2018 Conference Information

Hunter College 2018

We are pleased to welcome Professor Sumanth Gopinath as our Keynote Speaker, and Professor Jennifer Iverson as our Graduate Student Workshop leader. We are happy to announce that registration is open! Simply login to your User Dashboard and click “Register for 47th Annual Meeting.” The program can be found here. Directions and accommodation information can be found here. The Music Theory Society of New York State Conference is pleased to offer access to the lactation room  at Hunter College (West Building, Room 521) to registered attendees who are new mothers. Please contact local arrangements chair Loretta Terrigno (lterrigno@juilliard.edu) for more information about accessing the room.

2018 Conference Registration

In order to register for this year’s conference, please login to your MTSNYS User Dashboard and click “Register for 47th Annual Meeting.” If you do not have a User Dashboard account, you can create one (at no cost) by clicking on “register for one here.” We have added a new tier of conference registration to include undergraduate students. There is no registration cost for undergraduates; please encourage your students to join us this year!

Abstract Highlights

We encourage you to explore our program. Every other day we will be highlighting abstracts from our upcoming conference. We hope to see you at Hunter College soon!

MUSICS IN DIALOGUE (1:30pm–3:45pm)
Shaugn O’Donnell (City College and the CUNY Graduate Center), Chair
Lang Recital Hall (Room 424)

“The Same Old Song: ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ ‘Taurus,’ and the Role of Music Theory in Forensic Musicology” (1:30pm)
Christopher Doll (Rutgers University)

“A Comparative Study of Indojazz Tihais” (2:15pm)
Peter Selinsky (Yale University)

“How Guitar (Hero) Performance Can Convey Harmonic and Formal Function
in Pop‐Rock Music” (3:00pm)
Nicholas J. Shea (The Ohio State University)

THEORETICAL THINKING FROM SCANDINAVIA TO VIENNA (9:00am–12:00pm)
Carmel Raz (Columbia University), Chair
Room 404

“Transformational Attitudes in Scandinavian Function Theories” (9:00am)
Thomas Jul Kirkegaard-Larsen (Aarhus University, Denmark & the CUNY Graduate Center)

“Mode and Triad in 17th-century Germany: The Theory and Music of Johann Crüger” (9:45am)
Lindsey Reymore (The Ohio State University)

“‘A Viennese May Breeze’: Twelve-tone Theory and the Machine” (10:30am)
Eamonn Bell (Columbia University)

“Beethoven’s Reigen: A. B. Marx and the ‘Round Dance’” (11:15am)
August A. Sheehy (Stony Brook University)

FULL ABSTRACTS BELOW
MUSICS IN DIALOGUE
“The Same Old Song: ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ ‘Taurus,’ and the Role of Music Theory in Forensic Musicology”
Christopher Doll (Rutgers University)

In light of the growing prevalence of multimillion-dollar musical copyright infringement litigation, music theorists would seem to be in a good position to use their esoteric training for a decidedly practical purpose: namely, as an informed presence within “forensic musicology,” the activity of evaluating “substantial similarities” (the legal term) between musical works. This paper pays close attention to one recent such case, that of “Skidmore v. Zeppelin et al.,” involving the accusation that the opening of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” is based on that of “Taurus” by the band Spirit. The “substantial similarity” in question involves the opening acoustic-guitar descents, a partial lamento bass figure sinking from tonic A down to F (the dominant E appearing in an upper voice), a version of rock’s “drooping” schema (Doll 2017). After discussing relevant details of the case, I outline some of the history of rock’s drooping figure across multiple prominent recordings in the years immediately before Led Zeppelin’s record. My aim is not to solve the ongoing issues of “Skidmore v. Zeppelin et al.” but rather to shed light on what the issues in fact are in this particular case, and how music theorists might bring their specialized training to bear on them. I advocate that theorists make a concerted effort to involve themselves in forensic musicology, to the benefit not only of the litigation but also of the profession of music theory itself, an academic discipline historically isolated from even its closest musicological siblings, let alone the general public.

“A Comparative Study of Indojazz Tihais”
Peter Selinsky (Yale University)

Although the tihai, the characteristic tripartite cadence of Hindustani genres, has been explored in various Indian Classical and American minimalist settings, its near ubiquitous appearance in Indian Classical and jazz hybrids (Indojazz) of the last half century remains largely unstudied. In this new hybridized setting, how is the tihai reciprocally adapted to idiomatically jazz features? And how is the tihai’s role redefined for this context?
To address these questions, first I use an original algebraic generalization of tihai structure to speculate on the device’s suitability for the phrase structures of modern jazz. Second, I examine tihais from 1960’s and 70’s Indojazz recordings, including performances by Alla Rakha and Buddy Rich; Don Ellis and Harihar Rao’s Hindustani Jazz Sextet; Don Cherry and Latif Khan; and John Mayer and Joe Harriott’s Indo-Jazz Fusions to show that tihais are often

Abstracts for Saturday, April 14 (1:30pm–3:45pm) – continued

manipulated to suit the hybrid jazz syntax. Third, I provide a comparative analysis of every tihai from the first three albums of Shakti, John McLaughlin and L. Shankar’s mid-70’s acoustic Indojazz group. Drawing on this analysis, I find that the structure and metric positioning of Shakti’s tihais often deviates from commonplace Hindustani usage and that these deviations consistently reflect formal and rhetorical roles special to the emergent Indojazz setting.

“How Guitar (Hero) Performance Can Convey Harmonic and Formal Function in Pop‐Rock Music”
Nicholas J. Shea (The Ohio State University)

Some might perceive that the synchronization tasks of performance emulators like Guitar Hero —where colored “buttons” float toward the player to be tapped in sequence with the music— are merely crude abstractions of performance requirements. Indeed, the guitar controllers in these video games feature only five frets. This paper instead argues that this style of reduction quite effectively conveys the functional nature of rock and pop harmony —especially when tablature notation is considered alongside traditional Western notation.
Harmonic transitions on guitar have been described in terms of “gestures” or “operations” (Capuzzo 2004; Koozin 2011) and categorized into three basic types. Unlike other transformational approaches, however, I redefine the most basic operation —what I call a “step”— to include movement by perfect fourth. This approach moves away from the single-position pitch space of piano voice-leading and instead considers parsimony as it relates to the tonal features of the guitar.
Next, I present analyses in real time with the corresponding idiomatic operations visualized on a virtual fretboard and the Guitar Hero interface simultaneously. Doing so demonstrates that, as formal boundaries are approached
(e.g., verse to chorus), the tonal space often expands and less-idiomatic gestures are introduced. For example, when formal transitions do feature traditionally structural (i.e., dominant) harmonies, they are almost always less idiomatic (e.g., a fifth above instead of a fourth below). This suggests that non-structural and non-idiomatic chord transitions can also influence form, thus challenging the use of Schenkerian and Neo-Riemannian voice-leading models for analysis of this repertoire.

————Theoretical Thinking From Scandinavia to Vienna———
Sunday, April 15 (9:00am–12:00pm)

“Transformational Attitudes in Scandinavian Function Theories”
Thomas Jul Kirkegaard-Larsen (Aarhus University, Denmark & the Graduate Center/CUNY)

In his review of Lewin’s Generalized Musical Intervals and Transformations, Bo Alphonce—who taught at both McGill and Yale University but had a Swedish background—hinted that there was already a transformational perspective in Swedish, Post-Riemannian function theory. Subsequently, several references were made to this brief statement. For instance, Richard Cohn wrote that “Bo Alphonce has suggested that [the transformational perspective] is already present in much post-Riemannian work in Northern Europe” (Cohn 1996) and that Alphonce “notes Swedish theorists in this century have interpreted Riemann’s function theory transformationally” (Cohn 1998).
When taking into account that Alphonce’s comment is brief, vague, and personal, a lot has been derived from it. Therefore, this paper aims to elaborate and qualify the idea of transformational perspectives in Scandinavian function theories by investigating a large corpus of Swedish, Danish and Norwegian literature from the 20th as well as the 21st century. The paper finds that there is indeed a transformational perspective in some Scandinavian function theories: From early publications that focus on both chord identity and chord relations, clearly inspired by Riemann’s Handbuch der Harmonielehre, to later publications that focus on third relations in late romantic triadic harmony and develop analytical tools very similar to the Neo-Riemannian P-, L- and R-operations, as well as other transformational categories – for example, any function may be “neapolitanized.” The paper discusses the interesting analytical ramifications of the resulting system that combines key-oriented functions with chord-to-chord-oriented operations.

Abstracts for Sunday, April 15 (9:00am–12:00pm) – continued

“Mode and Triad in 17th-century Germany: The Theory and Music of Johann Crüger”
Lindsey Reymore (The Ohio State University)

Music theoretical perspective in 17th-century Germany represents a singular combination of conservative modal thinking and a focus on the triad as the basis for harmony. German musician Johann Crüger (1598-1662) was renowned during the 17th century as a composer, performer, editor, and a music theorist. Crüger published both theoretical treatises and numerous compositions, some of which are still performed in the Lutheran service today; thus, his oeuvre provides rich grounds for inquiry about relationships between musical practice and theory.
My inquiry begins with an examination of Crüger’s theory of harmony as presented in the 1630 and 1654 editions of the Synopsis Musica. From this theoretical lens, I develop a methodology of analysis that addresses modal framework, triadic analysis, harmonic content, and cadences, and I apply this methodology to chorales of the period. In addition to detailed analysis of several of Crüger’s own chorales, I also incorporate a quantitative approach to the Geistliche Kirchen-Melodien of 1649, a compilation of 161 chorales edited by Crüger, in order to take an empirical snapshot of mode and harmony in mid-17th-century practice.
The use of Crüger’s own theoretical language to explore his compositions ensures a reasonable degree of uniformity in thought while providing a controlled environment in which the range of consistencies between theory and practice can be explored. I analyze several inconsistencies between theory and practice and consider their possible aesthetic and practical considerations in relation to historical and cultural context.

“‘A Viennese May Breeze’: Twelve-tone Theory and the Machine”
Eamonn Bell (Columbia University)
In his publication “Die Grenze der Halbtonwelt” (1925), the composer Fritz Heinrich Klein introduced his readers to a twelve-tone series containing every possible interval between its successive notes, believing this series to be the only such example. When Ernest Krenek published a second specimen in 1937, he wondered: how many other such series existed? For two decades, the question of the all-interval twelve-tone series would capture the interest of mathematicians and musicians alike. It became apparent that no simple formula could generate an exhaustive list of all-interval series. The laborious calculations required to prepare such a catalog were eventually performed independently between 1958 and 1963 by several different groups of researchers using digital computers.
Drawing on published and unpublished primary sources, I detail the collaboration between the Austrian composer Hanns Jelinek and the computer engineer Heinz Zemanek. They prepared the first complete catalog of all-interval series in 1959 with the help of Mailüfterl, the first fully transistorized computer to be built in Europe. I argue that, in doing so, Jelinek had to make aspects of twelve-tone theory legible as computation to his technical collaborators. Later public reflections by Zemanek and Krenek articulate a conception of music composition as a species of information processing. The history of the all-interval twelve-tone series reveals dependencies of this attitude toward music upon ideas about composition and mathematics that predate the development of the digital computer.

“Beethoven’s Reigen: A. B. Marx and the ‘Round Dance’”
August A. Sheehy (Stony Brook University)

A. B. Marx, whose music criticism and theory of musical form decisively shaped nineteenth-century German music theory, used a curious word to describe several works by Beethoven. He called them Reigen, or “round dances.” Marx’s predilection for the term has been noted before (e.g., Bent 1992), but it has not garnered further attention. This paper investigates its possible significance for Marx. I argue that understanding its historical connotations opens a new perspective onto Marx’s musical thought, and thus onto the ideological origins of the Formenlehre tradition.
After a survey of music to which Marx applied the term Reigen and an investigation of its etymology, I consider the term in the context of Marx’s biography. I propose that its connections to the Old Testament (via Martin Luther’s 1534 translation) and the German Minnesinger tradition resonated with Marx’s journey from Jewish childhood to

Abstracts for Sunday, April 15 (9:00am–12:00pm) – continued

Christian convert. It thus provided a powerful musical metaphor for the assimilation of Jewish and Christian thought, and by extension, for a modern conception of German state. This metaphor, then, underpins Marx’s music critical exhortations for Germans to be transformed as individuals and as a nation through cultivation (Bildung); to the pedagogy that participated in the “struggle for freedom”; and to the theory of musical form that shaped Marx’s—and our own—conception of Beethoven’s music.