Conference Abstracts

Stefanie Acevedo (University at Buffalo)

“Segmentational Approaches of Atonal Music: A Study Based on a General Theory of Segmentation for Music Analysis”

The complexity of atonal music has led to varying analyses of said works. The ambiguity stems from the intricacies of human perception: Is a definitive analysis possible when perceptions differ? The analyst must provide supporting evidence in the music to justify a segmentation. Differences in perception lead to more or less persuasive analyses that are neither correct nor incorrect. Some theorists, however, propose computational models that define correct segmentations.
This paper compares David S. Lefkowitz and Kristin Taavola’s mathematical theory of segmentation to James Tenney and Larry Polansky’s perception-based theory. While Tenney and Polansky’s theory was originally a computational model, it is rooted in Gestalt principles; the model provides the foundation for Dora A. Hanninen’s segmentation theory. Hanninen’s analytical framework is then employed to identify segmentational boundaries that support analyses of two works: the fourth of Webern’s Fünf Sätze, Op. 5 and an excerpt from Schoenberg’s Klavierstücke, Op. 11, No. 1. Two of Hanninen’s segmentational criteria are used: the sonic, referring to acoustical properties, and the contextual, referring to categorizations such as set-classes.
Lefkowitz and Taavola note that Tenney and Polansky’s theory cannot be applied to polyphony. Hanninen encourages the use of her theory for polyphonic segmentation but does not provide a method. Thus, I combine aspects from Lefkowitz and Taavola’s simultaneous analysis with Hanninen’s theory in order to formulate a basic method for segmenting polyphonic music.
Hanninen’s criteria strongly support the analyses by Perle, Forte, Wittlich, and Burkhart. There is an inherent reliance on contextual criteria due to set-class analysis. However, sonic criteria reinforce segmentations and support contextual criteria, validating the diversity of atonal analyses and suggesting the multiplicities of hearings.

Malaena Allen-Trottier (University of Alberta)

“Call us Gypsies, not Roma: The “Gypsy musicians” of Montreal”

The city of Montreal—multicultural, linguistically diverse, and with huge amounts of public festival funding–currently hosts the largest “Gypsy music” community in Canada. “Gypsy”, used as an adjective, does not designate a specific style of music, but rather an ethos, a spirit: The “Gypsy musician” trope is old, well known, and very popular with Canadian audiences.
As a small contingent of activist Roma (Gypsies) worldwide struggle to cast off the outdated “Gypsy” trope in order to advance recognition of the group as a legitimate and diverse non-territorial nation, the musicians of Montreal find that the “Gypsy” label is not onerous at all. The label wears so well, in fact, that it is often adopted by non-Roma, a circumstance that would rarely arise in the European countries of origin. Gypsy swing, Gypsy jazz, flamenco, Eastern European Gypsy dance music, and other forms of Gypsy music are often performed by Montreal’s non-Roma. The reasons for this are many, with the end result that musicians outside the culture often appear as its public ambassadors. Ironically, the real “Gypsy” musicians of Montreal—that is to say, people who are born into the Romani culture— show very little engagement with their own culture or traditions.
Cultural identities, and the barriers between the two cultures, so rigid in Europe, are in Montreal so fluid that they are virtually redundant, save for rights of ownership to the highly coveted “Gypsy” label. How are the Roma and non-Roma “ambassadors” handling their responsibilities, and what are the repercussions for Roma culture in Montreal?

Irene Apanovitch (University of Alberta)

“Merging paradigms: The Passion in Latin America”

In 1999, the International Bachakademie Stuttgart launched “Passion 2000” – a project to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach’s death. Four composers were commissioned to set one of the four gospel narratives each. Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov (December 5, 1960 – ) was commissioned to compose La Pasión según San Marcos (St. Mark’s Passion). Scored for soloists, chorus and orchestra, La Pasión transforms the Passion genre, as set by Baroque master J.S. Bach, into a modern day religious drama set in the streets of Latin America. Using Brazil and Cuba as the geographical settings for La Pasión, Golijov infuses the Passion archetype with a distinct Latin American flavour, manifested through narrative and instrumentation.
I would like to present the movement ¿Por qué? from Osvaldo Golijov’s La Pasión según San Marcos at the upcoming GMSA Conference. I intend to explore how the ‘old’ Passion idiom has been transformed into a ‘new’ Passion tradition. I would also like to discuss the choice of setting for the Passion and how it is manifested in the music through narrative.

Jacques Arsenault (University of Alberta)

“Jean Coulthard – Six Mediaeval Love Songs”

Although highly respected by her public and performers, Jean Coulthard (1908–2000) endured considerable criticism from her fellow Canadian composers throughout most of her productive career. Under the guidance of her teachers Ralph Vaughan Williams, Arnold Schoenberg, Béla Bartók, and Aaron Copland, she developed a pronounced style strongly influenced by Debussy and other early French modernists. While other Canadian composers, such as Harry Somers and his teacher John Weinzweig, fused serial and neoclassical techniques and embraced the advent of electroacoustic music, Coulthard refused to adopt advanced techniques or voguish idioms for the sake of innovation. Often pitted against Barbara Pentland, her radically progressive colleague at the University of British Columbia, her music was deemed overly conservative and outdated. The Six Mediaeval Love Songs of 1962 clearly represent Coulthard’s neoromantic style, which she explicitly referred to as a “reaction to the more austere serial/neoclassical style so popular […] in Canada.” Featuring the eminent mediaeval scholar Helen Waddell’s translations of 12th- and 13th-century Latin love texts, the cycle embodies Coulthard’s uncompromising quest for sincere personal expression in a culture defined by progress and innovation.

Adam Basanta (Concordia)

“Embodied sound, enacted music: considerations for the re-conceptualization of composition, analysis and performance”

Over the last twenty years, the enactive approach to cognition has asserted itself as a legitimate alterative to the widespread computationalist-cognitivist viewpoint. Located at the meeting points of phenomenology and neuroscience, the enactive approach emphasizes the inter-relation of perceiver and world, sensory experience and the emergence of cognition, as well as the embodied and situated nature of knowledge as an ontological, rather than epistemological, construct. However, writings on enactive cognition have tended to concentrate on visual perception, while neglecting potential implications for auditory perception and the experience of listening. It is only of late that notable exceptions to this pattern have emerged (Iyer 2004, Krueger 2009).
What then could the enactive approach offer to contemporary composers, performers and theorists? I would like to approach this question in the form of a thought experiment, tracing several potential considerations afforded by the enactive approach. I will suggest that these considerations may serve to destabilize the cultural-historical notions of music as an autonomous object, the listener as a passive observer, and the purported uni-modality of music. With each destabilizing act, the enactive approach opens new avenues for the re-conceptualization of musical experience, and in turn, the practices of composition, analysis and performance.
Following these considerations, I will include examples from my own attempts at integrating these theoretical concepts into compositional praxis, offering in-process conceptual and practical insights.

Richard Cobourn (McGill University)

“Analyzing the non-tonal language of Scriabin’s middle period works: a new approach”

My lecture recital focuses on Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No. 5, op. 53, written in 1907. Current scholarship approaches this piece largely from Shenkerian or pitch-class perspectives. This is understandable given the complete absence of “functional harmonic progressions,” or structural pillars with an explicit tonality. However, I believe that these analyses do not emphasize Scriabin’s unique way of engaging the principles of nineteenth-century tonality. The principles, though not the processes, of “traditional” tonality form the basis of Scriabin’s unique twentieth-century sound. I will present my analysis which I believe properly underlines both the innovative and the traditional elements in this music.
I support my ideas with examples of similar processes in the two opuses directly preceding the sonata, Four Pieces op. 51 and Three Pieces op. 52. Throughout these three opuses we find dominant to tonic motion (though not in the context of a “functional progression”) and the resolution of voice leading tensions to be among the most powerful driving forces. However, Scriabin uses many novel techniques which maintain the essence of traditional harmonic structure, but cast new light on the process resulting in a unique harmonic language. The most notable of these are non-linear harmonic progressions, using dominant chords a tritone apart as two manifestations of the same chord-function (that is, as completely interchangeable), and rootless chords.
I will play passages from the pieces I am discussing throughout the lecture as examples, and will end with a complete performance of the Fifth Sonata. I will need a grand piano and power point capabilities for my presentation.

Jonathan Easey (University of British Columbia)

“Monotonality in Schenkerian Theory”

Schenkerian analysis requires of its object several distinct characteristics. Crucial among these is monotonality, or the use of a given key both at the beginning and at the end of a work. Schenker took for granted that all musical masterpieces were at least conceived by their creators as monotonal, which typically hampers the application of his theory to music roughly outside the “Bach-to-Brahms” span. But what does Schenkerian theory have to say about music from within that period that is decidedly non-monotonal? An examination of the few analyses that Schenker undertook of such pieces can reveal much about the role of monotonality in the development of his theory.
My examination begins by establishing a paradigm for understanding monotonality and its mutations. This paradigm is adapted from structuralist theories concerning the interaction of inside and outside forces within a system. The paradigm is then applied to the analyses that Schenker published of non-monotonal pieces throughout his career: Chopin’s Mazurka 30/2, Chopin’s Prelude 28/2, the recitative “Erbarm es Gott” from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, and Bach’s Prelude BWV 999. Using this structuralist paradigm as a tool for reading Schenker’s graphs and commentary, I discern and categorize the methods that Schenker utilized for explaining away the non-monotonality of each piece (devices such as the Auxiliary Cadence). From this categorization, it is possible to trace the role and relative importance of monotonality in the development of Schenker’s theory from its earliest manifestations (Harmonielehre) through Schenker’s middle period (Der Tonwille) to its most codified form (Der freie Satz).

Ben Eldon (University of Alberta)

“Musical structure in String Quartet #2 by Harry Somers”

My anticipated presentation for Ncounters: The Audible Past, The Mutable Future at the University of Alberta concerns an analytical study of selected works by composer Harry Somers (1925 – 1999). His unique and changing style of composition involved a variety of influences including baroque counterpoint, 12-tone procedures, Gregorian chant, Bartók’s music, John Weinzweig’s mentorship, along with many others. Although Somers’ musical style absorbed many external influences, it nevertheless maintained a degree of idiolect that reflects the unique and enigmatic mind of his character—a character who, for example, at five years of age used to sneak outside his house and wander around the neighborhood at nighttime in Toronto because of his fascination with the night. This analytical study of Somers’ works attempts to extract some of his unique and innovative compositional dynamics using a variety of ad-hoc theoretical apparatuses, while also investigating some of the letters and journal entries that Somers wrote throughout his life.

Travis Ellrot (Stonybrook)

“Away” (musical work)

Away is a general mish-mash of Charles Bukowski, Brian Eno, and Luc Ferrari. The title was chosen because it sums one aspect of fixed-media music: we are forever away from the sounds we are working with in time and space. One effect that I enjoy is the more temporal distance you have from a sound, the more you forget about what the sound was like to begin with. Thus, imagination and a sense of playfulness are gradually allowed to take over.

Sandra Joy Friesen (University of Alberta)

“Mobility in Time and Form – Otto Joachim’s Illumination I”

The 1950s burgeoning professional Canadian urbanism formed a grand cultural stage for the experimentalism, innovation and musical expressions of the naturalized (1949) Canadian composer Otto Joachim. Having written only one piece before 1934 while still in Germany, Joachim shared in a 1969 interview with Musicanada that he learned the craft of composition all on his own and “treasured inventive freedom and the opportunity to realize it without hindrance” in Canada. His goal was to create new music that made structural sense while fulfilling a truly original self-expression through experimentation.
Joachim’s mid-century acoustic compositions involving the piano: Illumination I (1965), Dialogue (1964), Expansion (1962), Nonet (1960) and L’Eclosion (1954) highlight his alterations of the traditional notation system and his use of the emerging graphic, spatial and indeterminate conceptions. This lecture-performance combines an introduction and live performance of the 1965 CBC commissioned work, Illumination I for piano, flute, guitar, speaker-reciter, wood percussion, metal percussion and spotlight controller – one of Joachim’s more extraordinary aleatory open form works combining graphic notation, spatial and indeterminate notation with a dual-aleatory process at the level of the performer and of the light controller. Addressing new modalities of communication that arise from a constantly changing music language, this performance takes musical expression outside the usual box of classical performance to include improvisation, free-interpretation, utilization of surrounding environment as part of the performance, and potentially interacting with audience members.

Matt Knight (University of Alberta)

“Secular Encounters in “Sacred Time”: Mass Media and Mass Culture on Hutterite Colonies”

In this presentation, I scrutinize the ideational, material, political, and educational factors that influence Hutterite interactions with “mainstream” culture, as well as the impact of technoscapes, financescapes, and mediascapes upon their music and identity. Despite their peripheral status in the North American social landscape, Hutterites, a communitarian Old Order Anabaptist sect, are far from unchanging religious fossils. Central to Hutterite spirituality is the concept of being “in the world, but not of it,” remaining separate from the values and rhythms of a secular culture that appears lost and depraved. Musically, this has led to a ban on instruments and audio devices. However, many Hutterites display “insider” knowledge of mainstream cultural forces such as the entertainment industry and recording artists. Individual members and colonies have made many accommodations and changes in response to a “foreign” culture that can be accessed with steadily increasing ease. In my paper, I explore the role of contraband musical instruments and radios, especially in conjunction with the youth parties that frequently incorporate popular song. I also examine the new phenomenon of Hutterite choirs, choir directors, choral recordings, and music education, drawing on participant observation as the hired director of a Hutterite youth choir and researcher. I inspect the meaning of musical experience as lived by individual Hutterites within the unique environment of an isolated agricultural commune brought into proximity with the mainstream through mediating forces.

Esther McNairnay (University of Alberta)

“Watchin’ Over my City, Just like the Golden Boy”: Images of Place in Canadian Prairie Rap.”

Place and space have influenced the style and content of rap perhaps more than any other style of music. This has been documented for decades in larger American cities and more recently in urban centres around the world, but little research has focused specifically on the prairie provinces of Canada. The landscape of the prairies, both natural and built, as well as its cultural practices and places differ greatly from the places from which rap originated. As such, the Canadian prairies have fostered a strong and unique regionalism nurtured by independent (often online) record labels and support from local arts communities. The purpose of this paper is to examine the diverse images of place conveyed in prairie rap music, as well as the broader influences of place on this distinct regional sound. Prairie culture has been shaped by its diverse communities (urban and rural), wide-open space and a winter climate. These same elements are influential in prairie rap and are manifested through incorporation of regional vernacular, place names and personalities in lyrics. This novel investigation of prairie rap offers a unique understanding of place attachment perceivable through its representations of place and space.

Sam Minevich (University of Regina)

“I am not a German, not a European, indeed scarcely a human being… but I am a Jew”: Exploring the post Holocaust Jewish Exile experience through the life and works of Arnold Schoenberg”

The composer Arnold Schoenberg can be seen as representative of the secular element of Jewish society in Germany during the pre-Second World War era. Like many of his contemporaries Schoenberg converted to Catholicism in order to advance his career and social prospects. The institution of Nazi policy, specifically the implementation of the 1933 Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums (Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service) deprived Schoenberg of his teaching position and forced him to confront the reality of his social situation.
The importance of an analysis of Schoenberg’s individual experience lies in its relationship to his later composition and output. Would Schoenberg have been the same composer or person in his later years had the events of the Holocaust not impacted his life? Would Schoenberg have been a Jewish composer or person had the events of the Holocaust not impacted his life? My research focuses on Schoenberg’s resumption of the Jewish faith and the extent to which it impacted his later artistic output. Through the analysis of his later works (principally Kol Nidre (1938), A Survivor from Warsaw (1947), and the Prelude to the Genesis Suite (1944)) as well as examination of his correspondence, my paper will examine the impact of the exile experience on Arnold Schoenberg.

Phil Salathe (Stonybrook)

“On the Beach” (Musical Work)

“On the Beach” takes its title from the eponymous novel by Nevil Shute, which details the grim effects of nuclear war on a small town in Australia. As one might expect, the mood of the piece reflects its subject, and the compositional language is bleak, cryptic, and at times violent. Another inspiration comes from the composer’s memories of growing up in rural New Hampshire in the early 1980s — and in particular, the childhood experience of tuning into distant radio stations and being fascinated by the uncanny, fragmented, overlapping narratives which permeated the AM dial. In those years we knew that, should the unthinkable happen, our sole warning would come from these distant, haunted voices. In fact, most of the sounds you’ll hear in “On the Beach” are transformations and derivations of the human voice, including the veiled, distant timbre with which the piece begins and concludes.

Jeff Weston (Bowling Green University)

“line in/out”
“bbbrrruuuccceee” (both are for two-channel tape)


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