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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Two new articles from Marian Wilson Kimber

cover of volume of pleyel's six sonatas with nameplate Miss Austen

Just in time for summer reading, Prof. Marian Wilson Kimber has published two articles.

“Miss Austen Plays Pleyel: An Additional Source for the Jane Austen Family Music Collection?” explores the provenance of a volume of accompanied sonatas by Ignaz Pleyel held in the Arthur and Miriam Cantor Rare Book Room of Iowa’s Rita Benton Music Library. The six sonatas, which sport a red label with the words “Miss Austen” on the cover, date from around 1800 and may have belonged to a member of the famous author’s extended family. Wilson Kimber described how her discovery of the volume resulted from two courses she has taught at Iowa in Jane Austen in the Age of Digital Discovery.”

Wilson Kimber’s second article, “Reciting Parsifal: Opera as Spoken Word Performance in America,” uncovers an unusual performance practice that took place in turn-of-the-century America: the adaptation of operas for spoken word recitals with music. Often performed by female elocutionists, the works most commonly heard in this manner were those by Richard Wagner and Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Partly a literary, less theatrical substitution for staged opera, while at the same time an educational tool that allowed audiences to come to terms with foreign language performances, spoken word recitals made opera more intimate so that it might be absorbed into women’s salon culture.

Both articles are currently freely available on Project Muse:

“Miss Austen Plays Pleyel: An Additional Source for the Jane Austen Family Music Collection?”Fontes Artis Musicae 67, no. 1 (January-March 2020): 1–17.

 “Reciting Parsifal: Opera as Spoken Word Performance in America,” American Music 38, no. 1 (Spring 2020): 4-28. 

Recollecting a conference and film series…

As we work from home and reckon with COVID-19 in a thousand different ways, it may help to recollect the activities of the previous month, when “social” was not inevitably paired with “distancing.”

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Center for New Music Ensemble and composers featured at the MGMC concert

The graduate students in musicology, theory, and composition collaborated beautifully through their hosting of the 2020 Midwest Graduate Music Consortium. The conference drew together researchers, composers, and performers from around the country. Keynote speaker Dr. Naomi André (University of Michigan) offered a thoughtful and hopeful talk titled “Engaging Opera as Popular Culture and Social Justice.” The conversation throughout the weekend was robust; the concert performances, provocative; the catered refreshments, rejuvenating. Kudos to the entire cohort that made the event so memorable, with special thanks to Ryne Carlson, Dr. Hang Nguyen, Arthur Scoleri, Alexis Tuttle, Monica Yost, Zachary Meier, Ramin Roshandel, Wenxin Li, Mark Rheaume, and Cody Norling.



James Dean channels his inner musician in this magazine image found by Anastasia. Dean convinced director Elia Kazan to hire Leonard Rosenman, Dean’s former roommate, to score East of Eden.


Nathan Platte and undergraduate researcher Anastasia Scholze cohosted a mini-course at FilmScene titled “Contenders and Composers of the Fifties.” The sold-out series featured four films that paired iconic antiheroes of the screen with composers writing their first Hollywood film score (On the Waterfront, East of Eden, I Want to Live!, and Odds Against Tomorrow). The weekly meetings included introductory remarks on each film, a screening, and impassioned group discussion. Before sheltering in place became necessary, Nathan enjoyed running into community members from the course around town. We eagerly await the time when such happy encounters are again possible.





Grad Student Updates: a defense, a conference, and a newly designed course

Congratulations to Ryne Carlson, who successfully defended his masters thesis!Image result for schubert In “Instrumental Inspiration: An Analysis of Schubert’s Self-Borrowing of His Instrumental Music in His Lieder,”  Ryne analyzed passages where Schubert adapted instrumental music for use in a later Lied.  Such borrowing from instrumental music in vocal music is relatively rare for Schubert, and Ryne’s thesis considers how such quotations reveal new facets of both compositions, with each lending commentary on the other.  Ryne is now at work in the Theory Ph.D. program at Iowa.

Ph.D. student Cody Norling recently completed a review of Alexandra Wilson’s Opera in the Jazz Age: Cultural Politics in 1920s Britain,  now available in the Journal of Musicological Research. In addition, Cody conducted research at Chicago’s Newberry Library in preparation for a presentation at the “Opera and Popular Culture after 1900” conference held in February at Texas Christian University.

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The Newberry

Cody is also completing a two-year appointment as a TA in Rhetoric. Through this program, Cody designed and taught “Rhetorics of Music,” which concluded with student presentations on topics ranging from music therapy and current music tastes to video game music and film music. At present, Cody is serving Rhetoric by researching the possibilities for online speaking instruction. 

Sarah Suhadolnik Discusses the 1619 Project with Study Group in Des Moines

The Plymouth United Church of Christ in Des Moines recently hosted Dr. Suhadolnik as a featured speaker in their study group devoted to The New York Times’ 1619 Project. By marking the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery, the 1619 Project hosts essays and podcasts that contemplate slavery’s manifold social, cultural, and economic consequences. Sarah’s discussion on American popular music shared a program with performances from Tina Haase Findlay, local jazz artist, guitarist Brandon Findlay, and the Bridges 2 Harmony Gospel Choir.

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(Re)discovering Musical Iowana, on the Road with Red Vespa

Marian Wilson Kimber’s article, “Musical Iowana: Iowa Women’s Clubs’ Promotion of Iowa Composers,” recently appeared in The Annals of Iowa.  Funded by a grant from the State Historical Society of Iowa, Wilson Kimber’s research uncovered women’s events celebrating the music of the state’s composers in over one hundred Iowa towns, largely in the 1920s through the 1940s.

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As part of the duo, Red Vespa, Wilson Kimber continues to perform women’s spoken-word compositions. This past fall they appeared at the Musician’s Club of Women in Chicago and the 2019 American Musicological Society meeting in Boston. In November Wilson Kimber was honored with a distinguished Alumni Award from the University of North Carolina Greensboro, where she received her undergraduate education.