Saturday morning, November 14, 11–11:50 CST

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Unsettling Encounters: Transfer, Exchange, and Hybridity in Global Music Theory

Anna Zayaruznaya (Yale University), Chair

The Original Global and the Global Origins of Music Theory

Andrew Hicks (Cornell University)

Andrew Hicks’ research focuses on the intellectual history of early musical thought from a cross-disciplinary perspective that embraces philosophical, cosmological, scientific and grammatical discourse in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and spans the linguistic and cultural spheres of Latin, Greek, Persian, and Arabic. His first book, Composing the World: Harmony in the Medieval Platonic Cosmos (Oxford University Press, 2017), won the Society for Music Theory's Emerging Scholar book award (2018) and the ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson book award (2018). He collaborated with Fr. Édouard Jeauneau on John Scottus Eriugena’s Commentary and Homily on the Gospel of John (CCCM 166, Brepols 2008), and he is currently preparing the first edition of William of Conches’ Glosulae super Priscianum (Brepols) and a new translation of Boethius’ De arithmetica. His published essays range across the history of music theory, late ancient and medieval Pythagoreanism, medieval Platonic commentaries, the reception of Martianus Capella, textual criticism, and musical metaphors and modalities in Classical Persian literatures. He won the 2018 Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin for research on his next book titled The Broken Harp: Listening Otherwise in Classical Persian Literature

Hicks is cross-appointed to the Program in Medieval Studies, where he serves as the resident Medieval Latinist, is a member of the Graduate Fields of ClassicsNear Eastern Studies, the Religious Studies Program, and is affiliated with the Carl Sagan Institute. He regularly leads graduate seminars in the history of music theory, medieval Latin literature, Latin paleography and codicology, medieval cosmology, philosophical commentaries, and musical thought in medieval Arabo-Persian cultures, and he teaches undergraduate courses in music history and theory. He is co-editor of the Journal of Musicology, associate editor of the Journal of Medieval Latin, and editor of the Music Series for TEAMS, and is on the board of directors of the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies. He is also co-chair and founder of the History of Music Theory Study Group of the AMS, is on the board of the Music and Philosophy Study Group of the AMS, and serves on the advisory board for Music and Late Medieval European Court Cultures (an ERC funded project at the University of Oxford). He is also Dean and House Professor of Hans Bethe House on Cornell’s West Campus. 


Pythagoras resides at the heart of music theory’s origin myths, from the ubiquity of the sonorous blacksmith’s forge to the purported Pythagoreanism of the Timaeus, which embeds a “state of the art” harmonic system in the soul of its cosmogony. But Pythagoras did not work alone. According to a long tradition of Greek “Orientalism,” Pythagoras conferred with Babylonians, Egyptians, Chaldeans, Persian magoi, and even—according to a tradition ascribed to “Aristoxenus the musician” (Hippolytus, Elench. 1.2.12–13)—met Zarathustra himself. This paper focuses on the Persianate traditions of Pythagoreanism, reciprocally mapping the imaginary travels and historical translations of Pythagoras, both the translation of Persian wisdom traditions into Greek Pythagoreanism and the retranslation of Pythagoras from Greek sources into medieval Arabo-Persian music theory. Both are puzzling. The Greek appropriation of Zarathustra reorients the legitimization of Platonic philosophizing (Vasunia 2007; Horky 2009); and the re-reorientations of Pythagoras in medieval Arabo-Persian sources reinscribe a motif central to the history of Western philosophy (Guttas 1998; Izdebska 2014). Hence, to locate the origins of music theory with Pythagoras is to locate the global encounter at the very beginnings of music theory. But is this “original global” itself a product of the Western imagination, the conflation (à la Walter Burkert and M. L. West) of “orient” and “origin”? Considering this question reveals the fantasy of Greek philosophy’s “other” (Hartog 2006) and the productive assimilation of this fantasy by its “other,” thereby putting the postcolonial condition at the heart of a global music theory.

Pedagogy and Seduction in the Eighteenth-Century Mission Music of Bolivia

Roger Mathew Grant (Wesleyan University)

Roger Mathew Grant is a theorist and historian of music and culture with particular interests in affect theory, the history of music theory, Enlightenment aesthetics, and eighteenth-century music. His journal articles have appeared in Critical Inquiry, Representations, Music Theory Spectrum, Eighteenth-Century Music, and the Journal of Music Theory. His first book, Beating Time and Measuring Music in the Early Modern Era, won the 2016 Emerging Scholar

Award from the Society for Music Theory. In addition to teaching at Wesleyan, he has also been Visiting Professor in the music departments at both Harvard and Yale, has held fellowships at the Stanford Humanities Center and in the University of Michigan Society of Fellows. He received his PhD in music from the University of Pennsylvania. His most recent book, Peculiar Attunements: How Affect Theory Turned Musical, was recently published with Fordham University Press. He is currently serving as the Dean of Arts and Humanities at Wesleyan University.


This paper examines the teaching of music theory in eighteenth-century Jesuit missions among the Chiquitano indigenous people. Located in what was then the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru––now eastern Bolivia––rural Jesuit missions fostered vibrant communities of choral and orchestral performance. Archival sources suggest ample evidence of robust collaboration between the Jesuit colonizers and the Chiquitano, with operas and liturgical compositions attributed exclusively to indigenous composers. The scant scholarship that exists on this unusual body of repertoire has celebrated its exceptional status; scholars point to the music making preserved in these archives as proof of an isolated set of instances in which the traditional power hierarchies between Jesuit colonizers and indigenous colonized were unstable, and the musical abilities of the native South American population made true exchange and cooperation possible. But if the Chiquitano brought excellent musical aptitudes with them into the eighteenth-century missions, what did they experience when they had to unlearn their own traditions and master European musical performance and music theory? Drawing on and slightly modifying Brian Larkin’s notion of the “colonial sublime,” I suggest that mission music theory pedagogy was not primarily a scene of exchange but rather of colonial seduction. With reference to theoretical works related to solfège in particular, I hope to underscore the role of Western music theory pedagogy in colonial techniques of interpolation. Finally, I aim to draw critical attention to our evolving understandings of hybridity and exchange in the imperialist project of Western music theory pedagogy.

Global Tonnetze

Daniel Walden (The Queen’s College, Oxford)

Daniel Walden is a Junior Research Fellow at The Queen’s College (Oxford) who combines music theory with the global history of science and society, postcolonial studies, and media theory. He received his PhD in 2019 from Harvard University, where he was a Presidential Scholar, and an MPhil in Music from University of Cambridge as a Gates Scholar. His current book project, The Emperor’s New Keyboard: Just Intonation and the Global Politics of Tuning and Temperament, examines how 19th-century keyboard-based epistemologies of music theory, listening techniques, and performance practices were co- produced with the structures of intellectual and bodily discipline that shaped imperialism and resistance. His PhD dissertation received 1st Honorable Mention in the 2020 IMS Outstanding Dissertation Award Competition, and his most recent publications appear in The Oxford Handbook to Timbre, History of the Humanities, Early Music History. He is also an experimental pianist. For more please visit


The Tonnetz has come to serve as an emblem of “Western” tonality through the work of theorists from Leonhard Euler to Brian Hyer. But how might a “global history” challenge our understanding of what it represents? The archetypal Tonnetz associated with Hugo Riemann was in fact adapted from a treatise by the Japanese theorist Tanaka Shōhei, in which it represented the tuning of the author’s “enharmonium,” a just-intonation keyboard marketed as a product of Japanese-German “geistigen Verkehr” (intellectual/spiritual exchange) that would rescue Europe from equal temperament. Thirty years later, the Tonnetz was reinterpreted by the Hindustani theorist G.S. Khare as a representation of Sanskrit tuning systems, reconceived as a bulwark against intrusive colonial tonalities. Neither could be distinguished at first glance from the Riemannian Tonnetz, making them potent political tools for accomplishing the political agendas of their authors: the defamiliarization of European musical practices with tuning systems that sounded almost the same but not quite (Bhabha 2012), and the provincialization of European musical history as a mere offshoot of an “Indo-Aryan” lineage chiefly preserved by Hindustani musicians (Chakrabarty 2009).

I draw on postcolonial, STS, and critical media studies in tracing a global history attuned to the feedback loops of reciprocal influence that shaped “Western” and “non-Western” theoretical discourse. But I also consider two potential perils of global historiography: unilinear developmentalism and cultural relativism, discursive frameworks previously leveraged towards securing European centricity (Scherzinger 2018). Could these pitfalls be avoided by making defamiliarization and provincialization central to future histories of theory?