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University of Oregon, Eugene

April 21-22, 2023


FRIDAY, April 21


1:00 – 3:00 pm

Room 178, Frohnmayer Music Building 


Serialism, Sets, and Sketches (Jack Boss, University of Oregon, Chair)


“Whole-Tone-Plus Hexachords and Row Partitioning Strategies in Two Works by Roger Sessions” 

Laura Hibbard, University of Connecticut


“Luo Zhongrong’s One Yun Sharing Three Gong Systems”

Bella Chen, University of Oregon


“Surveying Serialism in 12 Hommages à Paul Sacher”

Joseph Salem, University of Victoria


“Becoming Machine Becoming Human: Interface Instability in Kaija Saariaho’s Amers (1992)”

Nathan Cobb, University of California at Santa Barbara


3 – 3:30 pm


3:30 – 4:30 pm

Room 178

Figures and Schemata (Stephen Hudson, Occidental College, Chair)


“Modal Fluidity in Millennial Gospel”

M. Jerome Bell, Eastman School of Music


“Ars Combinatoria as Blend: An Investigation of Tonal and Atonal Figurae after 1970”

Evan Martschenko, University of Cincinnati


Short break 

4:30 – 4:45 pm


4:45 – 6:15 pm

Room 178

Form (Andrew Aziz, San Diego State University, Chair)


“Formal Functions of Drum Patterns in Post-Millennial Pop Songs, 2012–2021”

David Geary, Wake Forest University


“Sonata Form Revisited: Towards a Cognitive Theory of Formal Interference”

Hunter Hoyle, Northwestern University


“Form as a Technology of Cultural Production in Heavy Metal Music”

Michael Dekovich, University of Oregon


Dinner (on your own)


SATURDAY, April 22

9 – 9:15 am

Coffee and pastries

9:15 – 11:15 am

Room 163, Frohnmayer Music Building

Topic and Narrative (Amy Bauer, University of California at Irvine, Chair)


“Twisted Tones and Jumbled Styles: Musical Humor in Hong Kong Mo Lei Tau Movies”

Wing Lau, University of Arkansas


“Tenacious Tonic, A Funky Topic”

Collin Felter, University of California at Irvine


“A ‘Woman’s Way of Listening’ to Beethoven: Topical Competencies and Perceiving a Lullaby Topic”

Janet Bourne, University of California at Santa Barbara


“Narrative Function of Song in American Cartoons Since 1990”

Matthew Ferrandino, Oklahoma State University


11:15 – 11:45 am

Break (pastries and coffee continued)


11:45 am – 12:45 pm 

Room 163

Pedagogy (Malia Roberson, California State University-Channel Islands, Chair)


‘Not So Much Words with Meaning’: Embodying Meaninglessness in Carolingian Music Treatises

Joon Park, University of Arkansas


“Equity Issues in Grading in the Music Theory Classroom”

Kristen Wallentinsen, Rutgers University


12:45 – 2:15 pm

Lunch (on your own)


2:15 – 2:45 pm

Room 163

Business Meeting


2:45 – 4:15 pm 

Room 163

Forces and Hierarchies (Antares Boyle, Portland State University, Chair)


“Toward A Generalized Theory of Musical Energetics”

Matthew Oakes, Michigan State University


“Planting Another Tree: Relational Salience as a Hierarchical Form-Building Mechanism”

Morgan Patrick, Northwestern University


“Motion, Manner, and Music Revisited”

Richard Ashley, Northwestern University

4:15-4:30 pm

Short break



4:30 – 6 pm

Room 163

(Sound) Waves (Drew Nobile, University of Oregon, Chair)


“Trauma, Dissociation, and the Popular Singing Voice”

Emily Milius, University of Oregon


“Don’t Pop the Bubble: Intersections of Ambient Music, Attention, Expectation, and Flow in Tim Hecker’s Virgins”

Ryan Galik, Michigan State University


“Demons, Distortion, and the Double Tresillo: Heavy Metal in Id Software’s DOOM (1993)”

Holly Bergeron-Dumaine, University of British Columbia


Conference dinner (location TBA)




1:00 – 3:00    Serialism, Sets, and Sketches (Jack Boss, Chair)

Laura Hibbard (University of Connecticut), “Whole-Tone-Plus Hexachords and Row Partitioning Strategies in Two Works by Roger Sessions” 


The analytical literature on Roger Sessions’s twelve-tone music music is scarce and much of it draws heavily on his own writings. Articles by two of Sessions’s students, Edward T. Cone and Andrew Imbrie, talk about the musical idea, large-scale linear structure (the long line), and progression and association, particularly with respect to what is perceivable by the ear. While these concepts are essential to understanding Sessions’s music, scholars have been reluctant to address its harmonic elements, especially when vertical collections are not directly related to the row.


Conversely, the growing body of analytical scholarship on Schoenberg, Berg, and Dallapiccola identifies whole-tone + collections (WT+) and row partitioning as significant elements of harmonic and formal structure. Not only do WT+ collections play a significant structural role in Sessions’s work, but his means of obtaining them is often through various types of row partitions. Using sketches to support my analysis, I will show how these elements manifest in the harmonic material and formal structure of two twelve-tone piano pieces by Sessions, the Third Piano Sonata (1965) and Five Pieces for Piano (1974-5).


Bella Chen (University of Oregon), “Zhongrong Luo’s One Yun Sharing Three Gong Systems”

Zhongrong Luo (1924-2021) was a Chinese composer and music theorist who created the pentatonic 12-tone method, which combines 12-tone theory with the Chinese modal system. In 2011, Luo composed the trio ensemble One Yun Sharing Three Gong Systems, named after a music theory concept well known in China. He applied the concept of complementary set-classes in this ensemble piece, together with the theoretical concept of “one Yun sharing three Gong systems.” He divided the 12 tones into two set-classes 5-35 (02479) and 7-35 (013568T). 5-35 is used as a pentatonic scale in the harp to provide a rhythmic background, while 7-35 provides a seven-tone scale for the flute and viola voices. This seven-tone scale is treated as belonging to C, G, and/or F Gong systems, making this 12-tone piece also a multi-tonal piece from the Chinese modal system perspective. 

In my presentation, I extend the pentatonic 12-tone method to the harmony as well; the piece treats subsets of the pentatonic as consonant and sets with minor seconds and tritones as dissonant. Studying Luo’s piece as a blending of Chinese traditional and Western 12-tone strategies provides us a new way to analyze Chinese contemporary music, and to understand Zhongrong Luo’s style more completely.


Joseph Salem (University of Victoria), “Surveying Serialism in 12 Hommages à Paul Sacher


In 1976, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich organized a set of twelve commissions for cello in honor of music philanthropist Paul Sacher’s seventieth birthday. The commissions were an opportunity to mix and match a variety of composers––some closer to Rostropovich, others to Sacher––as a reflection of Sacher’s generosity. The result was a set of twelve compositions that embody a host of cultural forces: a microcosm of history, the musical style(s) of serialism, and the power of Sacher’s financial support.


Acknowledging past work such as Carone 2008, Lessing 1991, and McCormick 2000, I share my own archival work at the Paul Sacher Stiftung regarding the available sketches and related correspondence for some of the Sacher commissions.  I focus on a few examples from the archive to highlight commonalities and differences among the commissioned artists. In summarizing their compositional strategies, I celebrate how approaches to serialism broke free from a “totalizing” philosophy in ways that sustained its underlying utility for a wide variety of composers.


Nathan Cobb (University of California-Santa Barbara), “Becoming Machine Becoming Human: Interface instability in Kaija Saariaho’s Amers (1992)”


In an article from 1993, Kaija Saariaho explains that computer software functions in her compositional practice as a way of freeing herself “from the constraints of the universe of traditional instruments, while using instrumental experience to structure the discovery of new territories” (Saariaho 2013, 156). In this paper, I build on Alexander Galloway’s theorization of the interface as “a process or active threshold mediating between two states” (2012, 23) to show how Saariaho exploits the “unstable” interfaces between composer, computer, and performer as a means of generating compositional material for her cello concerto, Amers (1992). Drawing on sketch material, source code, and software documentation preserved in the Paul Sacher Archive, I focus on two specific points of interface instability in Saariaho’s compositional process that reveal a poesis of translation in which human instrumental practices are formatted into computer-readable code and then back again. In this sense, the dynamism of Amers is founded less on the tension between soloist and orchestra, as one might expect of a concerto, and more on humans, machines, and the interface between them.

3:30 – 4:30   Figures and Schemata (Stephen Hudson, chair)


M. Jerome Bell (Eastman School of Music), “Modal Fluidity in Millennial Gospel”

My paper explores the modal fluidity within Millennial gospel music, a salient style feature of the black gospel idiom that warrants more analytical attention. Modal fluidity deals with the traversal of the relative and parallel axes (relative and parallel minors) in relation to a centralized major tonic. This paper demonstrates how Fluidity Networks can serve as an analytical device that encompasses the visual and aural mapping of the relative and parallel fluidity within Millennial gospel, providing a modal snapshot. I engage the scholarship surrounding double/triple tonalities (Trevor de Clercq and Drew Nobile) and gospel theory (Horace Boyer and Braxton Shelley). From there, I explore the music of Kirk Franklin, Richard Smallwood, Fred Hammond, and Tye Tribbett, highlighting salient characteristics and schemata within the tonal syntax of millennial gospel. My discussion culminates in an analysis of Richard Smallwood’s “Thank You” by showcasing a modally fluid mapping of tonal centers throughout the piece.

Evan Martschenko (University of Cincinnati), “Ars Combinatoria as Blend: An Investigation of Tonal and Atonal Figurae after 1970”


George Rochberg’s philosophy of ars combinatoria is described as “standing in a circle of time, not a line,” making possible “movement in any direction” (Rochberg 132, 134). This paper presents three novel methods of tonal-atonal blend in music post-1970—flipping, evolving, and repurposing—which place tonality on the same plane as atonality; simply another harmonic language. Following Johnson’s article “Tonality as Topic,” I borrow “tonal figurae,” musical features that serve as signifiers of tonality’s essence (shown in slashes), such as /triads/, /consonance/, or /functional harmony/ (Johnson 2017). Considering Rochberg’s desire to use all information available, this paper introduces “atonal figurae,” which include \pitch-class set manipulation\, \serialism\, and \extended techniques\, among others (shown in backslashes). Previous scholarship has examined a tonal-atonal blend via analysis of a singular figura, such as /triads/ in Schnittke, \quotation\ in Rochberg, and \chromatic saturation\ in collage works (Segall 2017, Wlodarski 2019, Losada 2009). This paper recognizes multiple figurae simultaneously, revealing that the interaction of contrasting figurae creates a blended ars combinatoria. Lastly, the trend of ars combinatoria is considered alongside other trends of tonal/atonal blend from the same time period, polystylism and collage, to determine what about the proposed ars combinatoria stands against the others. 


4:45 – 6:15    Form (Andrew Aziz, chair)


David Geary (Wake Forest University), “Formal Functions of Drum Patterns in Post-Millennial Pop Songs, 2012–2021”


While melody and harmony have traditionally been considered the primary articulators of form in popular music, texture and timbre demarcate formal boundaries and project formal functions in post-millennial pop. Many scholars treat drum parts as an aspect of texture, but most of the instrument’s formally expressive characteristics remain unexamined. Stepping into this scholarly space, I completed a corpus study of Billboard magazine’s top ten pop songs from 2012–2021 (one hundred total songs), analyzing each song’s drum patterns and tracing their formal organization. My study found that pop songs have an average of only 1.54 chord progressions, but they have an average of 5.43 drum patterns and 9.15 drum pattern changes. In short, the drums do much more than simply establish a song’s rhythmic profile and metric framework. In post-millennial pop, the drums are a primary participant in expressing form. The first half of this paper summarizes the corpus data and describes the general features of drum patterns in this repertoire. In the second half, I highlight some of the ways that drum patterns and drum pattern changes can project formal functions and trajectories across different levels of musical form. 


Hunter Hoyle (Northwestern University), “Sonata Form Revisited: Towards a Cognitive Theory of Formal Interference”


Among the most ubiquitous of forms in Western art music, sonata form has long gripped the imagination of music scholars, leading to perhaps the most innovative sonata theory to date by Hepokoski and Darcy (2006).  However, while their theory is fruitful for interpreting the structure of sonata form, it can only tell us so much about how listeners make sense of a piece cognitively as it unfolds in real time.  Accordingly, this paper seeks to reexamine Hepokoski and Darcy’s sonata theory by developing a cognitive theory of formal interference.  In doing so, I build on Hepokoski and Darcy’s notions of ‘norms’ and ‘deformations’ by proposing a third category, ‘deformational norms,’ to describe instances in which a deformation is cognitively perceived as a norm.  Although seemingly paradoxical, I argue that there is a sort of double dialogism taking place where the formal event is in dialogue with both the deformational token of a late-eighteenth-century norm and the token of an early-nineteenth-century norm.  Once a listener has constructed respective schemata for late-eighteenth-century norms and early-nineteenth century deformational norms, I theorize that sonatas featuring both types engender a schematic oscillation that results in cognitive dissonance.


Michael Dekovich (University of Oregon), “Form as a Technology of Cultural Production in Heavy Metal Music”


While heavy metal music shares many compositional elements with mainstream rock, metal fans see themselves as opposed to mainstream consumerism. Many scholars and critics are quick to point out the ways in which metal practices depart from the mainstream of rock. However, rock’s formal structures appear with regularity in metal repertoire, and even the most experimental metal songs exhibit rock formal syntax. This paper argues that metal’s novel formal expressions can be seen as extensions of rock’s common practice. Using Habermas’ theory of communicative rationality, I demonstrate that metal avant-gardism forms a dialogue with rock models to enhance artworks’ value. I identify several strategies that reinterpret and augment rock formal schemata, producing a range of forms that both affirm and negate rock’;s verse-chorus-bridge form. Metal composers add to rock’s inventory of formal functions, creating fluidity, subverting normative chorus telos and reinvigorating rock formal schemata with radical possibility




9:15 – 11:15   Topic and Narrative (Amy Bauer, chair)

Wing Lau (University of Arkansas), “Twisted Tones and Jumbled Styles: Musical Humor in Hong Kong Mo Lei Tau Movies”

Mo lei tau (無厘頭), roughly translated as “nonsense,” is a signature comedic style of the Hong Kong entertainment industry around the 90s. The trademarks of mo lei tau include excessive cultural references, non-sequitur logic, and exaggerated delivery. Music in these movies elevates the comedy by exploring the tonal nature of the Cantonese language and the Eastern/Western fusion in Hong Kong. This paper investigates these previously underexplored comedic strategies in two case studies, “Only You” from A Chinese Odyssey: Cinderella and “BBQ Wings” from Flirting Scholars. I scrutinize how Cantonese words are set to unfitting musical contour and how contrasting musical elements such as pop/rock, Shanghai Shidaigu (時代曲), Cantopop, and Cantonese opera are parodied in the same musical number to defy audiences’ expectations and solicit laughter.
           Building on Janet Bourne and James Palmer’s studies in musical humor, I introduce culturally specific strategies in appreciating mo lei tau movie music. I show how the absurd eclecticism reflects what the film scholar Victor Fan calls the extraterritorial and “glocal” (global + local) positions of Hong Kong movies and creates a shared space among colonial Hong Kongers to express and negotiate their complicated cultural identities.

Collin Felter (University of California-Irvine), “Tenacious Tonic, A Funky Topic”

Modern funk music employs many tropes and style indicators in its arrangements (Tagg 1991). One such feature stands in isolation from traditional funk: a repetitious tonic pedal common in contemporary arrangements (e.g., those of Vulfpeck, Scary Pockets, and others) but not those of the genre’s primary decades. This repeated tonic pedal (1) appears in the latter third of a recording, (2) is heard on a guitar or keyboard interface, (3) is voiced as solely tonic octaves in the upper registers, and (4) sounds on every beat of the common-time measure. In this presentation, I share my extensive taxonomy of examples of the phenomenon and attempt to uncover an origin source for the practice through the process of signification employed in topic theory (Ratner 1980; Monelle 2010).

Allowing for deviation in one of the above criteria substantially expands the number of collected examples and reveals intra-genre indexical pointing between instruments. The tonic topic embodies the musical functionality of the ride cymbal in funk recordings of the 1960s and ‘70s through formal, rhythmic, and registral similarities. This ride cymbal technique, in turn, derives from Black American gospel music, which supplants the ride cymbal with the accompanimental abilities of the tambourine. In further historic expansion, the tambourine entered the Black gospel tradition through the spiritual practice of enslaved Black Americans (Williams-Jones 1975). It is through this historical pointing that I posit a connective tissue between the tonic topic of today’s modern funk and the engagement with spirituality in enslaved Black America.

Janet Bourne (University of California-Santa Barbara), “A ‘Woman’s Way of Listening’ to Beethoven: Topical Competencies and Perceiving a Lullaby Topic”

Scholars hear a pastoral topic in Beethoven’s op. 101/I (e.g. Hatten 1994). Yet, many topics share the same features (or signifiers), so what influences which topic is perceived? Echard (2017) suggests that listeners perceive different topics partly because of different competencies and experiences. Building on Echard (2017) and Citron’s (2000) “woman’s way of listening,” I argue that 19th-century German women—particularly mothers—could hear Beethoven’s op. 101/I more as a lullaby topic than a pastoral due to their varying musical experiences. First, I describe the lullaby topic. I use Reichardt’s (1798) Wiegenlieder für gute deutsche Mütter, collection of lullabies with sanctified images and prescriptive instructions for childrearing (Head 2013) as well as 18th-century discourse on motherhood (e.g. Richter 2006) to develop this topic’s signifiers and associations. Second, using cognitive theories of categorization (prototype theory; Rosch 1975), I demonstrate how listeners could hear a pastoral topic (Monelle 2006) and/or singing style (Day-O’Connell 2014) for a lullaby, which can drastically influence associations, affect and imagery imagined with an 18th-century narrative mode of listening (Will 2002, Bonds 1991). Then, I create two historically-grounded, albeit speculative listening subjects to explore these multiple interpretations: 1) 19th-century male listener, hearing this piece as a pastoral topic (based on reception histories) and 2) 19th-century female listener, hearing this piece as a lullaby topic. I create different close readings of Beethoven’s op. 101. Rather than assuming an “ideal” or “experienced” listener, this paper considers differences in competencies and listening positionality (e.g. Robinson 2020) to speculate on pluralistic perceptions of topics. 

Matthew Ferrandino (Oklahoma State University), “Narrative Function of Song in American Cartoons Since 1990”


American cartoons of the last thirty years have often used songs as crucial elements of an episode’s plot, and in this presentation I explore different ways in which animation uses music in a narratological capacity. Whether diegetic, non-diegetic, or somewhere in between, songs with essential narrative function often serve to solve a problem within the plot of the episode. I offer four types of song function that are not mutually exclusive: 1) weapon, where the song is used in a direct and aggressive way by the protagonist; 2) volta, during the song there is a turn or shift in a character’s situation or the plot; 3) strategic, where the creation and/or performance of a song is the premise of the plot (e.g., a “battle of the bands” narrative); and 4) mode of storytelling, in which the song and lyrics act as narration, typically as a narrated montage or characters singing dialogue. While my examples draw from songs (music with sung lyrics) in American cartoons since 1990, this methodology and typology can be useful in considering music’s narrative function in film, television, video games, and other storytelling multimedia.

11:45 – 12:45 Pedagogy (Malia Roberson, chair)


Joon Park (University of Arkansas), ‘Not So much Words with Meaning’: Embodying Meaninglessness in Carolingian Music Treatises


Toru Takemitsu and Wen-Chung Chou remarked on the difference of the meaning of a single tone between Western classical and East Asian traditions. For example, Takemitsu observes that the musical meaning in the West only emerges after several notes are stringed together while a note by itself is “meaningless.” This paper investigates the construction of meaninglessness in the Western tradition by close reading of Carolingian music treatises. In particular, the theorists’ treatment of the supposedly meaningless syllables associated with the Byzantine intonation formulae like Noanoeane. For many medieval Latin writers, these syllables occupied an uncomfortable space because of their non-signifying, yet writable nature, which, in the Neo-Platonic context these writers reside within, made them unsuitable for the discussion of music. Only significative (i.e., meaningful) and writable characters were deemed suitable in the music theoretical context at the time. For example, Aurelian of Réôme follows the discussion about these syllables with an apology, “I have brought disgust [fastidium] upon my readers.” However, some theorists seem to discuss the meaninglessness of these syllables more freely. I hypothesize that these writers circumvent the problem by treating these syllables, and musical notes more broadly, as signifying a specific object without designated meaning, the monochord’s bridge. 


Kristen Wallentinsen (Rutgers University), “Equity Issues in Grading in the Music Theory Classroom”

Discussions of equity, diversity, and inclusion in theory curricula often focus on content, but EDI is equally important in how we assess learning. Student comments about grades—such as “I know I got a bad grade; I’ll always be bad at theory”—betray underlying inequities in standard grading procedures and suggest that these procedures do not foster creativity and critical thinking in music. While traditional points-based approaches seem to be “objective”, they can overlook areas in which students struggle due to inequitable circumstances: they perpetuate existing opportunity gaps, do not allow for adequate practice, encourage a fixed mindset, and can be subject to implicit bias.

This paper presents an alternate approach that removes points-based marks in favor of rubric-based mastery. The system gives students opportunities to use feedback to revise their work until it meets standards set for mastery. This method teaches students to be self-reflective, allowing them to engage more creatively with music theory without the worry of a “bad grade.” By contextualizing my system within scholarship on equity in grading (Zoul 2021, Snodgrass 2020, Feldman 2019, CAST 2018, and Sambell and McDowell 1998), I demonstrate how reframing music theory’s grading practices can foster a more equitable learning environment.


2:45 – 4:15   Forces and Hierarchies (Antares Boyle, chair)

Matthew Oakes (Michigan State University), “Toward A Generalized Theory of Musical Energetics”


In his 2008 article, “Metric Analysis and the Metaphor of Energy,” Yonatan Malin uses the metaphor of energy to describe real-time interactions between rhythm and melody. Specifically, he argues that a misalignment between rhythm and meter (i.e., syncopation) generates potential energy that is transferred to melodic contour, causing an upward leap. Following this release of energy, rhythm moves to a more aligned state (i.e., no syncopation). I extend this metaphor of energy to consider the energetic connections rhythm and melody have with harmony, which suggests a broader theory of energetics. I adapt Steve Larson’s (1998) notion of melodic forces to the notion of harmonic forces, and I apply David Huron's (2006) ideas about dynamic and schematic expectations to suggest a generalized notion for the generation of potential energy. Through analyses of excerpts by Wolf, Dylan, Schnittke, and Albright, I demonstrate various applications of this framework which result in networks of causalities between rhythm, melody, and harmony.


Morgan Patrick (Northwestern University), “Planting Another Tree: Relational Salience as a Hierarchical Form-Building Mechanism”


Ruwet (1967), Meyer (1973), and Schoenberg (1994) each recognized that musical parallelism accentuates variation and change, a process they considered central to the dynamic experience of form. Their insights suggest we view salience not only as a hierarchical alternative to tonal stability (e.g., Lerdahl 1989), but as a general formal organizing principle that is equally important for pacing musical affect. Drawing on structure-mapping theory (Gentner 2010; Bourne 2015; Swett 2022), I formalize their intuitions by proposing a relational salience model of formal organization. Here, constituents are hierarchically organized around affective “peaks,” or moments of contrast scaffolded by similarity. I demonstrate how this organization departs from traditional views of salience and tree-based approaches to musical syntax, instead resembling the hierarchical organization of visual narrative structure (Cohn, 2013). In turn, the parallel with visual narrative invites us to view the morphology of formal schemata in terms of phases of a narrative arc, or what I call intra-musical narrative functions. I explore how these functions engage with existing work on musical narrative (Margulis et al., 2022) and the B-M-E paradigm (Caplin 1998; Hepokoski 2009). I conclude by showing how it may describe relational structure across distinct levels of form and musical corpora.


Richard Ashley (Northwestern University), “Motion, Manner, and Music Revisited”


Motion and music are a ubiquitous pairing, both in our experience and in analysts’ language.  Languages vary in their verbs’ handling of path and manner; English typically encodes these together in single verbs.  A preliminary survey of MTO and Spectrum suggests that theorists employ verbs encoding manner less than might be expected, with common terms, such as “rise” and “fall,” encoding only path. I propose that concepts and terms for musical motion are much like linguistic constructions, with manner construed contextually.  Brahms’ Intermezzo Op. 117 no. 3 serves as analytic laboratory for these notions. The A section’s low register, simple texture, and “penitential” key of c# minor set forth a frame with many downward-oriented features, continuous motions, and subdued, negative affect.  Reinforced by the melody’s inability to rise successfully through the octave,  these invoke verbs such as push, drag, and flow. The contrasting B section uses a complicated texture with short gestural bursts  which are  rhythmically and registrally disjunct so as to resist grouping into clear auditory streams.  These gestures act within strong but shifting registral boundaries, combine with a positively-valenced key of A Major and limited harmonic motion, to features invoke terms such as float, fly, and fling.



4:30 – 6 (Sound) Waves (Drew Nobile, chair)

Emily Milius (University of Oregon), “Trauma, Dissociation, and the Popular Singing Voice”

Trauma marks the voice. Erwin Randolph Parson talks about survivors’ "trauma-voice" in therapy, saying it “tells more about what really happened, and what has been broken and shattered inside than ordinary words ever can” (1999, 20). Sexual assault is very common and often leads to traumatic responses in the body. Many women have written and performed songs about their experiences, and I argue that they use vocal timbre to express the subsequent trauma that sexual violence causes. Dissociation, a common trauma symptom, is a consequence of the freeze trauma response and disconnects the mind and body, creating both emotional and physical numbness (van der Kolk 2014; Scaer 2014). Survivors of sexual assault experience dissociation at higher rates than survivors of other types of trauma; many even describe feeling as if they remember their experience as though they were watching it from a bird’s eye view. Drawing from both psychological research (Overland 2005; Porges 2011) and music-analytical literature (Heidemann 2016; Malawey 2020), I show that dissociation is evident in the singers’ vocal timbre.

What kinds of sounds convey this intense disconnection from one’s body? In this paper, I describe three ways that singers portray dissociation through their vocal timbre. First, I show how light, vocal consistency—without big changes in volume, pitch, etc.—portrays dissociation’s characteristic numbness. Second, I demonstrate how the voice’s placement in sonic space (Duguay 2021, 2022) can be used to express disconnection through techniques such as reverb and distant micing. Just as someone experiences looking at themselves from across the room as they dissociate, the sound does not stay grounded in one spot and seems to travel across a large sonic space. Third, technological mediation of the voice can portray a separation from reality. Sometimes this production can make it sound as if that voice would not come out of the person singing, or even out of a human being. By examining these portrayals of trauma in popular music, I emphasize the immense emotional power of the voice—which can portray how you are feeling, or even who you are—through the lens of trauma.

Ryan Galik (Michigan State University), “Don’t Pop the Bubble: Intersections of Ambient Music, Attention, Expectation, and Flow in Tim Hecker’s Virgins

This paper explores the music of Tim Hecker's 2013 ambient electronic album, Virgins. The album holds a seemingly paradoxical status within the ambient idiom as a widely acclaimed and celebrated recent contribution within a quickly-budding musical community, yet also in stark defiance with many commonly accepted traits of ambient music’s basic tenets. After a survey of recent scholarship on ambient music, its ubiquitous characteristic traits, and modes of its perception (Roquet 2016, Szabo 2017, Cummings 2019), I provide an analysis of the ways in which Hecker's compositions develop, nuance, or else completely contradict those traits established by earlier landmark ambient albums. In reconciling its deviations, I propose a model of "genre niching," applying intersections of cognitive research on attention (Temperley 2019), expectation (Huron 2006), and flow (Csikszentmihalyi 1900). This model suggests a means by which listeners seek musical challenges—based on finding an optimal balance between their schematic expectations and listening fluency within a specific style—and the resulting progression toward more complicated or niche music within that idiom to maintain a listening “flow-state.” Thus, I argue that Virgins, for some, may still provide an ambient listening experience.


Holly Bergeron-Dumaine (University of British Columbia), “Demons, Distortion, and the Double Tresillo: Heavy Metal in Id Software’s DOOM (1993)”


Robert Prince’s background music for Id Software’s first-person shooter DOOM (1993) invokes the soundscapes of 1980s Heavy Metal to accompany occult imagery and a profusion of on-screen violence. The full impact of these soundscapes is not guaranteed, however: DOOM employed synthesized music whose timbral qualities depended on the components installed in the player’s computer. Relying upon both spectrographic and motivic analysis, I analyze how DOOM’s first music track, “At Doom’s Gate,” successfully establishes a referential link to Metal’s sound on the three sound devices supported at release: the AdLib Soundblaster, the Roland SC-55, and the Gravis Ultrasound (GUS). I argue that timbre alone cannot convincingly instantiate Metal in the opening seconds of “At Doom’s Gate” on any of these three devices. It thus falls upon the opening’s musical materials to fill in timbral “gaps” left open by technological limitations, deploying a signature riff that pervades late-80s Metal. I argue that aspects of timbre, pitch and rhythm operate symbiotically in the opening seconds of “At Doom’s Gate,” allowing the player to recognize Metal even on sound hardware with limited synthesis capabilities.


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