Roger Matthew Grant
Wesleyan University

The History of Extra, or the Sound of Hyperbole in Three Scenes

Does hyperbole have a characteristic sound?  Is hyperbole a musical topic?  This paper examines the sounds of musical hyperbole in three scenes drawn from opera, Hollywood, and queercore experimental film.  Analyzing hyperbole outside of language proper—in a different but equally rich domain of signs—ultimately reveals structural characteristics of hyperbole as an aesthetic mode.  Hyperbole exaggerates extravagantly in order to tell the truth, but because it involves a play with levels, degrees, and ranks, it also has the ability to demonstrate how aesthetic objects articulate the hierarchies of social power.  Listening for musical hyperbole as parody, melodrama, and camp, the paper illustrates how hyperbolic performance can be used as a strategy to resist social power’s normative force.


In this seminar we’ll focus on the idea of the compound (or “compounded”) measure in eighteenth-century music theory.  Although today we talk of compound meters as those with triple subdivisions, the term did much different work in the eighteenth century.  Generally, it described a wide range of phenomena in which two measures (of any type of cardinality or subdivision) were said to have been joined into one.  Together we’ll explore the complex ramifications of this idea for the theory and analysis of eighteenth-century music.  I’ve attached the readings here and listed them below.  For each I’ve included both the original (which I encourage you to read if you can) and translations for all, except for the Mattheson (which you can either skim or skip).  Read primarily for theorists’ remarks on the compound measure and be ready for a spirited discussion!

Mattheson, Dasneu-eröffnte Orchestre (1735) [no translation: skim or skip]

Andrea Fowler
University of Wisconsin - Madison 

"What I Am to the Fullest": Building a Black Arts Network Around Julius Eastman

Composer Julius Eastman (1940-1990) was often the only black musician on stage; he composed and performed in isolation. Despite his proximity to the Black Arts Movement, no attempt has been made to contextualize Eastman and his compositions as part of an era-defining artistic collective. The Black Arts Movement, approximately 1965-1975, gave rise to a generation of African American literature, poetry, theatre, music, and dance as the artistic outgrowth of the Black Power Movement. Sparked in part by the assassination of Malcolm X, individuals within the Black Arts Movement, such as Amiri Baraka, Lorenzo Thomas, and Maya Angelou, strove to create politically engaged works that explored the African American cultural and historical experience. This ten-year span of heightened creative output directly aligns with Julius Eastman’s tenure at the University of Buffalo. During this decade, Eastman honed his skills as a performer and often incorporated aspects of his identity into his compositions and his performances of other composer’s works. His musical performance of identity became his trademark as he sought to be, in his words, “Black to the fullest, a musician to the fullest, a homosexual to the fullest.” In this paper, I examine some of these trademark performance and composition characteristics and argue for the inclusion of Julius Eastman within the rich network of the Black Arts Movement, allowing for a new perspective on his complicated identity as he moved away from academia and built a following in Brooklyn.

Matt Ambrosio
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Musical Time-Images: A Study of Narrativity in Debussy’s Late Style 

Scholars finding the non-teleological nature of Claude Debussy’s late repertoire elusive under analysis have turned to another artistic medium to inform their study, film. While drawing parallels between compositional and cinematic practices can suggest influences in either direction, such demonstrations often overlook a more fundamental similarity: the ways in which both Debussy’s late works and modern film practices subvert the teleological narrative structures of their respective earlier periods. 

This paper reframes the relationship between Debussy’s music and film to suggest that narrative similarities exist at the level of experienced temporality. Using Gilles Deleuze’s concept of time-imageintroduced in Cinema 2, I address the narrative effects of musical return in Debussy’s late sonatas and develop a methodology to approach music that eludes teleologically-biased music-analytical practices. Time-images, the philosopher asserts, “falsif[y] purely ‘chronic’ narrative” and challenge the linear “clock-time” temporality of earlier cinema. Deleuze’s taxonomy of time-imagesigns relates closely to his model of temporality introduced in his earlier writings (Difference and RepetitionBergonism, and The Logic of Sense), suggesting a deep connection between perception of time and narrative. Using Deleuze’s study of time-image as a model for how to address non-teleological narrativity I find musical return in Debussy’s sonatas suggests a narrativity that repositions the listener in a productive narrative role, redefining music’s temporal capabilities. 
Susan Youens
University of Notre Dame
January 25th, 4pm

Susan Youens

Reentering Mozart's Hell:
Schubert's 'Gruppe aus dem Tartarus', D. 583

In September 1817, Schubert returned to a poem he had attempted to set a year-and-a-half earlier:  Friedrich Schiller's "Gruppe aus dem Tartarus," or "Group from Tartarus." In this song, in which the antique damned are impelled towards eternal doom in the lowest realm of Hades, Schubert created a virtuoso exercise in ombra style, music of the dark shadows where demons, furies, and malevolent deities lurk. The most famous example of ombra music by far is the Damnation of Don Juan in the Act II finale of Mozart's Don Giovanni:  the Don and damned beings in Schiller's poem are all making a "harsh passage" against their will, and this is perhaps why both great composers resort to what earlier treatises called the "passus duriusculus," or "harsh passage." These ascending or descending chromatic scales saturate both of these works; while there are distinctive differences in Mozart's combination of utmost instability and utmost architecture and Schubert's treatment of chromatic scales, both men create chromaticism-within-chromaticism designs of utmost sophistication, the one (I believe) inspiring the other.
Robin James
University of North Carolina - Charlotte
11/29, 4pm

"Must Be Love On The Brain?: How can feminists reconcile our love of artworks with our disgust at the misogynist artists who made them?"

Abstract: As #MeToo activism has revealed cascades of famous and influential men to be serial sexual harassers and rapists, the question of what to do about aesthetically pleasing art made by morally and politically disgusting men has received renewed interest and urgency. I identify 2 different types of feminist responses to this question. The first kind of response modifies post-feminist and post-race approaches to diversity as a kind of beauty: replacing beauty with disgust, these approaches treat sexismm and misogyny as individual-level flaws that can be eliminated through appropriate aesthetic judgments. The second kind of response begins from the premise that centuries of white supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy have shaped our aesthetic principles and conventions such that sexism and misogyny are systemic problems baked into all works of art. I examine how Angela Davis’s revision of Marcuse’s concept of the aesthetic dimension, Katherine McKittrick’s and Alexander Weheliye’s concept of “emulation,” and Rihanna’s vocal performance choices on her 2016 single “Love On The Brain” are all instances of this latter type of response.