Lectures on a variety of musical subjects including Composition, Musicology and Music Theory are given regularly in the Music Department. Speakers include UB faculty members, visiting lecturers, and graduate students. All events, unless otherwise noted, are free and open to the public. See below for info on all upcoming speaking events:

Dr. Zachary Bernstein

Assistant Professor of Music Theory

Eastman School of Music

Thursday, April 20, 2017
250 Baird Hall

Presented by the University at Buffalo Department of Music.

Babbit's Gestural Dialectics

The precompositional array structures of Babbitt’s music, which present twelve-tone series fixed in narrow registers, seem static and impersonal. Nevertheless, numerous commentators on Babbitt’s music have celebrated the sense of motion the music inspires, describing it in vividly gestural terms. This paper will explore the dialectical tension between the music’s precompositional structures and the dynamic surfaces these authors experience. The static precursor is posited as a field from which the dynamic realization may emerge or against which the dynamic realization may struggle. Gestural sensation is investigated in light of research by Hatten, Mead, Cox, Kozak, London, McCreless, and Monahan and BaileyShea. The centrality of these sensations to Babbitt’s compositions is offered as a corrective to writers such as McClary and Taruskin who exaggerate the formalist character of serial music.

An exploration of gestural dialectics sheds light on four topics to be discussed in the paper: the all-partition array, Babbitt’s primary contrapuntal device after 1965, whose partitional variety facilitates gestural experimentation; Babbitt’s later practice of creating small-scale periodicity by filling in time-point intervals with strings of even note values and medium-scale periodicity by frequently repeating time points; text-setting; and serial anomalies—deviations from array expectations—which occasionally seem to be motivated by gestural considerations. In several examples to be discussed, gesturally motivated anomalies are used to effect a sense of closing rhetoric.

Babbitt’s music creates gestures in an environment that seems hostile to embodied energetics. As Peles says of Schoenberg, Babbitt “give[s] a body to something that in its native form has none.”

Dr. Theodore Cateforis

Associate Professor of Musicology

Syracuse University

Thursday, April 13, 2017
327 Baird Hall

Presented by the University at Buffalo Department of Music.

Soft/Loud: Form and Meaning in Alternative Rock of the 1990s

From the twelve bar blues and AABA to the strophic and verse/chorus, the history of popular music has featured various song forms that have proven to be durable generic types. In the 1990s, alternative rock ushered in a novel variation on the verse/chorus, a form often referred to as the “soft/loud.” With its volatile juxtaposition of restrained verses and explosive choruses, featured most notably on Nirvana’s famed 1991 single “Smells like Teen Spirit,” the soft/loud form became a strong marker of alternative rock’s rebellious underground ethos. This talk examines the history and larger cultural and sonic meanings of the soft/loud form within alternative rock’s distinctive style. As we will see, for all its powerful associations, the very ubiquity of the soft/loud form by the mid-1990s was also perceived as a sign of alternative’s commercial homogenization and apparent death. By tracing subtle changes in the soft/loud over the course of the 1990s, we can hear clues to alternative’s rise and fall as a genre.

Dr. Colin Roust

Assistant Professor of Musicology

The University of Kansas

Tuesday, October 25, 2016
250 Baird Hall

Presented by the University at Buffalo Department of Music.

An Ultramodernist Goes Pop: Georges Auric and Pop Culture from the 1950s to the 1970s

Although Georges Auric’s early notoriety rested on his reputation as a favorite composer of virtually every avant-garde group in 1920s Paris, he would later devote his career to finding the broadest audiences possible. While I have published on his aesthetic shift to populism in the 1930s, this talk focuses on Auric’s contributions to pop culture in the decades after World War II. His many film scores yielded a number of songs that became both jazz standards and popular hits—including Billboard’s “#1 Song of 1953,” which would later be covered by artists as diverse as the Chordettes, Andy Williams, Chet Atkins, Sam Cooke, and Willie Nelson. Other works to be discussed include a sound-and-light show for a Loire Valley castle and a rock musical composed with the jazz-funk pianist Gilbert Sigrist.

2nd and 4th Friday of each month
Music Library

A bi-weekly forum to at which graduate music students have the opportunity to read and prepare conference papers.