Keith Polk Music Lecture Series

Established in 2015, the Keith Polk Music Lecture Series offers lectures each semester from visiting scholars and UNH music department faculty members. Polk, an emeritus faculty in the department, is one of the world's pre-eminent scholars of Renaissance instrumental music. All lectures are free and open to the public.

 

Lecture Series 2018-2019

To be announced.

Polk Series Archive

Tom Moore
Head of the Sound & Image Department of the Green Library
Florida International University

Johann Friedrich Reichardt: Composer as Journalist

Abstract: 

The Prussian composer Johann Friedrich Reichardt was born in 1752 in Königsberg, East Prussia, into a musical family, and by the age of ten was already a touring violinist and keyboardist. He studied at the local university, where Kant helped shape his intellectual approach to music and the arts. His writings on music began to be published already by the time he was 22, eventually numbering at least a dozen books, along with editing a half-dozen periodicals. By age 23 he accepted the position of Kapellmeister for Frederick the Great, and continued in this position after Frederick’s death in 1786, with the succession of Frederick William II.  His compositions included operas, songs, concertos, symphonies, chamber music, and numerous keyboard sonatas. The New Grove considers that “Reichardt’s importance as a writer…was probably equal to his importance as a composer”. 

In spite of this, Reichardt’s writings continue to be almost unknown to the English-speaking music-lover and musicologist. Of particular interest are his three sets of “intimate letters”, first-hand reporting on France, 1792; France, during the Consulate of Napoleon; and Austria in 1808-1809. The lecture will introduce this important figure in music history, and for history more generally.

Thursday, September 7, 2017
5:00-6:00 p.m.
Verrette Recital Hall
Paul Creative Arts Center 

Tom Moore holds degrees in music from Harvard and Stanford and studied traverso with Sandra Miller. From 2004 to 2007, he was visiting professor of music at the University of Rio de Janeiro (UniRio), where he co-directed the early music ensemble, Camerata Quantz. He has recorded with Kim Reighley and Mélomanie for Lyrichord (USA) and with Le Triomphe de l'Amour for Lyrichord and A Casa Discos (Brazil). Mr. Moore writes about music for BrazilMax.com, Musicabrasileira.org, 21st Century Music,  Opera Today, Flute Talk, Flutist Quarterly, and other journals. He has also sung professionally with the Symphonic Chorus of Rio de Janeiro and Concert Royal and Pomerium Musices of New York.

James Parakilas
Professor Emeritus of Music
Bates College

Darwin Makes Music a Problem (and Points to a Solution)

Abstract:

Entering the ancient debate about what function music serves for humankind, Charles Darwin in 1872 proposed a new answer to the question: “the habit of uttering musical sounds was first developed, as a means of courtship, in the early progenitors of man.”  Perhaps more importantly, his search for an answer that would satisfy the criteria of natural selection created a tough new standard for addressing the question, in effect disqualifying many traditional explanations of why we make music.  Along the way, he found himself intrigued by the observation that other species, such as songbirds, practice singing for sheer pleasure when they are not employing it for courtship.  Although Darwin himself did not describe that behavior as an opportunistic adaptation, other Darwinian theorists (Herbert Spencer, Julian Huxley) provided the descriptive and conceptual groundwork that allowed Ellen Dissanayake eventually (2007) to propose a theory of music as a ritualization of emotional expression.  In terms of cultural, if not biological, evolution, this was a theory that might justify considering music an adaptation capable of affecting the survival of the species.  That is an ambitious claim, and support for it can be found in a psychological insight of Friedrich Nietzsche, writing at exactly the same moment when Darwin was considering music as a factor in human evolution.  In The Birth of Tragedy (1872), Nietzsche attributes to music within the ritualistic context of drama (including Wagnerian music drama) the power to alter human consciousness.  

Thursday, October 19, 2017
5:00-6:00 p.m.
Verrette Recital Hall
Paul Creative Arts Center 

James Parakilas is the James L. Moody, Jr. Family Professor of Performing Arts (emeritus) at Bates College, where he taught music for 37 years.  His musicological writings include the books Ballads without Words: Chopin and the Tradition of the Instrumental Ballade (1992), Piano Roles: 300 Years of Life with the Piano (2000), and The Story of Opera (2012).  His current research is on the history of Western thought about music as nature and/or as art.

Daniel Beller-McKenna
Associate Professor of Music (musicology)
University of New Hampshire

You Again? Inter-movement Thematic Recall in Beethoven and Brahms

Abstract:

For better or worse, Johannes Brahms distinguished himself in his time by carrying forward instrumental forms and genres from the turn of the nineteenth century.  To those who championed his music, he avoided becoming a mere epigone to Beethoven (and other predecessors), but rather breathed new life into classical forms, partly by devising ever more imaginative ways to organize material and to develop themes even as they were being restated.  Peter Smith cites the “complex interaction of musical dimensions” in Brahms music, and highlights such features as developing recapitulations, and recapitulatory overlap, whereby the return of important thematic material in large-scale forms is made seamless and less disruptive to musical flow.  Occasionally, however, Brahms made a point of doing the opposite, disrupting the formal plan and the musical flow by reintroducing a theme when it was least expected—in many cases a theme from an earlier movement.  Brahms was certainly not the first to employ this sort of inter-movement thematic recall.  Among his immediate predecessors, Mendelssohn and (especially) Schumann both make notable use of the device.  But Brahms’s clearest model was Beethoven.   In a well-known handful of examples, Beethoven directly quotes themes from earlier movements in the last or later movement of a cyclical instrumental piece.  Elaine Sisman catalogued these occurrences in a 2000 essay in which she focuses on fantasy and imagination in the compositional process to explain Beethoven’s use of the device.  In this paper, I briefly summarize her ideas and juxtapose Beethoven’s inter-movement thematic recall with Brahms’.  Whereas similar underlying compositional processes may have led him to follow Beethoven’s lead, Brahms’s use of this device carries a more poetic and narrative quality, infusing its inherent mnemonic function with emotive content. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017
5:00-6:00 p.m.
Verrette Recital Hall
Paul Creative Arts Center 

Daniel Beller-McKenna is Associate Professor of music at the University of New Hampshire where he has taught since 1998. His work has focused on cultural issues surrounding the music of Johannes Brahms, including the 2004 Brahms and the German Spirit and numerous articles and book chapters. His current work focuses on nostalgia as an issue in Brahms’s works and their reception from the composer’s time to the present.

Heather de Savage
Adjunct Professor of Music History 
University of Connecticut

Copland on Fauré

Abstract:

Aaron Copland (1900–1990) once remarked that, “…the true believer in the genius of Fauré is convinced that to hear him is to love him.” He wrote these words in an essay for The New York Times in advance of Harvard’s “Fauré Festival” in 1945, organized for the centennial of Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924). This was not the first time Copland had expressed his admiration for this composer, nor would it be the last. In fact, his first published essay on any topic was “Gabriel Fauré, A Neglected Master” (The Musical Quarterly, 1924), a substantial treatise written after three years of study with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau. (He had composed an Hommage à Gabriel Fauré as a student the previous year.) Boulanger, who had studied with Fauré since childhood, remained deeply devoted to her mentor and consistently endorsed him to her American students; this fact is well documented in the writings of numerous composers beyond Copland. Still, while his interest in Fauré was initially sparked by Boulanger, it soon became his own, and continued to deepen over the years, as expressed in a variety of contexts well into the 1980s.

This paper considers Copland’s appreciation of Fauré as articulated through his music and his critical writings. The latter, in particular, offer a unique opportunity to evaluate Copland’s abiding respect for Fauré, and a concern for his reception among American audiences, and particularly a fear that many had relegated him to a minor role of “petit maître français.” Additional perspective is offered through Copland’s changing interpretation, not of the value of Fauré’s music itself, but rather its relevance for mainstream audiences in a world shadowed by the after-effects of World War II.

Thursday, March 22
5:00-6:00 p.m.
Verrette Recital Hall
Paul Creative Arts Center 

Rob Haskins

Associate Professor of Music
University of New Hampshire

John Cage and Zen: What Did He Know, When Did He Know It, and Why Should We Care?

Abstract: John Cage’s connections to Zen Buddhism are quite familiar from his published writings and interviews. The following summarizes his account: crises in his personal and professional life led him fortuitously to Indian spiritual traditions and then the mystical writings of Meister Eckhart and Taoism; finally, and most decisively, he attended lectures by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki at Columbia University for a two- or three-year period that ranges—in his recollection—from 1945 to 1947 and 1949 to 1951. Most scholars agree that, at the very least, Zen offered Cage a useful insight into the articulation of his particular musical aesthetic, and, as he himself said on many occasions, helped him to cope with the psychological unease he felt and pointed toward a way in which other people could similarly change their minds and improve the world they lived in. Nevertheless, understanding the actual nature of his encounter with Zen Buddhism, the adoption of Zen principles into his life and creative work, and Zen’s overall significance has been a vexing issue in Cage studies.

One important way in which previous scholarship has addressed this question notes the profound turn toward Zen imagery to be found in a trio of lectures from the early 1950s, “Lecture on Nothing,” “Lecture on Something,” and “Juilliard Lecture,” and has drawn on various kinds of sources to refine the chronology for these writings. Kay Larson has recently proposed that “Lecture on Something” was the first of the lectures to be written and presented at the New York Artists Club, in contrast to the conventional view that it follows the earliest one, “Lecture on Nothing.” I will argue that Cage’s turn toward Zen can be documented fairly precisely between the spring of 1950 and the winter of 1951, the most likely period during which he made “Lecture on Nothing”; I will reconsider elements of previous chronologies and refine them by drawing on clues within the text, examining a heretofore unknown source for it, and making comparisons with the other two. My broader goal aims to offer support for the idea that understanding the significance of Cage’s Zen is one of both historical and musicological importance, and to suggest ways in which an understanding of Zen can lead to fruitful engagement with sounding music of Cage and others.

Thursday, September 17, 2015
4:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Verrette Recital Hall
Paul Creative Arts Center


Tom Moore

Head of the Sound & Image Department of the Green Library
Florida International University

Fifty Unknown Flutists

Abstract: The culture of music history and of the pedagogy and performance of the flute over the last 150 years has meant that the flowering of the instrument and its repertoire over the period 1800-1850, when the instrument rapidly moved from the one-key instrument to essentially its modern form, has been ignored by both historians and practitioners. This lecture will examine both the reasons for this, as well as the wealth of valuable repertoire that awaits rediscovery, two hundred years after its creation, and descent into oblivion.

Thursday, October 8, 2015
5:00-6:00 p.m.
Verrette Recital Hall
Paul Creative Arts Center


Kelli Minelli

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Recipient
University of New Hampshire Department of Music

Bernard Herrmann's Wuthering Heights

Abstract: Bernard Herrmann is perhaps the most prolific film composer of the twentieth-century, though his classical compositions and conducting endeavors were largely ignored and even scorned by the musical world. My research focuses on Bernard Herrmann’s 1951 opera Wuthering Heights, adapted from the novel by Emily Bronte, and examining the musical and thematic connections between the opera and Herrmann’s scores to the films Jane Eyre (1943) and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947). This lecture will examine the history of Wuthering Heights’s composition and eventual performances, the adaptive implications of the opera’slibretto, discoveries I made while at the Bernard Herrmann Archive at the University of California at Santa Barbara, as well as the connections (and their importance) between Wuthering Heights and other of Herrmann’s scores. Bernard Herrmann is an important classical composer in his own right (as well as in his relationship with the music of his own time), and Wuthering Heights deserves proper attention as a fascinating narrative and dramatic work.

Thursday, October 22, 2015
5:00-6:00 p.m.
Verrette Recital Hall
Paul Creative Arts Center

 


Seth Coluzzi

Assistant Professor of Musicology
Brandeis University

The First Songstress: The Fragmented History of Lucia Quinciani’s Monody of 1611

Abstract: Lucia Quinciani’s Udite, lagrimosi (1611) is the first solo song published by a female composer. The piece appeared in the second volume of Affetti
amorosi of Veronese composer Marc’Antonio Negri, which identifies Quinciani as Negri’s student and as a lady of noble standing (a “signora”). In spite of its notable historical position, Quinciani’s sole surviving work has received scant scholarly attention. On the face of it, this neglect seems to be for good reason, for the work shows startling deficiencies in its text, musical surface, and handling of mode.

But what remains for us in the printed music may not be the end of the story for Quinciani’s lament. This investigation into the song’s deficiencies and inclusion in Negri’s Affetti amorosi reveals new clues about Quinciani’s musical background in Verona, and the unusual circumstances that intervened between the work’s composition and its emergence in print. The results offer a striking example of how the constraints of music printing and the dynamics between teacher and pupil might have impinged on a composer’s work in the early Baroque. They also demonstrate how Quinciani’s own compositional interests grew out of the shifting musical currents of early-seventeenth-century Verona.

Thursday, November 19, 2015
5:00-6:00 p.m.
Verrette Recital Hall
Paul Creative Arts Center


Daniel Beller-McKenna

Associate Professor of Music
University of New Hampshire

Thursday,February 25, 2016
5:00-6:00 p.m.
Verrette Recital Hall
Paul Creative Arts Center

 


Ellen Exner

Assistant Professor of Music History
New England Conservatory

Dr. Burney’s Complaint and the Case of Mendelssohn’s Great Passion

Abstract: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s famous Berlin performance of J. S. Bach’s _St. Matthew Passion_ in 1829 has been described as miraculous and groundbreaking. It is considered the kindling spark behind the Bach Revival, a defining moment in western music’s history. What is often left out of popular mythology though is that Mendelssohn’s choice of repertory was not revolutionary in context. This paper will demonstrate that it was instead consistent with nearly a century of local tradition in Berlin that began during the reign of Frederick II (1740-1786). The musical activities of three generations of the Mendelssohn family, particularly the women, demonstrate deep appreciation for music of the Bach family already in the mid-eighteenth century.   

Celia Applegate productively explored many aspects of the Bach Revival in her 2005 book Bach in Berlin (Cornell University Press). Her study though relied upon an outdated music-historical narrative that has since been superseded by research on both sides of the Atlantic. Fifteen years of scholarly engagement with the formerly lost music library of the Berlin Sing-Akademie (the civic institution with which Mendelssohn performed Bach’s Passion) has begun to bear fruit. As a result, our received view of the city’s musical past is undergoing significant reorientation under the weight of new discoveries.   

 The musical culture of Frederick’s Berlin was peculiar for its time: it featured intentional reuse of works that were, even then, decades old. In the 1770s, traveling Englishman Charles Burney mocked Berlin’s apparent stylistic backwardness in his published accounts, not realizing that what he had experienced was actually the formation of a local canon, a “Berliner Klassik,” as it is now being called among German scholars. Mendelssohn grew up steeped in the idea that music of the past had a natural place alongside music of the present. Because Berlin had also been home to more of J. S. Bach’s students than any other city, their works were an integral part of this burgeoning tradition from its outset. Paradoxically, what Burney had originally diagnosed as a failure to progress ultimately developed into one of the most vital elements of modern musical culture.  

Thursday, March 31, 2016
5:00-6:00 p.m.
Verrette Recital Hall
Paul Creative Arts Center