New media essays explore music in games and film

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…

Watch Jon’s video essay on Death Stranding here.

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.

Watch Jon’s video on Doom Eternal here.
Dr. Emaeyak Sylvanus

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.

Sharing research and supporting community during an extraordinary semester

In bidding 2020 adieu, we take a moment to celebrate a smattering of the work we’ve shared during a very unusual fall term.

Dr. Christine Getz’s chapter “Milan: Imperial City and Theater of the World,” was published in A Companion to Music at the Hapsburg Courts in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (ed. Andrew Weaver).

Ph.D. candidate Cody Norling’s chapter, “’To improve the musical taste, capacity and voices of our people’: The Rise of Public Art-Music Interests Amidst the Rise and Fall of the Iowa State Normal Academy of Music, 1867–1871,” appears in The Making of the Midwest: Essays on the Formation of Midwestern Identity, 1787-1900 (ed. Jon Lauck).

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.

AMS Midwest, Fall Meeting Highlights

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.

Interning at Hancher Auditorium…from home

Cody (upper left) in a planning session with Chuy Renteria (Hancher public engagement coordinator) and fellow intern Emily Wieder

During the summer of 2020, Cody Norling served as an intern with Hancher Auditorium. The partnership was supported through the Humanities for the Public Good program hosted by the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies. Cody shared reflections on the collaboration at last week’s Obermann showcase. Here are some highlights from his remarks:

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.

Conversing with Dr. Anabel Maler

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. Anabel Maler

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.

Hurrah, Arthur Scoleri!

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.”

Benjamin Britten roses in Arthur’s garden

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!

UI presentations at the Society for American Music’s First Virtual Conference

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.

Wall Street Journal notice and summer reading with Nathan Platte

Dr. Platte’s most recent book, Making Music in Selznick’s Hollywood, is featured in the Wall Street Journal‘s “Five Best” column, where biographer Steven Smith (Music by Max Steiner) shares his favorite books on film music. Platte’s book shares the shelf with The Music of James Bond, by Variety journalist Jon Burlingame, and the memoirs of composer Henry Mancini, fittingly titled Did They Mention the Music?

A Damsel in Distress (1937) – George Gershwin, Fred Astaire and ...
Fred Astaire, Gracie Allen and George Burns in Damsel in Distress (1937)

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.

Dr. Wilson Kimber’s video project on American women composers receives SAM subvention

The Society for American Music recently announced that Dr. Wilson Kimber was the recipient of its 2020 Sight and Sound Subvention! You can read more about the 2020 SAM award winners here, and Dr. Wilson Kimber’s video project is described below. Congratulations, Marian!

Marian Wilson Kimber Hyphen (@MWilsonKimber) | Twitter

“In a Woman’s Voice: Musical Readings by American Women Composers” will be a video recording of musical readings for spoken word and piano by women composers, performed by  Marian Wilson Kimber, reciter, and Natalie Landowski, piano. The project is based on the work in Wilson Kimber’s book, The Elocutionists: Women, Music, and the Spoken Word  (University of Illinois Press, 2017). The influx of female performers into elocution during the Progressive era resulted in women’s dominance of spoken-word compositions, which were frequently performed for audiences in women’s clubs from the 1890s to the 1940s. The texts treat stereotypically feminine topics—fashion, courtship, or domestic life—often in satirical tones, supported by musical commentary in the piano. Composers such as Phyllis Fergus and Frieda Peycke created works that specifically appealed to women while subtly resisting existing gender norms. Wilson Kimber and Landowski have been performing these works for several years to warm response in academic settings and for the music’s original audience, women’s groups; this recording will help further the rediscovery of this practice.

Congratulations to Dr. McGinnis!

This spring Kelsey McGinnis successfully defended her dissertation and received her Ph.D. in Musicology. Titled “A Captive Enemy Audience: Music and the Reeducation of German POWs in the United States,” Dr. McGinnis’s dissertation draws on research conducted at the U.S. National Archives and the Iowan Camp Algona POW Archive to consider how musical activities in the camps were experienced and valued differently. Kelsey considers the perspective of government officials who hoped music might help sway German prisoners to embrace democracy. Dr. McGinnis’s work also reflects on the prisoners, whose varied musical activities provided a means for reckoning with internment.

Some of Kelsey’s new research is already set for publication in the forthcoming Music and World War II (Indiana University Press). Kudos, Dr. McGinnis!

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