Marian Wilson Kimber’s “Hymnody, Dance and the Sacred in the Illustrated Song” has recently appeared in the volume Musicology and Dance: Historical and Critical Perspectives published by Cambridge University Press. Wilson Kimber’s chapter delves into women’s practice of posing to hymn tunes, an offshoot of the Delsarte movement in the early twentieth century. It draws on pedagogical materials, press reports of women’s performances, and contemporary understandings of hymnody to explain how musical accompaniments in the “illustrated song” helped to mediate its potentially precarious position within American culture, given its deep suspicion of dance.
Wilson Kimber has also recently joined a team of musicologists writing for the Women’s Song Forum, a new blog devoted to women’s songs and women’s voices. Her first essayexplores the American Song Composers’ Festival founded by composer Grace Porterfield Polk in Greenwood, Indiana, in the 1920s in order to encourage American songwriters. Her most recent post considers the reception of Mary Turner Salter’s song, “The Cry of Rachel,” and the songs of peace activist Elisabeth Johnson.
Using media to share research is not new here. Trevor Harvey’s podcast, Ethnomusicology Today, has been doing just that since 2015. Since then, more students and faculty are exploring different formats to study and share work on a range of musical topics. Here are some recent highlights…
Jon Eldridge II (MA in Jazz Studies) has released expansive video essays on scoring, songs, and sound design in the games Death Stranding and Doom Eternal. In addition to scripting and editing the films, Jon also provided original music and cover art. The project was developed in one of Sarah Suhadolnik’s fall 2020 courses.
Dr. Trevor Harvey has recently released a new episode of Ethnomusicology Today that features a discussion with Dr. Emaeyak Sylvanus (University of Nigeria) about songs in Nollywood film. A pioneering researcher on Nollywood film music, Emaeyak explores localized musical concepts that dominate Nigerian film narratives. Grounded in his understanding of a narrative technique he terms “prefiguring,” Emaeyak discusses the 2014 film “Ekaette Goes to School” as a case study for exploring how indigenous meanings are negotiated within the global cinema landscape from which the contemporary Nigerian film industry has emerged.
Dr. Nathan Platte and Anastasia Scholze (BA Music) have released the trailer and first episode of Sounding Cinema, a new podcast that explores how music, dialogue, and sound effects shape our relationship with film. Their first episode surveys the career of sound editor/director Robert Wise and dives deeply into the extraordinary sounds of West Side Story. Visit soundingcinema.com to listen and follow on Instagram at @soundingcinema.
Dr. Anabel Maler presented a paper titled “The Signing Voice” at the Society for Ethnomusicology, Drs. Maler and Robert Komaniecki presented “Rhythmic Techniques in Signed Rap” for the American Musicological Society, and Dr. Getz presented on Fabrizio Dentice’s Lamentations at the Convegno Annuale della Società Italiana di Musicologia.
FilmScene, Iowa City’s independent cinema, recognized Dr. Nathan Platte as its 2020 Visionary Advocate for cohosting and producing FilmCastPodScene. The podcast, which includes interviews with filmmakers and conversations with local moviegoers, is a local partnership that seeks to sustain community among film enthusiasts while theaters remain mostly closed.
Colloquium thrived over Zoom throughout the fall term, and we were especially thrilled to host guest scholar Matthew Mugmon (University of Arizona) and an alt-academic career panel featuring Leslie Finer (U of Iowa, Office of Community Engagement), Hang Nguyen (Iowa State Historical Society), and Amanda Sewell (Interlochen Public Radio). Drs. Matthew Arndt, Marian Wilson Kimber, Trevor Harvey, Robert Komaniecki, and Nathan Platte also led discussions on professional development topics and hosted weekly social hours where students and faculty met remotely to share experiences and connect.
As we prepare for spring term, please check out our Spring colloquium schedule and save the weekend of April 10-11, when Iowa will host a virtual joint conference between AMS Midwest and MIDSEM! For those interested in submitting proposals for the conference, more information is available here.
The Fall meeting of the Midwest Chapter of the American Musicological Society took place virtually during the last weekend of September. Meeting over Zoom came with some benefits, including a significantly larger number of attendees. Planning, managing, and hosting the conference brought together colleagues from across many Midwest institutions.
Undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty from Iowa attended and contributed in various roles. Anabel Maler served on the program committee. Cody Norling shared a research presentation titled “Creating a ‘Haven for Culture’: Fortnightly Clubwomen and Advocacy for Opera in Interwar Chicago.” As chapter president, Nathan Platte helped emcee the conference and joined the keynote panel, “Musicology and Antiracism,” where he shared reflections alongside Naomi André (University of Michigan), Johann Buis (Wheaton College), and Maya Gibson (University of Missouri). The panelists’ remarks were recorded and may be viewed here.
The AMS Midwest chapter will gather again in spring 2021 in a first-ever joint meeting with MIDSEM, the Midwestern chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology. That meeting, also held virtually, will be hosted by the University of Iowa.
Over the course of the summer, I applied both my research skills and broad humanities training to the public-engagement efforts of Hancher Auditorium. My primary duties included locating possible university and community partners for scheduled events, researching best practices for operating during an extended COVID-19 era, recording and editing a weekly podcast, and creating a series a connected program essays for the coming season’s scheduled dance acts.
The internship experience added to my academic training a greater sense of working flexibility and an emphasis on continued group efforts. Whereas the routine expectations of a doctoral program (and professional career) necessitate an emphasis on individual contributions to the field in the form of single-author publications, my work with Hancher was built on teamwork toward shared goals. This was achieved through weekly meetings and the divvying of key tasks among the entire public-engagement team. In general, I have been most impressed by my ability to apply musicological practices to public-facing work within a group-work setting while also maintaining a careful balance between work time and personal time.
This past spring, Ph.D. student Alexis Tuttle sat down with Dr. Anabel Maler to learn more about her and her work as a music theorist. After the spring term became significantly more complicated (COVID), we decided to save releasing their discussion until now: an introductory encounter as we all begin a new academic year. Here are Lexy’s highlights from that conversation.
Dr. Maler grew up in a small, rural community in Ontario; Ottawa was the closest large city. Her father was a professor of neuroscience and loved jazz. In addition to hearing her father’s jazz collection at home, she played the flute in school. In 10th grade, Dr. Maler was accepted to an arts high school in Ottawa, which she described as very immersive. There she continued to take flute lessons in addition to honing skills in piano and music theory. She began studying at McGill University at age 16, where her enthusiasm for performance was tempered from being doubted because of her young age. As her education continued, she fell in love with academia. For Dr. Maler, learning Renaissance counterpoint delivered a satisfaction similar to solving a puzzle. As she pursued more advanced music theory classes and techniques, her fascination continued to grow. After McGill University, Dr. Maler went on to study at the University of Chicago, which she described as her dream school. She was particularly fond of the architecture and the beautiful walks through campus.
I wanted to know more about her work with deaf culture and musical interpretation. She told me that she had a lifelong fascination with languages. She learned ASL during her Master’s degree, and watching YouTube videos of music being interpreted into ASL fueled her curiosity. Working with Nicole Biamonte, a professor of music theory at McGill (and former faculty member at UI), the project of translating rock and pop music into ASL led to a “lightbulb” moment: that gestures themselves can be musical. As her academic work continued, she continued to learn more about deaf culture and disability studies. It was a hugely understudied area, and she feels it is an important task to bring the deaf cultural perspective into more wide-reaching academic study. A new project of hers that’s currently in the works involves Dip-Hop (signed rap music), the rhythmic techniques used by deaf rappers, and the relationships between signs, English, and background music. Not knowing ASL myself, I found that this opened my eyes to an entirely different world of music from what I’ve encountered before. She is also working on a book project that explores deaf and signing voices, asking, “what does it mean to sing in ASL?” The goal of this project is to create a framework for the signing voice. Dr. Maler sees her work as an important step toward epistemic inclusion and fighting injustice where deaf people have been too often excluded in the production of musical knowledge. Dr. Maler is also the chair of the Society of Music Theory Accessibility Committee.
Before moving on to more personal topics, I asked about her preferred teaching topics. Dr. Maler told me that her favorite topic was disability in music. She found it to be extremely rewarding because she can see students’ perspectives change over the course of the class as they confront questions and issues they had perhaps not encountered before. She also enjoys teaching twentieth-century music theory classes, where she can see her students make sense of the music as the material becomes more accessible.
In her free time, Dr. Maler enjoys taking care of her many plants and her two cats. She also likes to make things: knitting, crocheting, and baking, in particular. She told me about her “side gig” during her PhD program making custom cakes—she even made her own wedding cake. Her husband, Dr. Robert Komaniecki, is also a music theorist and just joined the UI theory faculty as a visiting assistant professor. Dr. Komaniecki is a collaborator on the in-progress Dip-Hop project. In addition, they are both vegetarians who enjoy trying out new dishes and restaurants. Dr. Maler recommended the Havelli Indian restaurant here in Iowa City as well as Trumpet Blossom Café. She also likes to visit the frozen yogurt shop in the pedestrian mall and walk through the parks in Iowa City when the weather is nice.
I had a wonderful experience learning more about Dr. Maler, and I hope you all will join me in welcoming her to the University of Iowa.
Earlier this season, Arthur Scoleri successfully defended their musicology master’s thesis, “‘Thus He is Mine’: Reconciling Queerness and English Musical Tradition in Britten’s Canticle I.” Through close readings of the canticle and Britten’s realization of Purcell’s “Lord, What is Man,” Arthur showed how “the contemplation inspired by Britten’s text (and text-painting) does not merely ‘out’ the composer, but instead poses moral questions to the listener.” By integrating Britten scholarship within reparative methods advocated by scholars like Eve Sedgwick and Will Cheng, Arthur deploys musical analysis to reflect on Britten’s queerness “without overshadowing the other, often more pressing, complexities there.”
In working on the thesis, Arthur visited the Britten-Pears Library at Aldeburgh and shared early research at the North American British Music Studies Association in 2018. In addition, Arthur (a committed gardener) cultivated the Benjamin Britten rose alongside a pear tree. Kudos, Arthur!
Looking for some fresh musicology to energize your week? Stop by the annual conference for the Society for American Music, which will be held online, July 16-18. This year’s conference program is made possible in part through the heroic efforts of program chair Dr. Wilson Kimber, who helped arranged two programs: one for the regularly scheduled March meeting (canceled) and a second iteration for SAM’s first-ever virtual conference.
Friday morning features presentations from Iowa graduate students and faculty. At 10:00 a.m. (CDT) you can take in Ph.D. candidate Megan Small’s talk on “Minnesota Mermaids: Exoticism in the Aquatennial’s Aqua Follies Water Ballet.” At 10:30, toggle over to “Rhythmic Techniques in Signed Rap” from Drs. Anabel Maler and Robert Komaniecki.
More information about these presentations, the conference schedule, and registration may be found here.
Platte also has two chapters in recent publications. In The Cambridge Companion to Gershwin (ed. Anna Celenza), his chapter shows how different directors visualized Gershwin’s contributions in the films Shall We Dance? and Damsel in Distress. In Voicing the Cinema (eds. James Buhler and Hannah Lewis), Platte combs through production memos, scripts, and scores from the Four Daughters films. There he finds an onscreen/offscreen drama in which shared musical composition is positively envisioned by screenwriter Lenore Coffee but threatened by colleagues more hungry for credit than collaboration.
And what’s Platte reading these days? Smith’s Music by Max Steiner, Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, and Jill Lepore’s These Truths. Happy reading, everyone.