Musicology Colloquium Series

Every fortnight during semester, our musicologists present a research lecture on a variety of topics. Designed as a showcase for SCM researchers and a venue for research visitors, this series is held in conjunction with the Alfred Hook Lectures (one per semester) and the ‘About Music’ Public Lecture Series (currently held 5pm on Mondays during semester).

For information on our past musicology events – please click here.

See below for details of our 2015 musicology colloquium series.

Semester 2 2015 

1. Peter McCallum (Musicology and Academic Board)
Wednesday 12 August, 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

A Sermon, a Narrative and a Prayer – the Conservatorium and the history of educational reform
The history of the Conservatorium is often, quite reasonably, thought of as part of Sydney’s musical and cultural history. Such views give a fair account of its impact, but do not fully explain the driving forces behind its creation and evolution. Further insight into its establishment and development can be gained by placing them within the history of broader educational reform. Its early decades were accompanied by proselytising pieties about raising people above the purely mercantile to build civic society (the Sermon). The narrative after World War II aimed increasingly at expanding access, and reducing inequality. However, the inexorable tread towards mass higher education in the last quarter of the century has put strains on music’s pedagogical model. Its response to globalisation has been patchy and it is doubtful whether it is well-prepared for deregulation. This talk arises from observations in writing The Centenary of the Con: a history of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music 1915 – 2015 (Allen and Unwin: 2015)The hope is that understanding how educational reform agendas shaped the Conservatorium’s history will throw light on present strengths and tensions and assist in creating its future (the Prayer).

2. Erin Helyard (Australian National University)
Wednesday 2 September – 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

“To Prevent the Abuse of the Open Pedal”: Meticulous Pedal Markings from Madame du Brillon to Moscheles.
Scholars, performers, and teachers who study, perform, and teach on historical keyboards with damper-raising mechanisms are divided in how to interpret the earliest markings that indicate their use in print and manuscript. Even if many of these markings are precise in notating the raising and subsequent lowering of the dampers, many see these as indicative and suggestive, and in performance and teaching we often use the open pedal (to use the English nomenclature) where none is indicated and often in very short bursts, rather than the longer swathes often indicated. This paper proposes a radical re-evaluation of pedal indications in scores from the earliest markings in Madame du Brillon’s compositions to those carefully notated for two performers in duets by Moscheles. Revisions by Clementi for the publication of his Oeuvres Complettes indicate an especial care with the notation of the open pedal and there was an increased concern in the early 1800s that the pedal was being using indiscriminately, and many players were absorbed, indeed hypnotized, with the “soft undulating effect of the Eolian Harp” as Czerny put it. I argue for a new chronology of the earliest indications in manuscript, discuss the important relationship the damper-raising mechanism had with female pianists, and examine the confluence of careful contrapuntal notation with pedal markings in English and Viennese compositions of the period. It may be possible that many present-day fortepianists are “pedalling” earlier repertoire in an ahistorical fashion that has more in common with the practices of the 1860s and 1870s, as documented by Köhler and Schmitt, and which arguably forms the basis of a “modern” school of pedalling. Recalibrating our conception of the “open pedal” from its origin as a special effect operated by hand stops, I argue, resonates better with the evidence of the markings themselves, as documented in Parisian, London, and Viennese sources.

3. Christopher Coady (Musicology)
Wednesday 16 September – 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Shotgun Weddings and Bohemian Dreams: Jazz, family values and storytelling in Australian film
Recent research on jazz presence in Australian film has demonstrated how the genre was once used to enhance narratives about both the threats and the perceived benefits of impending modernization during the 1920s and 1930s. This paper charts the way in which the musical trope of the bluesy solo horn—established in American and Australian film noir productions of the 1970s and 1980s—was used in contrast to conjure a sense of nostalgia in Australian films produced during the early 1990s. Despite pivoting a period of 60 years, analysis undertaken in this article of Gillian Armstrong’s The Last Days of Chez Nous (1992) and Paul Harmon’s Shotgun Wedding (1993) reveals the continued deployment of jazz sounds to rhetorical ends within Australian films bent on exploring competing societal visions. In turn, its identification of a shift from the sound of jazz in general as a marker of the modern to the sound of the bluesy solo horn as a nostalgic trope reinforces the need to read the semiotics of jazz presence in Australian film against particular historical frames.

4. Gary Tomlinson (Yale University)
Wednesday 7 October – 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Music and Human Evolution: A New View
Why is Homo sapiens a musical species?  What adaptive advantages did musicking afford in the course of our ancestors’ evolution?  The questions, posed as a problem to be resolved in the light of natural selection, are as old as the theory of selection itself, having been pondered by Darwin in his second greatest work, The Descent of Man.  In the century-and-a-half since then the questions have been reframed many times, yet their general dimensions and even the answers supplied have changed little.  In this talk I will describe a new model of the forces that conspired in the origin of musicking, building on evolutionary dynamics that have been recognized only in recent years.  In the process I will implicate musicking in a novel way in the general coalescence of our modernity.

5. Charles Fairchild (Arts Music)
Wednesday 14 October – 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Caught Between the Spectacular and the Vernacular: Constructing the Ideal Musical Subject in the Popular Music Museum
The museum is a prime exemplar of the archive, organising the material remnants of everyday life into a credible, if not authoritative representation of myriad facets of the human existence in order to produce an ideal citizen-subject. Popular music museums seek to produce a ideal subject by explicitly establishing, constructing and articulating a collective understanding of popular music made material through rich, cross-media, cross-sensory environments made from a multitude of objects, instruments, images, sounds, soundscapes, and moving images. In recent years, the pursuit of these goals has meant the construction of extensive, high-tech displays set in high-profile buildings in the presumed ‘musical capitals’ of the world, such as Los Angeles, London and Nashville. These places are defined by expansive experiential infrastructures centred around sound technologies linked to digital screens or varying sizes and types.

The often fragile legitimacy of these institutions depends on their ability to obscure the tensions between their decidedly spectacular infrastructures and their purportedly vernacular materials. In order to survive, these institutions must translate the largely demotic experience of musical sociality into environments that must be attractive enough to capture the attention of a substantial public. I seek here to examine how these institutions work primarily through their strategic deployment of the vernacular elements of popular music practice and experience as codified within a demonstratively spectacular logic of visual, aural, and material display.

6. Simon Barker (Jazz)
Wednesday 28 October – 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Semester 1 2015

1. Richard Cohn (Musicology)
Wednesday 11 March 2015, 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Meter Without Tactus
The paper critiques the view that meter has a primary pulse, or tactus. Although this view is broadly held in principle, in practice it is unstably executed. The paper argues that the tactus idea is appropriate for much 18th-century repertory, but optional for a general theory of meter. It explores the historical circumstances that have perpetuated the tactus idea from the 18th century to the present day. The paper concludes by advocating for a new metric pedagogy that emphasizes integration of pulses without privileging one of them.

2. David Baker (Institute of Education, University of London)
Wednesday 18 March, 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Insights in Sound: Visually-Impaired Musicians’ Lives and Learning.
“Visually-impaired musicians’ lives” (VIML) is a project investigating the musical experiences of blind and partially-sighted people through life history interviews and an online survey. This encompasses instrumentalists, singers, composers and music teachers from amateurs to professionals, with respondents contributing from various countries (e.g. Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Burundi, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, the UK and USA). There are longstanding traditions of “blind musicianship” across the world, e.g. in Sierra Leone (Ottenberg, 1996), minstrelsy in the Ukraine (Kononenko, 1998) and in Japan (De Ferranti, 2009; Lubet, 2011; Groemer, 2012), to the early jazz of the US Southern States (Batterson, 1998; Southall, 1999; Harrah, 2004; Rowden, 2009; Fuqua, 2011). Prominent jazz and popular musicians in recent years, such as Ray Charles, George Shearing, Art Tatum and Stevie Wonder have, undoubtedly, amplified society’s interest in visual impairment and music. This is clothed in “social lore” such as higher religious wisdom in itinerant minstrels or the assumption, on the part of many sighted people, that “in the absence of one sense another is augmented”. Research, too, has explored notions of heightened musical cognitive and auditory capacities (e.g. Welch, 1988; Hamilton, Pascual-Leone & Schlaug, 2004; Melcher & Zampini, 2011; Dimatati et al., 2012). But, against this backdrop, what are the life experiences of today’s visually-impaired musicians?  This presentation will introduce some extraordinary musicians we have met. Themes of “accessibility” (e.g. of repertoire, music technology products, teaching practices), “independent mobility” (in relation to musical work) and “marginalisation” thread into these musicians’ lives. Innovators combating the barriers they face will also be introduced: accessibility technology is sculpting the musical landscape for these people, yet also brings with it substantial challenges. With alternative score formats (e.g. Braille music, large print, modified stave notation, talking scores), musical learning processes differ too for the visually impaired, thus affecting genre choices and educational pathways. Drawing together the various threads, questions surrounding social inclusion in music-making will be raised.

3. Alan Maddox (Musicology)
Wednesday 15 April, 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

“The finest and grandest work ever created by human genius”: The first Sydney performance of J.S Bach’s St Matthew Passion
Archival records and contemporary press reports paint a vivid picture of the first Sydney performance of J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion, in April 1880, juxtaposing its lofty cultural ambitions with a rather modest musical outcome. The difficulty of the piece, both to perform and to listen to, was a constant theme in commentary surrounding the performance, and this idea was often elided with discourses of genius and transcendence which assimilated Bach’s early eighteenth-century music to distinctly nineteenth-century concepts of profundity and Greatness. Reviews of the performance indicate that it was something of a musical ordeal, yet at the same time it was regarded as a worthy achievement which reflected well on the city’s musical reputation and carried special significance for a newly confident colonial society. The conductor’s score and orchestral parts, specially imported for the first performance, remained in use until at least 1954.  Now held in the Conservatorium’s Rare Books collection, they provide a rich, multilayered record of the early Australian performance history of “The finest and grandest work ever created by human genius”.

4. Michael Webb (Music Education) and Camellia Webb-Gannon (Justice Research Group, University of Western Sydney)
Wednesday 29 April, 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Musical Melanesianism
Melanesia—a racialised construct meaning ‘the black islands’—is the Pacific Islands region located immediately to the north and east of Australia. Unique for its prodigious cultural diversity and linguistic density, the region was instrumental in the founding of the discipline of anthropology. Over the past decade younger Melanesian Islanders have begun using popular music (song, dance & video) as a means to project a unified vision of themselves and their region, in part to counter negative portrayals of the region abroad and to express their deep concern over the deprivation of fellow Melanesians’ right to political autonomy. This process has involved appropriating reggae and hip-hop as tools for turning the pejorative associations and experiences of being labelled the black “nesia” into a feature to celebrate. In this presentation we will discuss a corpus of popular songs and accompanying videos produced over the last decade that promote Melanesian regional identity. Our analysis is guided by a framework that considers the lyrical, musical and visual devices through which musical Melanesianism is being articulated and projected: mapping, flagging, dancing and vocality—devices from the “do-it-yourself kit” for performing regionalism, as it has been termed by an eminent scholar of the region.

5. Jane Hardie (Medieval and Early Modern Centre, University of Sydney)
Wednesday 20 May, 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Into the diaspora. The source, the scholars and the stacks in the digital age: an Early Modern Spanish Jeronymite Processional, Sydney Rare Book Additional Manuscript 380.

In 1509 there were about 300 Spanish Jeronymite Processionals, both in manuscript and in print, many of which emanated from the Zaragoza printer Jorge Coci (Libros de Actas Generales of 1685 Volumes 1-2 folio 221verso). In 2004 the late Michel Huglo was able to identify just 13 extant manuscript Jeronymite Processionals of known Spanish origin, now widely dispersed throughout the old and new worlds. This makes the Sydney Rare Book Additional manuscript 380 the fourteenth known manuscript of a Spanish Jeronymite Processional. Probably from the monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe in Spain, this Processional is one a number Spanish liturgical music manuscripts in the diaspora of the Rare Book collection of the University of Sydney.

Although Sydney 380 presents as a very small plain book, with very little information, one can provide it with a context through comparison with contemporary source material and even reconstruct particular processions for specific feasts at identifiable places. The events enshrined in this book celebrate special occasions, in which the participants move along preordained routes, pause at special places, sing music specific to an occasion, and commemorate special people or events. This Sydney Processional contains liturgical chant and ritual instructions for processions on feasts appropriate to the order, including Palm Sunday, Corpus Christi and some Marian feasts, and concludes with music associated with the period immediately following death. Today’s technology allows us to return the Sydney Processional to its original space by linking the music and images of the manuscript with its home monastery in order to recreate a context within which Sydney 380 would have been used.

6. Sarah Collins (UNSW)
Wednesday 3 June, 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Autonomy as Commitment within the Modernist Project: E.J. Dent, Mozart and Aesthetic Democracy

The aesthetic regime of high modernism is often described in terms of art seeking distance from politics, ethics and the social, expressed in artistic practice as a rejection of representation and mimesis. This championing of autonomy has historically attracted intimations of deviance and subversion, and has been associated with an attitude of non-participation in, or withdrawal from, collective identification. In recent years however, this singular view of modernist autonomy has come under pressure. Jacque Rancière joins a number of theorists in attempting to re-describe the aesthetic regime as being intimately bound up with a belief in the possibility of political emancipation—a possibility denied by the ‘post’ modern stigmatization of the aesthetic as masking forms of social domination. For Rancière, aesthetic autonomy acted as ‘ the principle of a new form of collective life’, and a way of delivering real equality.

This paper will explore the claim that modernist autonomy can be viewed in terms of political action, collective life and egalitarianism, via the work of music scholar E.J. Dent (1876-1957). Dent’s is a case of special interest due to the seemingly contradictory nature of his activities—he was a staunch advocate of ‘modern’ music, but yet was devoted to increasing music’s accessibility; he was internationalist in outlook, both in art and life, yet he spent a great deal of energy arguing for the establishment of an English National Opera; and he was committed to the performance of the music of ‘to-day’ while at once holding to a distinctive notion of ‘modern classicism’. These apparent oppositions within Dent’s agenda, when taken as forming a coherent project, offer an opportunity to trace democratic implications of his modernist paradigm, and in particular the capacity of the aesthetic to forge a collective, egalitarian sphere of discourse.