MTSNYS Graduate Student Workshop

Three Myths about the History of Tonality
Megan Kaes Long (Oberlin College and Conservatory)
Friday, 5 April 2019 (evening)

We are excited to announce that the 2019 Graduate Student Workshop will be led by Professor Megan Kaes Long (Oberlin College and Conservatory).

Applications should consist of two documents: (1) a brief letter of interest, and (2) a note of support from a faculty member that addresses the applicant’s eligibility and qualifications. For this seminar-style workshop, participation is capped at 15. Participants will be randomly selected by drawing from the pool of eligible applicants. Applications for the workshop should be sent to by 20 January 2019, 11:59 pm Eastern Time.

Workshop Details
When did tonality begin?  Was it, as Edward Lowinsky has argued, in the triadic counterpoint and standardized bass patterns of the frottola and villancico?  Was François-Joseph Fétis on to something when he identified a dominant seventh chord in Monteverdi’s Cruda Amarilli and cited this as the precise moment when music passed from l’ordre unitonique to l’ordre transitonique?  Or was it when Corelli harnessed the power of the circle of fifths to create directed motion within the circumscribed forms of his chamber sonatas, as Manfred Bukofzer first suggested?  In this seminar we will consider these origin stories and others, not to assess their relative validity, but rather to question our impulse to identify a starting point for tonality.  Why have theorists and historians looked to dates as diverse as ca. 1500, ca. 1600, and ca. 1700 for tonality’s beginnings?  What theoretical and historical projects shaped the development of each of these narratives?  What musical features do they prioritize?  How is tonality being used in the service of larger claims about genre, style, and modernity?  We will collate historical accounts, contemporary scholarship, and music analysis to interrogate what “tonality” might have meant for each of these repertoires, and what these repertoires might mean for tonality today.