This chapter on the liberal movie adaptation of Rodgers and Hart’s Pal Joey situates the musical in the context of postwar America, when traditional forms of gender and domesticity were being challenged and replaced by something more sexually ‘progressive.’ In the film, Joey is now a singer rather than a dancer, vulnerable rather than a heel, and he gets the girl in the end. The chapter explores how the film’s promotion of a set of emerging gender archetypes that defy traditional, middle-class, suburban constructions of masculinity and femininity is reflected in a new treatment of the score, which is reworked, repurposed, and in some cases eviscerated in order to promote the ethos of the film. A good example is the film’s presentation of the song ‘The Lady Is a Tramp’ (an interpolation from Babes in Arms), which, in Sinatra’s version, emphasize[s] that he is offering his body to her. The chapter concludes that despite the lyrics, it is Joey who plays the part of the ‘tramp.’
Recording production is a complex, multistep, typically collaborative process that entails a shifting set of individuals inhabiting changing roles within spaces that house considerable amounts of specialized technology. As these roles and technologies feature prominently in the aesthetics of Anglophone and Francophone popular music, they have been studied within such milieus for the longest period. This scholarship tends to understand the creative act as either the result of a prominent individual or something determined by the technologies used within studios. However, recent ethnomusicological scholarship has shown it is much more difficult to clearly situate agency within recording production, echoing theories of agency developed within the fields of anthropology and science and technology studies. The myriad uses of and significant cultural work that recordings can do show that one can’t assume that the goal of production work is simply to produce an aesthetic art object. For example, recordings can serve as a form of social action, and in many milieus the social values of the production process matter more than the financial success of the product. Ultimately, a nuanced consideration of agency within recording work produces important findings on the concept of creativity and the creative act.
This chapter considers the topical competency of late eighteenth-century amateur players and listeners. Focus is on selected string quartets by Haydn, Mozart, and Pleyel. The analytical strategy is comparative, and therefore the analyses are limited to movements governed by clearly defined topics. The troping of learned and galant elements is the focus of discussion of three minuet movements, all of which incorporate contrapuntal techniques to varying structural and expressive ends. Parametric density is the focus of discussion of four chasse movements. In both sets of examples, issues considered include topical content and syntactical function, topical dissonance, and social and cultural associations.
Contemporary music research and practice have leveraged advances in computing power by integrating computing devices into many aspects of music—from generative music to live coding. This efflorescence of musical practice, process, and product raises complex issues in audience reception. This chapter employs a comparative analysis in a longitudinal study designed to understand the psychological aspects of the audience reception of algorithmic music. It studies four compositions from the latter part of the twentieth century late, presented on fixed media to avoid variability in musical performance. Using a modified think-aloud protocol to collect data, this study shows that reception theory may be applied to the audience reception of algorithmic music using a cognitive-affective model to further understand the process of decoding of meaning. This study puts forth a robust methodology for future longitudinal and comparative research in the audience reception of music and makes recommendations for further research.
Dance topics represent the largest and most pervasive category of late eighteenth-century topics. This chapter examines ballroom dances current in Vienna during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. The repertoire is largely drawn from the Redoutentänze that Mozart composed for the imperial court balls held during Carnival season during the last three years of his life (1788–91). This rich and diverse group of works includes the most popular ballroom dances of the Classic period: minuets, contredanses, Deutsche, and Ländler. I have two objectives. The first is to provide an account of the prototypical features of each dance’s choreography and music and the correlations found between the two; the second is to introduce some cultural, social, and expressive meanings associated with these dances.
The brilliant style, described loosely by Leonard Ratner as rapid passages for virtuoso display, has been a mainstay of modern topic theory, often invoked in conjunction with the singing style to account for the basic contrastive mechanism of the classical style. This chapter explores some contextual bases for the topic, suggesting that eighteenth-century linguistic usage can offer useful nuance and proposing a topical home in the genre of the concerto. Illustrations relate to the concerto, aria, symphony, and quartet, and examine both keyboard and string virtuosity. At the heart of the brilliant style is a set of propensities for public and theatrical modes, tied to a sense of occasion; it can highlight tensions between composer and performer, and relates directly to our constructions of the active “persona” in a composition or performance.
Musicians have long framed their creative activity within constraints, whether imposed externally or consciously chosen. As noted by Leonard Meyer, any style can be viewed as an ensemble of constraints, requiring the features of the artwork to conform with accepted norms. Such received stylistic constraints may be complemented by additional, voluntary limitations: for example, using only a limited palette of pitches or sounds, setting rules to govern repetition or transformation, controlling the formal layout and proportions of the work, or limiting the variety of operations involved in its creation. This chapter proposes a fourfold classification of the limits most often encountered in music creation into material (absolute and relative), formal, style/genre, and process constraints. The role of constraints as a spur and guide to musical creativity is explored in the domains of composition, improvisation, performance, and even listening, with examples drawn from contemporary composers including György Ligeti, George Aperghis, and James Tenney. Such musical constraints are comparable to self-imposed limitations in other art forms, from film (the Dogme 95 Manifesto) and visual art (Robert Morris’s Blind Time Drawings) to the writings of authors associated with the Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle) such as Georges Perec and Raymond Queneau.
This chapter explores early modern conceptions of voice and vocal timbre, focusing on French and German philosophical and musical writings of the long seventeenth century. It argues that a Cartesian paradigm of representation, which has tended to underpin most present-day interpretations of the music of this period, falls short of recognizing the capacity of the early modern (musical) voice to bridge the realms of the material and immaterial, of body and soul. Such a historically situated consideration of timbre – configured here as a quality arising at the intersection of the physiological and spiritual processes that constituted the human voice – thereby offers a way towards recuperating certain off-Cartesian modes of thinking, feeling and listening.
This chapter explores how skilled performers use topical analysis in their interpretative decision-making, presenting material from lesson-interviews conducted with fortepianists Robert Levin and Bart van Oort. Drawing on treatises by Türk, Quantz, Kirnberger, Koch, and Leopold Mozart, it examines some historical foundations of Leonard Ratner’s topics, their connections with eighteenth-century concepts of musical character and expression, and topics’ limitations as tools in the process of analysis and interpretation. The chapter takes the Allegro movements of Mozart’s Sonata K. 333 as two case studies. It concludes that awareness of topical references in this repertoire aids performers in systematically identifying and executing contrasts, enabling more expressive and communicative performance. It suggests that a sensitive understanding of historically informed performance practices benefits topic theorists, as analyses may be undermined by anachronistic assumptions about how the music sounds in performance.
Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis
Since Leonard Meyer (1956), music theorists have looked to expectation as a primary generator of musical affect. Yet, expectation and its complement—surprise—do not explain affective differentiation of the experience of listening to music. This study looks to a different tradition in music theory—that of musical topics—for a possible explanation. Listeners heard excerpts representing one of four musical topics in a normative and surprising version, where a general pause had been inserted before the cadence. Listeners continuously rated the excerpts as they progressed along one of four different affective dimensions. The hypothesis was that surprise—the general pause—would elevate perceptions of particular affective dimensions only in particular topical contexts. Musical topics, in other words, might function as a lens through which surprise is transformed into distinct phenomenological experiences.
Fantasia and sensibility are not like other topics. Composed and improvised in all shapes and sizes, fantasias are not reducible to a single type of material. The fantasia was a host genre, a context of topical play, incorporating a range of stylistic and generic references. The frequent use of passages inspired by accompanied recitative and aria reveals an affinity with opera seria. The idea that the fantasia influences other genres is prominent in music criticism only after 1800 and represents an idealist trope foreign to much of the eighteenth century. Sensibility, though thematized in scenes of musical pathos and tenderness which display stylistic commonalities through a range of conventional materials, was not a musical style but a capacity for refined emotional response and sympathetic identification broadly relevant to the project of aesthetics and the fine arts.
This chapter tracks timbre through the mediated public sphere of Milan, as it came to congeal in Italian Futurism. Long mythologized as the origin of noisy art, sound scholars have yet to consider what the movement’s timbres meant in their time. They emerged beneath the rubric of “musical sensibility”—a coinage that harked back to timbre’s eighteenth-century emergence under the sign of aesthetic attention within Western modernities. The Futurists’ activities can thus be broadly historicized; vice versa, in their own context, timbre becomes estranged as a centuries-old concern. The Futurists’ interest in timbre dates them; it also proves their undoing: they set out to colonize the world of timbre, but social and technological factors intervene. Thus, while Futurism may not yield origins for modernism, it underscores the relational nature of listening—especially listening for timbre, which, as the social organization of concentrated listening, unexpectedly manifests when aesthetic attention breaks down.
This chapter is intended as a response and supplement to Raymond Monelle’s book The Musical Topic: Hunt, Military and Pastoral (2006), with a focus on the writings of eighteenth-century music theorists. Despite the thoroughness of Monelle’s study, he largely overlooks such writers as Mattheson, Sulzer, Schubart, and Türk, who all provide important details on these topics, both in terms of their musical parameters and their cultural meanings. Their insights both strengthen and finesse Monelle’s arguments, providing a richer picture of such complex subtopics as the march and siciliana. The chapter concludes with a reflection on Monelle’s unique contributions to the field of music semiotics.
Bruce Ellis Benson
The theological doctrine of creatio ex nihilo attempts to safeguard both the power and freedom of God. If creation is understood as God’s work of art, then creatio ex nihilo is the strongest artistic account of creation possible. The Kantian artist possesses something like this power and freedom, since his or her original and exemplary ideas arise inexplicably. The modern and romantic artistic traditions have perpetuated this myth of the lone artist whose creation is a kind of godlike activity. This chapter claims that “improvisation,” or the fabrication out of what is already on hand, constitutes creativity for humanity. Thus, artistic genius always begins somewhere: creatio ex improvisatio. As a result, tradition is incredibly important to improvising art. Improvisation casts doubt on the myth of the disconnected genius and necessarily maintains a play between quotation and originality.
Eighteenth-century writers on music recognized a spectrum of learned styles. These included not only the imitative counterpoint characteristic of the fugue and the species counterpoint associated with a cappella polyphony, but also a broad range of other styles, such as strict style, church style, or stile antico, transmitted from specialist to specialist over many decades and even centuries. The topic of the learned style, however, was a special formation or intensification of texture that occurred within the norms of late eighteenth-century phrasing, harmony, and texture. The tension between learned styles (each grounded in certain genre traditions) and learned style (the versatile and itinerant topic) informs not only the various manifestations of the learned style, which can be used for various formal purposes, but also its signification, which springs from the concerns of order and tradition that accompanied the transmission of learned styles from generation to generation.
This chapter evaluates issues in the topical analysis of nineteenth-century music, paying close attention to the persistence of eighteenth-century topics in changed social and cultural-political contexts, the emergence and function of new topics after 1800, and attendant shifts in the values of pedagogy and musical listening. The article develops these issues in two analytical case studies: an investigation of the role topics play in Schumann’s reevaluation of the piano concerto, as embodied in the first movement of his Concerto Op. 54; and an analysis of the Finale of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 relating topical discourse to the work’s Viennese reception, as instantiated in the reviews of Eduard Hanslick, Gustav Dömpke, and Max Kalbeck.
This chapter explores the contribution French noble dance made to the topical universe available to composers in the latter half of the eighteenth century. The chapter reviews the culture of dance in the ancien régime and offers a detailed analysis of the relationship between music and dance in a bourrée; the choreography for this bourrée was preserved in dance notation and published in 1700. This analysis suggests that topical references to French dance types had the potential to summon knowledge of a sort that was deeply embodied. The chapter concludes with a discussion of different ways dance music was employed by composers of instrumental and theatrical music during the eighteenth century.
Colin Andrew Lee
This article describes a gay music therapist’s experiences of working with clients living with HIV and AIDS through improvisation and performance. Sessions were held from 1988 to 1991 at London Lighthouse, a center for people facing the challenge of AIDS. Through descriptions of interactions with clients, as well as an audio extract from an actual session itself, the reader can enter into the realities of the music therapy process, which brings together music and loss. The article emphasizes the personal authenticity of the therapist and its meaning for the therapeutic process, and describes the beginnings of Aesthetic Music Therapy, a music-centered model of practice.
The topical label of Sturm und Drang, which draws on parallels between certain movements of Haydn’s middle-period symphonies and the trend in German Romantic literature (Wyzewa 1909) was deemed misguided and no longer fit for purpose in the discipline of topic theory. In this chapter it is replaced by tempesta. This termacknowledges the origins of the topic not in Haydn’s symphonies, but in early opera, since the musical language clearly derives from depictions of storms and other devastations in the theater. Tempesta is to be regarded as the counterpart of ombra, the menacing style of music associated with the supernatural. Both styles are often juxtaposed in infernal scenes, where the creeping terror of ombra is contrasted with the fast frenzy of tempesta. The aesthetic framework for these topics is Burke’s “sublime of terror” (1758) rather than the German literary Sturm und Drang.
This chapter discusses ways in which an awareness of topics might influence performance behaviors. It contrasts topics as understood respectively by Aristotle (abstract concepts) and Vico (potential for action). Through case studies taken from Mozart’s chamber music with piano (specifically in a “period-instrument” context), it investigates subtle interactions between different dance topics (sarabande, gavotte, bourrée), which emerge only through careful consideration of notational features such as beat hierarchy and other aspects of historically informed performance practice hinted at in the notation. Awareness of these interactions, and recognition of their invitations to engage in certain performance gestures, offers the potential to create performance narratives that counterpoint the formal design mapped out in the notated score.