open to fresh perspectives. (Send in your story today!)

Finally, in response to continued reports of inappropriate questions to our members—male and female—during music theory position interviews, we’ve revived the process of sending out reminders to search committees. But in keeping with the intersectionality of these questions, we invited the Accessibility, Diversity, and Professional Development Committees as well as the Queer Resource Group to collaborate on a revision of this letter and to co-sponsor it from now on.

Throughout these past three years, the guiding words of the CSW throughout even the worst of times have been “constructive” and “solutions-focused.” In part through our efforts but also those of many others in the Society, women now represent 32% of the SMT membership, the highest annual result in its history, and while we still tend to under-submit research articles to our journals relative to that percentage, last year the numbers of submissions from women to MTO and MTS nearly doubled. Women also now represent 50% of SMT’s Executive Board and official committees, ensuring that we have a strong voice in its future directions.

Much remains to be done; just read a few of the shared stories on our blog if you need more convincing. But our meetings this past week at SMT St. Louis, led in part by incoming chair Jennifer Bain, generated some exciting new project ideas and I know the CSW will continue to play a positive, dynamic, and inspiring role in the Society.

In closing, thanks to all of my past committee members—Stefanie Acevedo, Sara Bakker, Inessa Bazayev, Jane Piper Clendinning, Eileen Hayes, Ted Latham, Wendy Lee, Charity Lofthouse, Rachel Lumsden, Brad Osborn, and Abby Shupe—for all your contributions. What a dynamic group of people I’ve been privileged to work with! Presidents Harald Krebs and Poundie Burstein, Vice-President Michael Buchler, Publications Committee chair Matthew Shaftel, and many, many others have also helped make this past three years terrifically rewarding. Finally, thanks to all of you for your insights, participation, and friendship.

That’s it for me—bye all. Now, over to Jennifer!


Laurel Parsons