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 other research lectures throughout the year.

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

See below for details of our 2018 musicology colloquium series.

Semester 1 2018

All talks will take place in room 2174 starting at 4.15pm.

14 March Daniel Leech-Wilkinson (King’s College, London)
28 March Ed Herbst (Project director and principal researcher, Bali 1928 repatriation project)
11 April Jonathan Goldman (University of Montreal)
2 May Helen Mitchell (SCM Musicology Division)
23 May Clint Bracknell (SCM Associate Dean (Indigenous Strategy and Services)
6 June James Wierzbicki (SCM Arts Music Division)


1. Daniel Leech-Wilkinson (King’s College, London)
Classical music performance norms, and how to escape them
Wednesday 14 March, 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

While Western Classical Music appears to celebrate creativity, and generates powerfully moving experiences, it also constitutes one of the most authoritarian and strongly codified cultural systems in contemporary democratic societies. Young musicians are taught how each score is supposed to be performed so as to generate the expressive qualities it is supposed to convey to listeners. Performances that fail to produce the musical character that is expected are often held to be incorrect. Teachers, examiners, adjudicators, critics, agents, concert managers, festival programmers and record producers work in harmony to ensure that standards and styles of performance are strictly maintained. Performers know that playing ‘out of style’ will deny them work. Does this not sound like a police state, where performer creativity consists in sounding the values of the State more persuasively than one’s rivals? What does the State fear? How can we bring it about? What would be the benefits? What would it mean for the sound and experience of music? This talk offers a highly critical view of the musical State and aims to answer these key questions, with examples.

Daniel Leech-Wilkinson is Emeritus Professor of Music at King’s College London. He studied at the Royal College of Music, KCL, and Cambridge University, becoming first a medievalist and then, since c. 2000, a specialist in the implications of early recordings for musical ethics, performance and communication. Books include The Changing Sound of Music (2009) and (with Helen Prior) Music and Shape (2018). This talk summarises ingredients in the argument for his next book.

2. Ed Herbst (Project director and principal researcher, Bali 1928 repatriation project)
Reviving early Twentieth-Century Balinese vocal styles through the music recordings of 1928
Wednesday 28 March, 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

In 1928 the German companies Odeon and Beka made the only recordings in Bali published prior to World War II. My acquisition of 111 of these recordings (in cooperation with Arbiter of Cultural Traditions and STIKOM-Bali) from diverse archives came at a time when the last artists of that generation were available as links to the creative and cultural currents of the 1920s. Field research amongst near-centenarians and much younger singers has exposed challenging ambiguities of music cognition, implicit and explicit knowledge.

The most complex issue involves tonality and modal practice. The microtonal singing of 1928 clearly reflects archaic seven-tone gamelan but exhibiting an even wider palette of pitches to the octave. The challenge becomes one of musical perception in which new ways of hearing and conceptualizing intervals seem necessary for most Balinese singers to penetrate through their own culturally and historically-specific processes of music cognition. As these recordings have been unavailable in Bali, or anywhere, until now, my Balinese colleagues and I are similarly dealing with varying degrees of unknowns, necessitating a dialogic process of research and understanding. This kebingunan enak ‘delightful confusion’ has stimulated a considerable amount of re-thinking about both aesthetic issues and those of cultural history.

Edward Herbst researched gamelan, gong-smithing, acoustics, and dance-theater in 1972 toward his B.A. at Bennington College. In 1980–81 he focused on vocal music for his Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University. He collaborated as composer and solo vocalist on Sardono Kusumo’s Maha Buta and The Sorceress of Dirah. His Bali 1928 Project has been funded since 2003 by the Ford, Henry Luce, Andrew W. Mellon, Robert Lemelson, and Wenner-Gren Foundations, Asian Cultural Council, and Fulbright Senior Research Scholar Program. Author of Voices in Bali, his Bali 1928 essays are downloadable on and OUP’s forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Musical Repatriation.

3. Jonathan Goldman (University of Montreal)
Of doubles, groups and rhymes: Spatialized works and the artistic response to sound technology (1958-1960)
Wednesday 11 April, 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Between March 1958 and October 1960, no less than five major works for spatially distributed orchestral groups (with or without electronic sounds) received their first performances in Europe: Pierre Boulez’s Doubles, Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Gruppen and Carré, Luciano Berio’s Allelujah II, Henri Pousseur’s Rimes pour multiples sources sonores were all premiered during that two-year period, sometimes days apart. One of the important developments of this era concerns music recording and sound reproduction, specifically the commercial introduction of stereo long-playing records that led to the mass distribution of stereo sound into homes throughout the world; stereo radio transmission also started to come of age, and multi-channel cinema-sound systems were already commonplace in major urban centers around the world. To what extent were listeners’ experiences of these spatialized works informed by their new familiarity with stereo sound? To what extent did composers respond to listeners’ expectations about stereo in their spatialized works? The answers to these seemingly naïve questions require evaluating the extent to which an allusion to stereophony may have been inscribed into these works, an inscription that might include both ways audiences were inclined to hear stereophony and ways composers might have reacted in their works to these expectations. This talk draws on Mark Katz’s research on ‘phonograph effects’ and a historiographic framework for the history of sound recording developed by Jochen Stolla.

Jonathan Goldman is Associate Professor of Musicology in the Faculty of Music of the Université de Montréal. His research focusses on modernist and avant-garde music in a regional perspective. His book The Musical Language of Pierre Boulez (Cambridge University Press, 2011) won an Opus Prize for book of the year. He was an editor of Texts and Beyond (UT Orpheus, 2016) and The Dawn of Musical Semiology (University of Rochester Press, 2017) and was Music Editor of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism (2016).

4. Helen Mitchell (SCM Musicology Division)
The moot audition: Transforming music listening through experiential learning
Wednesday 2 May, 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Listening is regarded as the most fundamental way to engage with music performance, but this is challenged by a growing body of research which suggests that sight trumps sound. Music is now widely recognised as a multisensory experience, and music education must now absorb and include these recent research findings in the music curriculum. This talk will consider the moot audition as a key learning opportunity to experience music performance. It harnesses existing knowledge from recent empirical testing to a real-world setting, so students can experience music performance by sight and sound.

Auditioners experienced live-performances before and behind a screen, and formed panels to evaluate performances, guided by music industry experts. Performances were audio and video recorded, and arranged into three presentation conditions, Audio-only, Visual-only and Audiovisual. These presentations isolated sound and sight so students could gauge their own responses to performances by ear and eye compared with the multisensory performance. The moot audition challenged students’ listening acuity through role-play in a safe and non-judgmental setting. Experiential learning provided a powerful educational tool to enhance music students’ critical listening skills for performance evaluation and will redefine the way future musicians prepare and assess music performance.

Dr Helen Mitchell is Associate Professor at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Listeners’ perception of sound quality is central to Helen’s music performance research. Her current research investigates the way audiences respond to music performances by sound and sight, and develop new educational tools to equip music students for these challenges in the music profession.

5. Clint Bracknell (SCM Associate Dean (Indigenous Strategy and Services))
Collaborative Aboriginal song analysis in community workshops
Wednesday 23 May, 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Utilising archival recordings, handwritten notes and contemporary memories of performances, Wirlomin Noongar people in the south of Western Australia are engaging in workshops to consolidate and revive regional singing practices. The Noongar language is critically endangered and the participants – who include younger relatives of the singers on archival tapes as well as local language and cultural experts – have faced a range of challenges and uncertainties throughout this process due to limitations in the original field situations. With an agreed aim of producing a performable repertoire, many of these uncertainties need to be resolved one way or another within the group. Notes and vocabulary lists have provided an extra opinion in the room for workshop participants to respond to in positing their own interpretations of particular song texts, many of which relink on-country cultural knowledge to the songs and reinforce the incompleteness of the archive. Once the group has reached agreement on meaning and function, we begin the gradual process of breathing life back into the old songs. Due to the unaccompanied, spontaneously remembered nature of archival songs, musical decisions also need to be made in regard to percussion, the number of singers involved in a performance and dance.

An ethnomusicologist and practising contemporary musician, Dr Clint Bracknell’s research centres on the sustainability of Aboriginal Australian song and the societal impacts of music traditions, popular music and technology. He is lead chief investigator on a current ARC funded Indigenous Discovery project (2017-2019) focusing on the endangered Noongar language of the south-west of Western Australia and exploring the potential for song to assist in addressing the global crisis of Indigenous language-loss. Dr Bracknell is Associate Dean (Indigenous Strategy and Services) at Sydney Conservatorium of Music and lectures in ethnomusicology and contemporary music.

6. James Wierzbicki (SCM Arts Music Division)
How Frankenstein’s monster became a music lover
Wednesday 6 June, 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, one of the most celebrated novels in English literature, and one whose ‘concept’ resonates enduringly in films and other manifestations of Western culture. Amongst the best-loved film adaptations is James Whale’s 1935 Bride of Frankenstein, one scene of which has the injured creature wandering through a forest and then with trepidation approaching an isolated cabin, attracted not so much by the warmth of a fireplace or the smell of food as by the strains of Gounod’s Ave Maria played by a blind hermit on his humble violin. Variations on this image—that is, the image of the creature being fairly enraptured by music—have become deeply embedded, to the point of cliché, in the ‘modern myth’ of the Frankenstein story. But this image, most assuredly, is nowhere to be found in the 1818 novel. In celebration of the anniversary, this presentation asks two questions: what is the source of the creature’s acute musical sensibility, and why is it that so many filmmakers, including some who have claimed to get at the ‘real’ essence of Frankenstein, found it necessary to embellish the source material with an exaggerated concentration on music?

James Wierzbicki teaches musicology at the University of Sydney; along with exploring questions of modernity and the postmodern, his research focuses on twentieth-century music in general and film music in particular. Articles by him have appeared in such journals as The Musical Quarterly, Perspectives of New Music, Beethoven Forum, Music and the Moving Image, and the Journal of the American Musicological Society. His books include Film Music: A History, Elliott Carter, Music in the Age of Anxiety: American Music in The Fifties, and (forthcoming) Sonic Style in the Films of Terrence Malick.