Guest Music Theory Lecture – Ian Quinn (Yale University)
Five Friends Master Class Series – Honoring Robert Samels
Guest Music Theory Lecture
Ian Quinn (Yale University)
“A New Game of Tones, Part 1: What Music Theory Could Have Been”
Most people seem to think “music theory” is difficult, or even too difficult to bother with. This is true over a wide range of meanings of the term. In ordinary use it refers to various representatives of a diverse global family of esoteric notational practices including solmization, pattern classification, staff and alphanumeric notations, and vast terminological complexes; this sort of difficulty seems inevitable. In the American context, it has until recently referred to a specific subset of those practices that is associated with European elite culture and its music; this is a more pernicious sort of difficulty that serves as a barrier both to entry and to practice for many. It seems time now to decolonize music theory, but it will be as difficult as music theory itself. The esoteric pratices cannot be separated from their repertories, or their repertories from their cultures. Staff notation itself is suspect: born as a tablature for singing in the Western church, it quickly became a powerful regulative technology. My current project, Ludus Tonalis Novus, leans in to this problem through an esoteric notational technology of its own: an alternative universe with the same music as ours but with a slightly different set of historical facts, different history of theory and a different set of notational priorities. Vernacular practices are better documented in this world, its theoretical treatises are written by a diverse cast of authors, and some propitious early exchanges of music theory appeared between India, China, and Europe. This lecture will describe the Ludus Tonalis Novus universe and the argument it represents, and some of the real-world problems and research findings that have led me to make this argument in the form of fiction. I will also describe the ways this project has helped me think more broadly about what undergraduate music theory means in a time of increasing diversity.
About the Presenter
Ian Quinn is Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Music at Yale University. His early work on the foundations of pitch-class set theory earned him the Emerging Scholar Award and the Outstanding Publication Award from the Society for Music Theory. His current project on the history of tonality blends computer-aided corpus analysis, research in music cognition, fieldwork in the community of shape-note singers, and critical engagement with the history of music theory to build a radically new model of tonal cognition with analytical applications in Western music reaching back to the first chant notations and extending beyond the notated classical tradition. His manuscript in progress is Ludus Tonalis Novus: Documents of an Imaginary History of Mode in the West. With John Ashley Burgoyne and Daniel Shanahan, he is co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Corpus Studies in Music, to be published in 2018. He is a former Editor and current Associate Editor of the Journal of Music Theory.
Five Friends Master Class Series – Honoring Robert Samels
The Five Friends Master Class Series honoring the lives of five talented Jacobs School of Music students—Chris Carducci, Garth Eppley, Georgina Joshi, Zachary Novak, and Robert Samels—was established in 2012 with a gift of $1 million from the Georgina Joshi Foundation, Inc. This annual series of lectures, master classes, and residencies by a number of the world’s leading musicians and teachers focuses on areas of interest most relevant to the lives of the five friends—voice performance, choral conducting, early music, music theory, composition, and opera. The Georgina Joshi Foundation was established in 2007 as the vision of Georgina Joshi’s mother, Louise Addicott-Joshi, to provide educational and career development opportunities for young musicians and to encourage and support public performance of music. The gift to the school establishes a permanent way for the world to learn about each of the five friends, their musical talents and passions, and to encourage the development of similar talents and passions in current and future music students. The establishment of this endowment by the families is administered by the IU Foundation.
Bass-baritone and composer Robert Samels was born on June 2, 1981, and died in a plane crash on April 20, 2006.
He was a doctoral student in choral conducting at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and had studied voice with Giorgio Tozzi and Costanza Cuccaro. He began his vocal studies with Alfred Anderson at the University of Akron and Andreas Poulimenos at Bowling Green State University.
Samels had recently appeared as Mr. Gibbs in the world premiere of Our Town by Ned Rorem, as Marco in the collegiate premiere of William Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge, andas Joseph and Herod in the collegiate premiere of El Nino by John Adams.
In September 2005, he conducted the premiere of his own opera, Pilatvs. As a member of the Wolf Trap Opera Company for 2006, he would have added three roles that summer, including Bartolo in Le Nozze di Figaro, Friar Laurence in Roméo et Juliette, and Pluto in Telemann’s Orpheus. Other opera credits included the title roles of Don Pasquale and Il Turco in Italia, as well as Leporello in Don Giovanni, Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the summer of 2004, he performed Creon in the New York premiere of John Eaton’s Antigone.
Samels also frequently performed in the oratorio repertoire. In the spring of 2005, he was selected as a semi-finalist in the annual competition of the Oratorio Society of New York.
He was an announcer with public radio station WFIU, as well as the host and producer of itsCantabile program. A soloist with Aguavá New Music Studio, he had recently performed a concert at the Library of Congress.
Samels was an associate instructor in the Jacobs School’s Music Theory Department, where was loved and admired by his students.