Daniel Grimley

‘Unto Brigg Fair’: Delius and the Politics of Cosmopolitanism

Cosmopolitanism has been a prominent term in the reception of Frederick Delius’s music ever since the publication of Christopher Palmer’s 1976 monograph on the composer. For Palmer and others, resisting the negative trend of much writing on Delius after the Second World War, the term is frequently inflected with positive value, suggesting openness, liberation, and a progressive worldview, rather than critical approbation. Building on the recent work of Bruce Robbins, Amanda Anderson, and Kwame Anthony Appiah, however, I shall argue that the category is far more destabilizing and opaque than its appropriation frequently suggests, and that its valence in Delius studies is especially problematic.

Delius’s 1907-8 tone poem Brigg Fair, subtitled ‘An English Rhapsody’, is an indicative case study. Based on a melody collected by Percy Grainger in North Lincolnshire in 1905 and later arranged for unaccompanied choir, Delius’s set of orchestral variations offers a transformative vision of the music, whose arch-like expressive trajectory is consistent with late Romantic aesthetics. Closer attention to the score, however, suggests a more complex reading of the work’s multiple points of stylistic reference. Cosmopolitanism here might serve as a straightforward register of the music’s layered evocations of place, or, more pointedly, as a critique of the work’s thinly veiled colonialism. Attempting to resolve these tensions, I will conclude, prompts renewed reflection about the ideological associations of the term in a music historical context.
Deanna Clement
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Harmonizing a Cours d’improvisation (n.d.) Melody

Émile Jaques-Dalcroze’s (1865-1950) thinking on piano improvisation and harmony remains obscure, even though Cours d’improvisation (n.d.) and Introduction à l’étude de l’harmonie (n.d.) provide documentation on his and his allies’ thinking on and teaching of both subjects. At the same time, neither text provides complete, explicit answers as to how Dalcroze choreographed the leap students made from the solfège activities in the three volumes of Les gammes et les tonalités, le phrasé et les nuances (1906-7) to the Cours materials, which consist of a cappella melodies classified according to an expanding harmonic palate. Rather, a considerable gap exists between the two texts’ contents. However, closely reading Les gammes alongside Dalcroze’s essays collected in two volumes, Rhythm, Music, and Education (1921) and Eurhythmics, Art, and Education (1930), allows us to understand in greater detail the melodic foundation Dalcroze and his allies assert for harmony. I will demonstrate how this understanding operates in practice with a Cours melody. Filling in this theoretical and pragmatic gap not only sheds light on how these texts together represent Dalcroze and his allies’ thoughts about these intertwined skills, but also helps us better appreciate how a series of arm movements represents musical events in Exercices de plastique animée (1916), Exercise 4.22.


The Midwest Graduate Music Consortium (MGMC) is a joint venture organized by graduate students from Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The 21st annual meeting of MGMC will be held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on March 31 and April 1, 2017, and will include paper sessions on religion and censorship, new approaches to analysis and meaning, un(der)heard musical voices, mediation and circulation, and music and politics. The program also includes a new music concert featuring Madison-based contemporary chamber ensemble Sound Out Loud performing graduate student compositions, as well as a keynote on musical identity by Prof. Eric Charry of Wesleyan University. In recent years, the conference has been an excellent opportunity for school of music students to connect with current research in the field and form a stronger community for social and intellectual exchanges. We anticipate this year’s conference will facilitate not only the presentation of new research and exciting compositions, but will also promote the environment fora  deep engagement with music as a discipline.

Eric Charry:
MGMC Keynote

Interrogating Musical Identities

What is it that allows us to place music we’ve never heard before or draws us to claim a piece of music (or style) as our own? Musical instruments convey visual and sonic signatures, including their morphology and materials, timbres, tuning systems, textures, rhythms, and melodies. So do vocalists in their own ways. Musical identities across Europe are shaped within a shared tonal system by well-defined families of musical instruments with distinct national and regional traditions. European tonality is just one among many options used in West Africa, which has a seemingly endless variety of instruments (within readily identifiable families) and music cultures. How can one make sense of the great musical diversity in West Africa (related to its linguistic diversity), which, at the same time, clusters into regional and supra-regional cultures, independent of political boundaries? This question is further enriched by looking at state-sponsored attempts to create national cultures as well as how independent artists have shaped their own personal styles. In this talk I will examine case studies from Senegal (Youssou N’Dour), Mali (Oumou Sangare), and Nigeria (Fela Kuti), and expand the field to include one of the more radical extensions of African diasporic musical styles in the USA (Albert Ayler, John Coltrane). The aim is to interrogate the phenomenon of musical and cultural identity in Africa and its diaspora, taking account of how it has been theorized (civilization/culture, a changing same, and roots/routes). The case studies will bring us into the creative cauldron where deeply rooted and more recent cultural currents mix, touching on issues of ethnicity, race, nationality, gender, acculturation, and appropriation.
Damon Chandru Sajnani
University of Wisconsin

The African HipHop Movement: Resonance, Resolution, and Resistance in Senegalse Rap

Scholars have celebrated the Senegalse HipHop movement for having been instrumental in swaying two presidential elections. However, they have not interrogated the aesthetic qualities of HipHop which, I argue, both facilitate and shape the messages that Senegalese youth express through it. My research reveals three aspects of HipHop that help explain its impact in this regard. These are (1) the structure of rap music, (2) its cultural connotations, and (3) its Black aesthetic politics. My presentation will describes these qualities of HipHop and how they have impacted and empowered Senegal’s youth movement over the last two decades.  These qualities are contrasted with the cultural mediums of previous generations of Senegalese youth movements, including the aesthetic and discursive framing of francophone poetry (L’etudient Noir), Marxism, and the previous principal cultural vehicle of youth mobilization: sports clubs.