Research Seminar Series, October 2016 - May 2017

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Tuesday Research Seminars, 1.00-2.00pm in Ensemble Room 2 (G.04), Department of Music, Jessop Building, 34 Leavygreave Road, Sheffield, S3 7RD, except where otherwise indicated.

The Research Seminar Series is a series of talks by leading researchers at this university and elsewhere. The series is aimed at postgraduate students and staff but undergraduates and external visitors are welcome at every talk.

Oct 18th - Richard Parncutt (Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria). Hosted by Nicola Dibben

The missing fundamentals of music theory: A psychohistorical theory of major-minor tonality

How does western music work? How should we explain the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic structure of music in major and minor keys? Where do those patterns come from originally? Why does the major-minor system still dominate western music despite countless efforts to usurp it?

Oct 25th Emily Worthington (University of Huddersfield)

The recordings of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Wind Quintet, 1923–1930

The discography of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Wind Quintet as it was constituted between 1923 and 1930 is substantial in size, of significant importance, and completely overlooked. It potentially constitutes one of the most important bodies of evidence, not only of early wind-playing style in Germany, but of chamber-music-making during this period. I will discuss my ongoing work with this material, including understanding the discography, uncovering the largely undocumented history of the ensemble, and working with the recordings themselves through both close-listening analysis and re-creative performance.

Nov 1st Dorothy Ker (University of Sheffield)

Dorothy Ker presents recent compositions

Dorothy Ker presents recent compositions

Nov 15th Karl Spracklen (Leeds Beckett University)

Extreme metal as a communicative leisure choice

Black metal (BM) emerged as a globally recognised and globally sustainable sub-genre of extreme metal in the early 1990s, after the church burnings and murders surrounding the Norwegian ‘second-wave’ BM bands. BM has continued to attract interest from listeners and audiences around the world, and has continued to attract musicians into the scene. BM exemplifies the counter-hegemonic stance of wider extreme metal, a genre and scene that is constructed by producers and consumers as standing against the mainstream, commercial, instrumental rationality of pop and rock. In this presentation, I will explore the ethos of extreme metal as a communicative leisure choice through the example of BM, and question whether any product of the modern, popular music industry and commodified culture can be a space for resistance and agency

Nov 22nd Live Music Now

Live Music Now: An introduction to our work & opportunities for musicians

Live Music Now is one of the UK’s leading musical outreach charities, bringing high quality live musical experiences to over 150,000 people each year. Every year, our musicians deliver thousands of interactive music programmes in care homes and hospitals, and a range of community and healthcare settings. We also work in special schools, where music can make a huge difference to the lives of children and their families. However, helping to develop the next generation of professional musicians is also central to what we do. LMN offers training and paid performance opportunities to emerging professional musicians from all genres of music from folk to classical. Our development scheme helps musicians kick start their careers and engage with a wide variety of audiences. Find out more about the benefits that LMN can offer musicians, how our work is changing lives and how you can get involved.

Nov 29th Hauke Egermann (University of York)

Music and Emotion: Empirical Insights to Theory and Modelling

I will start with some basic thoughts about why we produce and listen to music, concluding that expression and induction of emotion plays a major role here. Subsequently, I would like to shed light on the possible reasons why music influences our emotions, including the research I did together with colleagues testing several theoretical ideas and models. Here, I will focus on two research projects: one that computationally modeled listener expectations and one that tested for universal and cross-cultural response patterns by doing research with a population of african pygmies that lives isolated the deep rainforest of the northern Congo.

Feb 14th Peter Hill (University of Sheffield)

Discovering Messiaen

Peter Hill reflects on on the discoveries made in thirty years working on Messiaen's music, with particular reference to his recently-completed book on the Catalogue d'oiseaux.

Feb 28th Laudan Nooshin (City, University of London)

Whose Liberation? Iranian Popular Music and the Fetishisation of Resistance

In November 2013, Pharrell Williams’ song ‘Happy’, originally written for the soundtrack to ‘Despicable Me 2’, was re-released as a single together with a music video billed as ‘the world’s first 24-hour music video’. Comprising images of people in Los Angeles dancing and miming along to the song, the video was posted on the website Soon after, tribute videos started appearing online and within a short period ‘Happy’ went viral with videos of happy, dancing people from all over the world.

Wanting to be part of this global phenomenon, in the spring of 2014 a group of young Tehranis made their own video and posted it on youtube. Many aspects of ‘Happy in Tehran’ - including the public expression of joy, dancing in public, and women without head covering - challenged local cultural and legal boundaries on behaviour in public space. The young people were arrested, prompting an outcry, both within Iran and internationally; they were released soon after and eventually received suspended sentences in September 2014.

This talk will focus on the case of ‘Happy in Tehran’ and what it reveals of the representation of Iranian popular music outside Iran, and specifically the somewhat romanticized discourses of ‘resistance’ and ‘freedom’ which have tended to characterise both journalistic and scholarly writings in this area. I consider the ways in which the ‘Happy in Tehran’ incident was reported in the media outside Iran and offer alternative readings of the video and its meanings. The paper considers how such reductionist views feed into wider regimes of orientalist representation and ultimately asks whose agenda such fetishisation of resistance serves.

March 14th Thomas Schmidt (University of Manchester)

It was Mendelssohn’s strongest wish that it should never be heard or published’. On the reception history of the ‘Reformation Symphony

Mendelssohn’s 'Reformation Symphony', long the neglected stepchild besides the much more celebrated ‘Italian’ and ‘Scottish’, has recently experienced somewhat of a renaissance, both in scholarship and performance; this promises to reach a peak in 2017, the 500th anniversary of the event it celebrates. Not the least reason for this belated reception has been the composer’s own unequivocal rejection of the work, after a number of failed attempts to get it performed (and only very limited success once it had been). Like the ‘Italian’, it remained unpublished during his lifetime; but while the ‘Italian’ was published by the executors of Mendelssohn’s estate soon after his death, the ‘Reformation' was held back for more than two decades, and as it turns out, was released only reluctantly even then. Based on a number of hitherto obscure or entirely unknown sources, this paper traces the circuitous route the work took towards publication, with special emphasis on a public controversy that unfolded in England in 1853 where a veritable campaign was started to liberate the deceased composer’s works from the clutches of his executors. As such, the fate of the ‘Reformation Symphony’ provides vivid testimony to diverging attitudes towards posthumous publication and to Mendelssohn reception in England and Germany more generally.

March 21st Sally Maitlis (Saïd Business School, Oxford). Hosted by Nicola Penhill

Rebuilding Meaning after a Work-Related Trauma: A Longitudinal Study of Injured Musicians and Dancers

This study follows the lives of 40 professional musicians and dancers who have been forced to give up or significantly change the work that they do because of injury. This is an especially traumatic experience for these individuals because their injury not only leads to a loss of career and livelihood but also, and very importantly, it deeply challenges the meanings they have made about themselves, their vocations, and their possible futures. Through repeated interviews conducted over an eight year period, I explore how these performing artists make sense of what has happened to them and what it means for what they can do and who they can become. While some musicians and dancers experience “posttraumatic growth” (a kind of transformational positive change that occurs as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life crises), others struggle to create generative new meanings in their work and other parts of their lives. Most tread circuitous and quite precarious paths as they endeavour to build new lives and identities that are separate from but often still connected to the work which has been most meaningful to them. In this talk, I share these artists’ stories, explore the paths that they have constructed over time, and discuss the implications of the study for our understanding of work-related trauma, posttraumatic growth, and forced transitions that disrupt the pursuit of highly meaningful work.

March 28th Frances Wilkins (University of Aberdeen)

Engaging Community and Landscape: The Case for an Ethnomusicological Approach

As an ethnomusicologist, much of my work to date has involved recording and analysing current musical practices in communities across Scotland and in Canada. By placing musical performance historically and contemporaneously within the various communities, my work has informed an understanding of the ways in which music is used to reflect and reinforce wider occupational and locational identities.

In this seminar, I will be discussing aspects of my work which analyse the processes by which specific regional repertoires and styles develop as both living reminders of a past time, as a response to the cultural and occupational landscape, and as an expression of cultural memory through performance. In particular, I will be using examples from fieldwork among evangelical Christian singers in North-East Scottish fishing communities, Shetland fiddlers, Cree fiddlers and dancers in the James Bay area of Northern Canada, and from my recent performance-based research as part of the Funeralscapes project on the islands of Eigg and Whithorn.

April 25th James Andean (De Montfort University)

Narrative in Acousmatic Music

Acousmatic works tend to operate on two simultaneous planes: a more abstract, musical level of gesture, phrase, colour, texture, and motion; and a narrative level, which references real-world objects, actions, contexts and environments. Despite the significance of these narrative aspects in determining the listener's experience of the work, however, most of the genre's foundational theory has tended to focus on the structural and formal elements of the sonic plane, largely ignoring questions of narrative experience and reception. This session will consider some of the characteristics and approaches to acousmatic narrative, including historical precedents and current directions.