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Analysis Within Temporal Context

John Roeder (University of British Columbia), Chair

Analytical and Compositional Aspects of Webern Reception at Darmstadt and Princeton

Scott Gleason (Grove Music Online)

bio for Scott Gleason

Scott Gleason received the PhD in music theory from Columbia University. Having taught at Columbia, Fordham, and New York universities, currently he co-chairs the Society for Music Theory’s History of Theory Interest Group and serves as Council Representative to the American Musicological Society Greater New York Chapter. He edits for Grove Music Online (Oxford University Press), The Open Space Magazine, Perspectives of New Music, and formerly for Current Musicology. Gleason’s writings appear in those publications and in Filigrane, Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa, Notes, Philosophy and the Public Realm, Tacet, and Theoria. His research treats the history of music theory and the intersection of music and philosophy, and he writes analyses of new musics. His book project historicizes the Princeton School of composer-theorist-improvisers, and recently he took up the bass guitar again, performing and learning music ranging from free jazz to singer-songwriter music to Congolese soukous and Senegalese mbalax.


Anne C. Shreffler has called for studies of European and American Cold War composition in comparative context. One way to do so is to examine their respective receptions of the Second Viennese School. Gianmario Borio has been carrying out a reception history of the Darmstadt School’s analyses of modernist compositions. Thus far, however, the reception of the Viennese modernists by the Princeton School, arguably as ramified and complex, has failed to capture a comparable place in the historical imagination. This talk seeks to redress this imbalance.

David Lewin’s unpublished 1958 chamber orchestra composition, Essay on a Subject by Webern, utilizes the canonic theme from Webern’s String Quartet op. 28, mvt. 2 (1938). In the same year Lewin’s piece was composed, he, Godfrey Winham, and J. K. Randall graduated with MFA degrees under Milton Babbitt at Princeton University, and Karlheinz Stockhausen’s analysis of the Webern movement appeared in the English translation of Die Reihe. Soon thereafter Randall penned an unpublished critique of Stockhausen’s analysis. These responses to Webern’s movement show it served as a tense site of negotiation, one against which we may understand Cold War Webern reception analytically and compositionally.

After outlining these receptions of Webern’s movement, I situate the post-War analyzing and composing at Darmstadt and Princeton as the principal competitors for the serial legacy, arguing that total serialism was less important for the Americans than it was for the Europeans, which is partially responsible for the subsequent historiographical imbalance, one which prioritizes a cumulative approach to historical change.

Supplementary Material(s)

Recontextualized Musical Quotations in Two Repetitive Post-Tonal Works of Adams and Górecki

Hei-Yeung (John) Lai (University of British Columbia)


This paper explores how temporal sensations of a musical passage change when it is quoted within another context. What varieties of temporal effects occur when quoted material is recontextualized? How does a quotation change when it occurs multiple times in the new work? This paper takes John Adams’s Second Quartet and Henryk Górecki’s Lerchenmusik, both of which quote Beethoven’s music repeatedly, as case studies to investigate these questions.

To examine the different metrical (dis)continuities represented in musical quotations, I adopt a distinction between metrical and sequential temporality (Roeder 2020), and draw upon different but complementary theories of musical meter (Hasty 1997; Horlacher 1995). Employing Meyer’s (1956) and Huron’s (2006) theories of expectation and realization, I introduce the concept of a “veridical segment”—a grouping of tones that resembles a familiar sequence of events from a specific musical work. By examining how metrical and sequential temporalities change as a veridical segment is reproduced, I characterize the (different) temporal qualities suggested by the quotation and the source.

For example, Górecki’s quotations of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto demonstrate a change of temporal function despite the preservation of sequential patterns. In contrast, the sequential discontinuity of the quotations of Beethoven’s op. 110 sonata in Adams’s quartet prompts different temporal interpretations. Moreover, tracing the transforming temporality of the quotations elucidates the overall formal process. In sum, adding to previous approaches that emphasize referentiality and pitch structures, this paper contributes to a broader understanding of musical borrowing by considering rhythm and meter and the in-time sensations afforded by quotation.

Contour Theory, Gesture and Embodiment: Promises, Problems and Continuous Alter

Tobias Tschiedl (McGill University)


Contour is often described along the lines of “a pattern of ascents, descents and plateaus that occur as music moves through time” (Wallentinsen 2017). While such intuitive embodied interpretations help explain contour theory’s musical relevance and appeal, the continuous motion in time that such wording implies is only inadequately captured by the discrete formalism at the basis of the theory. 

I focus here on three characteristics of contour theory, and their attendant problems: (1) Abstraction from exact pitch and duration; (2) Comparison of csegs and similarities across cardinalities; (3) Different temporal scopes (motives, phrases, pieces) and contour reduction. To address these problems, I propose an approach based on what I call the “melodic center of mass”. This simple moving average of pitch (a continuous function over time) can be used as a form of reduction, smoothing out local extremes while providing an adequate representation of the melody’s general tendencies. Locally salient extremes can then be qualified in terms of “Reach”—their distance from the MCM. If the MCM is analogous to the motion through space of the entirety of a “body”, “Reach” is analogous to the motion of a body part with respect to that body.

This permits a qualification of melodic motion that goes beyond contour theory: (1) Exact pitches and durations remain peripheral, but contribute to the average. (2) Direction towards or away from the MCM supplement ascent and descent as possible features of comparison, along with speeds of motion. (3) The decomposition of a melody into MCM and Reach can play a role comparable to reduction.