Articles

Milton Babbitt’s Glosses on American Jewish Identity

Published Jul 31, 2018

Despite the fact that Babbitt claimed to “regard himself as Jewish and did not wish to be in any way evasive about being Jewish,” little scholarship has documented how Babbitt’s Jewish identity influenced his discourse or music. Yet, during the postwar era—a time when many American Jews felt an obligation to reaffirm their Jewish identity—Babbitt frequently employed Jewish themes in his discourse. Mapping the Jewish Exile narrative onto the plight of academic composers, he often draws correspondences between Schoenberg and Moses, America and the Promised Land, and the university and Masada. In this article, I contextualize this aspect of Babbitt’s rhetoric by outlining how his relationship to his Jewish identity evolved over the course of his career: from concessions he made to Princeton’s anti-Semitic policies early in his career to his active participation in conferences devoted to Jewish issues later in his career. I argue that the analogies Babbitt draws between Jewish tradition and his music demonstrate that he, like many American Jews during the period, fashioned his Jewish identity around Jewish individuals and religious beliefs that complemented his secular worldview. Then, I examine the repercussions Babbitt’s constructed Jewish identity had for his music. To this end, I offer an interpretation of three climactic, unsung moments in Glosses (1988). These three un-pitched vocalizations, I argue, not only realize the Jewish tradition wherein God, who in defying definition also resists signification, but also gloss Schoenberg’s musical symbol for YHVH.

Cosmopolitanism and Race in Percy Grainger’s American “Delius Campaign”

Published Jul 31, 2018

“Cosmopolitanism and Race in Percy Grainger’s American ‘Delius Campaign’” analyzes Grainger’s early-twentieth-century campaign to promote the works of Frederick Delius in the United States, exposing the campaign’s underpinnings in Grainger’s racist, nativist, and eugenicist ideologies and projects. Kirby exposes a peculiar construction of cosmopolitanism at the root of Grainger’s modes of presenting Delius to US audiences, arguing that by downplaying his European national roots, Delius and his music could be deployed as a “blank canvas” upon which Grainger could superimpose his own “developing racist ideologies.”

As Time Goes By: Car Radio and the Travel Experience in Twentieth-Century America

Published Jul 31, 2018

Since its invention nearly a century ago, the car radio has found its way into over ninety-five percent of vehicles on the road. Modern day radio programming is tailored to suit a mobile audience, and many listeners view car radios as an essential part of the driving experience. Yet within the scope of scholarly studies on this subject, the questions addressed are so focused on the mechanical problems of how radios were integrated into automobiles that there is substantially less research examining why radios were first imported into the car. What was the inspiration for such a combination? And how did it affect the travel experience for car users? Expanding upon current scholarship related to mobile sound technologies and their influence on the experience of mechanized travel, I argue that the conditions individually brought about by the radio and the automobile mutually reinforced one another: both worked together to alter the perceived passage of time and space for their users. Given that these developments directly reflect similar shifts in the perception of space and time occurring with the invention of older travel technologies such as the railroad half a century earlier, the application of radio to the car can be understood as just one more manifestation of the new spatiotemporal paradigm gripping the post-industrial West in the first half of the twentieth century.

Noticing Musical Becomings: Deleuzian and Guattarian Approaches to Ethnographic Studies of Musicking

Published Feb 9, 2017

Abstract In this article, we expand conceptually upon approaches in cultural musicology and ethnomusicology that conceive of music in terms of shifting textual signs and performances of cultural meaning.1 Our aim is to propose some new ways of considering music in terms of relational events, doing, and becoming. We ask: what if music does more… Read more

Beat Hierarchy and Beat Patterns—From Aksak to Composite Meter

Published Feb 9, 2017

Abstract In his study of Steve Reich’s phase–shifting music, Richard Cohn points to a specific analytical challenge that transcends the repertoire at hand: “Given the relative poverty of our rhythmic terminology, the challenge for the theorist is to discover a means to characterize this material that is not only descriptively adequate, but also allows for… Read more

“Django’s Tiger”: From Jazz to Jazz Manouche

Published Feb 9, 2017

Abstract Jazz manouche, a contemporary musical genre originally inspired by the European Romani guitarist Django Reinhardt (1910–53), provides a fruitful case study for exploring the conceptual transformations and contradictions inherent within any “invented tradition.” This article’s point of departure is Reinhardt’s original composition “Django’s Tiger,” which today’s musicians typically perform with slightly different harmonies from… Read more

The Historical Soundscape of Monophonic Hi-Fidelity

Published Aug 29, 2016

Abstract An article in High Fidelity magazine, entitled “Listening is Believing?” and dated July/August 1953, sets forth the contemporary limits of sound reproduction in the inimitable style of advertisement copy: “Technical electronics can go only so far. Te rest of the job must be done by the imaginative mind of the listener. Tat’s not a… Read more

The Musical Work Reconsidered, In Hindsight

Published Aug 29, 2016

Abstract Certainly, the concept of the musical work has not always existed. Yet deciphering precisely when the work emerged has proved an immensely difficult task for musicologists.1 In particular, the publication of Lydia Goehr’s The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works—in which she famously argued that the work–concept crystallized around 1800—has provoked an endless litany of… Read more

The Lost Movements of Ernst Toch’s Gesprochene Musik

Published Aug 29, 2016

Gesprochene Musik, by Ernst Toch (1887–1964), is a forgotten milestone in the history of electronic music.1 A three–movement suite consisting of spoken music for choir, it is one of the few paradigmatic representatives of the genre of Gramophonmusik, which made use of prerecorded gramophone discs in a concert setting. The work was premiered in 1930… Read more

Voice and Instrument at the Origins of Music

Published Aug 29, 2016

Abstract During the summer of 2008, archaeologists uncovered some remnants of musical prehistory in the caves of Hohle Fels, Germany. There, among burnt animal bones and flint–knapping debris, they found fragments of three flutes (Conard, Malina, and Münzel 2009). One was remarkably complete. Tis delicate instrument, discovered in twelve pieces, had been fashioned from a… Read more

“A Disturbing Lack of Musical and Stylistic Continuity”? Elliott Carter, Charles Ives, and Musical Borrowing

Published Aug 14, 2015

Abstract Elliott Carter and Charles Ives shared a complex personal and professional relationship. Ives supported Carter’s musical pursuits as a young man and remained a guiding influence throughout his career. As Jan Swafford writes, however, “Carter, whose mature music would owe a great deal to Ives . . . would pay back his mentor with… Read more

Judging Performance, Performing Judgments: Race and Performance in Weimar Germany

Published Aug 14, 2015

Abstract In the summer of 1930, the pianist John Flaffith concertized throughout Europe and astounded audiences with his vivid interpretations of a varied repertoire, ranging from Debussy and Stravinsky to Bach and Mozart. In Poland, the Kurjer Polski raved: “Yesterday John Flaffith played before a wild audience. What this great artist understands and brings [to… Read more