Musicological Research

I have done a lot of research over the years. Here are some of my most prominent projects. I am interested in your thoughts and comments so please feel free to Contact me at HeartSongsColumbus@gmail.com.

Topics:

Cultural Appropriation in Opera Sonata on the 94th Psalm
Shanghai Opera: Huju Identity in Anthony Davis Operas
Musical Authenticity Mad Songs
Dr. Mozart

 

Cultural Appropriation in Opera:
The classical operatic canon is the result of centuries of cultural influences. In a post-civil rights movement society, musicians are challenged to reexamine their repertoire. Performers must understand their responsibility to balance the authenticity of a work with the offensive cultural norms that are reflected in it. In response to this awareness, we must asses whether censorship or alteration of a work is appropriate in the name of sensitivity or if works deemed distasteful should be purposely disseminated as a vehicle for education.
Where can performers find the balance between racial awareness and the preservation of a musical canon? The key lies in an exploration of three culturally influenced components of a performance: composer, musicians, and audience.  The first, composer, is a consideration of the context of the piece’s conception—who was the composer, what were her or his influences, and how familiar was she or he with the culture that is being presented? Secondly, the identity and background of the performers are extremely pertinent as they determine the credibility of the message conveyed in the performance. Finally, factors such as age, gender, geographic location, and race of an audience directly influences what kinds of culturally charged music can be performed and whether there can be an opportunity for education through the performance.  By evaluating these three factors, performers can format a performance in a more enlightened and supportive manner.

See the complete essay here:
Cultural Apprropriation in Opera: Modern Performance Practice of Racially Evocative Works

 

 Julius Reubke's Sonata on the 94th Psalm:
Julius Reubke was born on March 23, 1834 to Adolf Reubke, a prominent German organ builder.   He studied piano with Franz Liszt and composed two major works, Organ Sonata on the 94th Psalm and Piano Sonata in B  Minor, in 1857. Both show influences from his studies from Liszt, but also convey Reubke’s own unique style, which was highly praised as the next great advancement in music. Reubke died on June 3, 1858 at only 24 years old, with unknown amount of talent left unshared.
My interest in the Sonata on the 94th Psalm stems from my involvement in arranging it for orchestra. Eugene Marquis, a Cincinnati clarinetist, intends to arrange and publish the sonata for performance by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. As I study the musical text in depth, various themes emerge that seem tightly linked to emotions elicited by the psalm. I am interested in what musical techniques make this so. This is particularly important in light of Reubke’s short life and limited musical output. An understanding of this will give a better appreciation for Reubke’s music and better insight into the arrangement for orchestra and the eventual orchestral performance practice.

 See the complete essay here:
 Pouring out Arrogant Words:
Extra-Musical Meaning in Reubke’s Organ Sonata on the 94th Psalm.

 

Shanghai Opera: Huju
Understanding the music of Shanghai is of great importance when endeavoring to connect with its culture. Huju developed as an opera form local to Shanghai during the same time period that the city was itself growing and emerging and a prominent world presence.  Huju is a form specific to Shanghai culture and is the result of recent decades of musical refinement through the influence of an urban environment.  In examining Shanghai as a city, huju is particularly interesting because it “allows us access to a rich and distinctive vein of indigenous commentary on a multi-faceted period of modernization, internationalization and social change.”  Huju takes elements from various regional Chinese music styles that came to the city through migrants and combines them with the Western influences that were imported to Shanghai. The result is a modern opera with musical elements from all over the world. The question becomes, however, how much of Shanghai is left in the music. 
Through a grant from the Quest program, I traveled with ten other students to Shanghai to do field research on the intricacies of Shanghai as a global city. I have found that huju can, and most likely will, remain distinctly Shanghainese, while still embracing innovations from other cultures.  The biggest problem currently facing huju is not, in fact, Western cultural invasion, a phenomenon that huju troupes actually choose to embrace. The biggest problem for the survival of huju actually lies in the increasing age of its audience—a problem faced around the world.

See the complete essay here

: The Globalization and Modernization of Huju



Identity in Anthony Davis Operas:

As a living composer of prolific operas, Anthony Davis is in an important position of reflection and influence over the identities of the cultures in his operas as well as the societal identity of his audiences. He introduced and shaped for himself the notion of the documentary opera. Almost by definition, this genre is a vehicle for commentary and development of identity, both of the opera’s subjects, who are often still living, and of the audience and the culture in which his operas are performed. Davis is significant because, by redefining American opera in the context of a diverse racial heritage, he seeks to command attention to greater issues of American identity.
See the complete essay here:

 I am Tania

 

Musical Authenticity:

‘Musical authenticity’ seems to be a catch phrase on the lips of performers of many kinds of music: from performance practice of medieval organum to the aleatoric works of John Cage. However obtaining authenticity, or even defining it, proves difficult.  Performers strive to express meaning through their work and through that meaning, a true authenticity. Musicologist Gary Tomlinson suggests instead that “. . . the authentic meaning of a musical work is not the meaning that its creators and first invested in it. It is instead the meaning that we, in the course of interpretive historical acts of various sorts, come to believe its creators and audience invested in it. . . .” For the most part, I agree with him feel authenticity by necessity incorporates our own experiences and perspective, but I believe these factors should only be used as secondary resources. In as much as it can be known, composer's intent should be given priority in shaping our perception of the work. This essay includes a review and analysis of Heather Stebbin’s Rush Me to Shadows.

See the complete essay here:

 The Rush to Seek Authenticity in the Shadows  


Mad Songs

The mad song was a popular form of entertainment in the late seventeenth century. This followed closely with the popular fascination with mentally ill patients at Bethlem Royal Hospital, formerly known as Bedlam. This facility was famous for mistreating its patients, including allowing visitors to poke and pester the institutionalized for a small fee. This form of entertainment grew in its popularity, adding to the appeal of songs portraying such madness.  Although this connection is not the central focus of my paper, it provides an interesting backdrop from which to move forward.
The date of Henry Purcell’s birth is not known, but this English composer was known throughout his life for his vocal music. He wrote many mad songs, including most famously ‘Bess of Bedlam,’ which narrates the developing madness of a girl scorned in love.   John Coprario, also an English composer, was born in the 1570’s and was noted for his skills with the viol da gamba. He is most noted for his composition of ‘instrumental madrigals’ and was a favorite composer of King Charles I. His piece Tom of Bedlam goes by many names including ‘Grayes inn’ and ‘The Lordes Maske.’
As a singer, I am interested in what the melody has to say about character development in a piece of music. Few works have more character range than mad songs and to express these changes requires extensive musical technique from the composer. In understanding these techniques, one is better able interpret, and therefore perform the work. As I study the musical scores in depth by comparing vocal melody with the text, various musical themes emerge that seem tightly linked to emotions elicited by the text. I am interested in what specific musical techniques make this so.

 See the complete essay here:

Mad for Madrigalism: Text Painting in the Bedlam Songs of Purcell and Coprario


Dr. Mozart:
For a taste of some of my early writing, here is one of my first research projects about music. It explores the intersection between music and the brain-examining fields such as music therapy and the ‘Mozart Effect.’

 See the complete essay here:

 Dr. Mozart: Music and its Physical and Intelectual Impacts

 


  Margaret Laurie, "Purcell's Extended Solo Songs," Musical Times 125, no. 1691 (01/00; January 1984, 1984), 20.