professor zoom

musicology at a distance

Alright, so Paula and I have been cooking something up; you might have already seen all the buzz on social media.

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Are you a weirdo who is really into musicology/ethnomusicology/music theory? Not-so-alternately, is that your profession? Are you stuck at home and looking for something to watch in the late afternoon that’s not The Bachelor or Chernobyl? Then #MusicColloq might be the thing for you! And if you have a paper you’d like to present, you can sign up here.

So far, a surprisingly large number of people (or…bots?) have shared our announcement on social media, which means that the first one of these will *hopefully* work. We’re using

 legend zoom ez GIF

which seems like it will work pretty well? Who knows.

And now Paula has made an awesome website: https://musicscholarshipatadistance.com/

And follow us on Twitter too: https://twitter.com/MusicDistance

And now, for a *newsletter exclusive announcement* (that I’ll be posting on Twitter five minutes after I send this out, but this is a scoop): I’ll be giving the first #MusicColloq paper!

Remember all that blather about New Music America about a week ago? Well I’m going to go ahead and test-drive our new platform with my paper on NMA and Bang on a Can that was originally for the MIT festivals conference that’s been cancelled.

Here’s the abstract:


“These impresarios have an insight, a point of view, a vision,” the Village Voice critic Kyle Gann wrote of the recently-established Bang on a Can festival in 1989. “BoaC isn’t splintered by the favors to repay, the factions to satisfy, that have diluted New Music America and made it so disappointing (if necessary).” In the late 1980s, contemporary music was divided into two festival experiences in the United States: the upstart Bang on a Can, a twelve-hour marathon concert held in downtown New York since 1987; and the establishment New Music America, a massive, multi-day endeavor that rotated between major cities since 1979. These two festivals offered competing visions in a moment of transition for American new music.

Drawing on archival research, interviews, and reception, this paper compares three key aspects of the festivals circa 1989, when both were held in New York. First, I consider how they offered different definitions of “new music” as a genre: New Music America represented a scene of experimental improvisers and composer-performers that critic John Rockwell dubbed a “post-literate vanguard,” whereas Bang on a Can advocated for composers who wrote conventionally notated works for virtuoso classical musicians. Second, I compare the distinct “festival cultures” each institution provided: New Music America dispersed its offerings over many events in multiple venues, thus fragmenting its audience, whereas Bang on a Can empathically sought to create a singular audience experience through its marathon format. Finally, I examine the governance of each festival: the nimble Bang on a Can was run out of the kitchens of three young composers (Gann’s “point of view”) whereas New Music America was organized by a rotating committee and attendant bureaucracy that served many constituencies (Gann’s “factions to satisfy”).  The success of Bang on a Can, which grew into a multi-million-dollar organization in the 1990s, alongside the decline of New Music America, which held its final iteration in 1990, reveals how different festival formats structured contemporary music at the close of the twentieth century.

So, tune in tomorrow, Tuesday, at 4pm ET — BY CLICKING ON THIS ZOOM LINK — to hear me give a paper online. There will be time for Q&A afterwards (not 100% sure yet how we will moderate that, we’ll see how many people show up). And then, if it works, we’ll have papers perhaps every weekday at 4pm!


As far as teaching-at-a-distance goes, I don’t know if I have much to add since my initial thoughts. Asynchronous-ity — a word I didn’t know to use in my last post! — seems to be the way to go. I’m going to start pre-recording lectures asap (fortunately UMD gave us an extra week of spring break to get ready), and we’re going to use discussion boards for Friday discussions (rather than some kind of live meetings as I suggested last time).

My TA and I decided to dump Cunning Little Vixen — I know, I know — in favor of La Traviata (I know, I know) for our opera-to-watch related to our capstone project. It’s mostly because both of us have a lot more experience teaching Traviata so we can take old materials and make them online, rather than generating new Vixen lectures. I’m retooling the “experimental music” unit entirely, expanding it into “avant-garde/modernist” music and basically regurgitating old lectures I’ve given on Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Crawford, Pamela Z, etc. I don’t have time to generate new lectures, and I need material that works easily for distance learning. It is a compromise.


We are stuck at home, going out to mostly take Georgia on walks. But she, too, deserves more intellectual stimulation (I expect she will make guest appearances in some of my online classes, and perhaps even in #MusicColloq). So we bought her this silly puzzle and she’s mastered it already!


Charles Wuorinen died. He was a composer of incredibly rich and brilliant music, and a complicated person. I profiled him back in 2018, and I was asked to write his obituary when he passed. You can read that here. You should also read Tim Page’s obituary, which is the kind of writing I will aspire to my entire life.

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