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 1

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

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


Semester 2 (all lectures start at 4pm unless otherwise stated)

Show Semester 2

Dates: details will be confirmed shortly

Wednesday 5 August – 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Wednesday 19 August – 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Wednesday 2 September – 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Wednesday 16 September – 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Wednesday 14 October – 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174

Wednesday 28 October – 4:15pm sharp, Room 2174