Harvard University Department of Music
Iyer Joins Harvard Faculty
Abbate Named University Professor
Jason Robert Brown Named AIR
Future Bright for Recent Alums
Parker Named Quartet in Residence
First Nights premieres Aucoin piece
Kelly Elected to Academy of Arts & Sciences, Knight of Arts & Letters
Levin Caps Two Decades With Recital
Silent to Synchronized Sound: Hannah Lewis' Film Score Studies
Interview: Zachary Sheets '13
Fromm Foundation Celebrates 60 Years
Harvard University Department of Music
Robert Levin Caps Two Decades With a Recital
Levin on 180, Musical Truth, and the Practice of Performance
A composer puts a mirror to the audience and asks us to recognize ourselves. It’s the same as with great plays.
Music is no less serious just because it is composed of tones, not words.
Robert Levin, the inaugural Dwight P. Robinson Jr. Professor of the Humanities at the Department of Music at Harvard, will retire from the University in 2014. As a tribute to Levin, the Music Department will honor him with a concert in Sanders Theatre on Sunday January 26 at 3:00 p.m. Internationally reknowned pianist Levin will perform pieces that he commissioned, premiered, or have been commissioned for him. These include Bernard Rands’ 12 Preludes, John Harbison’s Piano Sonata No. 2, Hans Peter Türk’s Träume, and Straccio vecchio and Sauce 180 by Yehudi Wyner. Knowing Levin’s skill with improvisation, there may some surprises as well.
Levin recently reflected on coming to Harvard, Music 180, musical truth, and the practice of performance.
If it weren’t for a tiny post office in a Black Forest German town, Professor Robert Levin may not have spent the last twenty years teaching performance at Harvard.
“I was senior professor of piano at the Musikhochschule in Freiburg,” recounts Levin. “One morning I was heading towards the post office—it was very small, with just one window—and I saw a man with a stack of packages heading in the same direction. I thought, ‘I’ve got to get there first or I’ll be here all morning.’ As I got closer I recognized him. It was Christoph Wolff.’”
Harvard music professor Wolff and his wife Barbara, it turns out, loved Freiburg so much they’d bought a condo there. The Levins and Wolffs lived but 150 yards from each other. They began to share dinners when the Wolffs were in town, and when Leon Kirchner announced his retirement, Wolff asked Levin if he would consider the position.
“It would have been a break with tradition to hire me,” Levin states. “Leon was a composer and a performer. Harvard wanted to perpetuate this tradition by having a composer/performer teach Music 180 [Performance and Analysis]. As Christoph Wolff described the position, the University was looking for a performer with an international career, but not just a pianist. My extensive work in theory and musicology seems to have appealed to the powers that be.”
Levin’s first instinct was to defer. “I don’t have to explain how wonderful Freiburg is,” he told Wolff. “I look out my windows at the Black Forest and the Vosges mountains in France. I have plum, quince, apple, cherry trees, and rose bushes. Why on earth should I leave and go to Harvard?”
Fate intervened again. Within a few years of Wolff’s query, Levin’s teaching load at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik was becoming too time-consuming for his increasingly demanding performance schedule. His future wife, pianist Ya-Fei Chuang, told him: “Don’t torment yourself. You have an offer from the world’s premier university! Go!”
Exactly 25 years after he graduated from Harvard, Levin landed in Cambridge, was featured at Symphony Hall’s Harvard Night at the Pops, and closed on a house.
Although Levin was not a student in Music 180 (he graduated in 1968, and Kirchner offered Music 180 for the first time in 1969–70), he considers himself very close to Kirchner, both personally and curricularly.
“I took on the ideals of the course as well as the mechanics,” he says, “with some modifications. Leon taught with a preceptor (Lucy Stoltzman), and Leon took on the group settings with all the coachings done by Lucy. I wanted to have a more collegial arrangement with my preceptor—violinist Dan Stepner—so we both participated in the group sessions and we both coached the individual groups.”
In 180, everyone studies all the scores. Then, students play and the others comment. Stepner speaks, then Levin, sketching broad ideas and new artistic suggestions. The students perform again, incorporating the feedback.
“I wanted the course to work like a laboratory,” says Levin. “Every interpretation has emotional and intellectual consequences. The power of performance derives from these decisions.”
The structure of 180 has remained constant during Levin’s tenure of nearly a generation of student musicians.
“The course is a life-changing experience,” he says. “I find 180 alumni everywhere I tour. At nearly every performance one former student is in that orchestra—not all from Harvard, but a lot are 180 students. They tell me they feel tremendously warm about that course and the decisive role it had in steering them towards their paths in life. There are even numerous 180 marriages. I’ve seen probably a half dozen on my watch.
“Some students take 180 once. Some have taken it eight times. I want to give them something that sustains them throughout their lives.”
Levin feels the same way about the Core courses he’s taught—such as Chamber Music from Mozart to Ravel.
“I thought teaching in the Core curriculum was an extraordinary opportunity. For anyone afraid of classical music dying, anyone interested in the future world, to try and create a love of classical music in the elite of Harvard was extremely important to me. If, within a generation those people could support the arts, that would be critical to their survival.
“I’m optimistic. I heard from a Pakistani student at Columbia Medical School—a former Chamber Music student—that classical music was now his lifeline. It was music I’d taught him to love.”
A Serious Thing is a True Joy
Soon after his arrival at Harvard, Levin began to teach a series of undergraduate courses in period performance practice. It started with 18th century, expanded back to the 17th, alternated with the 19th, which then bled in to the 20th.
“They all related to 180. I didn’t want to assign anything, but rather have each student select a problem. Matt Haimovitz ’96, for example, wanted to write cadenzas for one of the Haydn cello concertos for an upcoming tour. Hazel Davis ’03 wanted to prepare an authentic performance of Strauss’ Second Horn Concerto. Julia Glenn ’12 wanted to reconstruct the original performance style of the Sixth Bartok Quartet to reveal how values and sounds changed. I tried to steer them to relevant literature: manuscripts, periodicals, documents. The entire seminar would give the individual students insights into a variety of topics they might not otherwise have discovered.
“I’m always amazed at what a hands-on experience is possible when researching music from 100 or 150 years ago. Artistic, physical, spiritual—all these areas underlie the performance of music.”
Students at Harvard, according to Levin, are extremely talented and smart; they want to play. They love details such as how much pressure to put on the pedal or which finger to use. But if he talks about how music is put together, there’s more restlessness.
“To that I would invoke the Latin motto in the Gewandhaus in Leipzig: ‘Res severa, verum gaudium’: ‘A serious thing is true joy.' I hope in my tenure at Harvard I have persuaded students that one derives joy from passionate advocacy of what is truly serious. A composer puts a mirror to the audience and asks us to recognize ourselves. It’s the same as with great plays. Music is no less serious just because it is composed of tones, not words. One reads music just as deeply inside.
“When Nadia Boulanger played a Bach piece, even if it was the 60th time she played it, she was moved by some basic musical truths. As a twelve-year-old boy listening to her I felt a sense of wonder. I perceived, as I shall forever do, how deep the spiritual nature of music was. Music is created within a structure; Bach was a great architect. But that’s not why we listen; we listen because it tells a great story.
“Thinking about art and performing it are inseparable. Knowledge and instinct fuse into intuition. You need to study everything you can, but when you walk out and play you’re not reading a cookbook. You have to risk everything. If I have a new idea on stage during a performance I cannot resist the lure of trying it out then and there. I can’t help it. I may fall flat on my face, but there’s no question I’ll take that risk.”
Robert Levin studied piano with Louis Martin and composition with Stefan Wolpe in New York. He worked with Nadia Boulanger in Fontainebleau and Paris while still in high school, afterwards attending Harvard. Upon graduation he was invited by Rudolf Serkin to head the theory department of the Curtis Institute of Music, a post he left after five years to take up a professorship at the School of the Arts, SUNY Purchase. In 1979 he was Resident Director of the Conservatoire américain in Fontainebleau, France, at the request of Nadia Boulanger, and taught there from 1979 to 1983. From 1986 to 1993 he was Professor of Piano at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. President of the International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Akademie für Mozartforschung [Academy for Mozart Research] in Salzburg, he has been the Dwight P. Robinson, Jr. Professor of Music at Harvard since 1993. Levin will retire in 2014.
The Levin Prize in Musical Performance was established in 2013 in recognition of Robert Levin's unique contribution to musical life at Harvard. To read more about the Prize, which supports young performers at a critical time in their lives, please CLICK HERE.
Source: Harvard University Department of Music
Harvard University Department of Music
Iyer Joins Harvard Faculty
Vijay Iyer has won wide acclaim in the music world as a jazz pianist and a composer, has an academic resume that includes degrees from Yale University and the University of California at Berkeley, and has published in a number of scholarly journals. And now Iyer, who in January will become the first Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts in Harvard’s Department of Music, is in even more select company.
Harvard University Department of Music
Abbate Named University Professor
Carolyn Abbate, one of the world’s most accomplished and admired music historians, has been named to become a University Professor, Harvard’s highest honor for a faculty member. Her appointment as the Paul and Catherine Buttenwieser University Professor will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
Harvard University Department of Music
Tony-Award-Winner Jason Robert Brown appointed Blodgett Artist in Residence at Harvard
[Photo: USC School of Dramatic Arts]
The Harvard Department of Music and the Office for the Arts at Harvard are pleased to announce the appointment of Jason Robert Brown as Blodgett Artist-in-Residence during the spring of 2014. A celebrated American composer, Brown has been hailed as “one of Broadway’s smartest and most sophisticated songwriters since Stephen Sondheim” (Philadelphia Inquirer). He is known best as the award-winning composer and lyricist of the musical The Last 5 Years, and the Tony-award winning composer of Parade.
As an artist-in-residence at Harvard, Brown will participate in Professor Carol Oja’s seminar, “American Musical Theater,” as well as give master classes and workshops for Harvard students though the Office for the Arts Learning From Performers program. In addition, Brown’s music will be showcased in a concert/cabaret performance at the American Repertory Theater’s Oberon theater on March 27, 2014.
The New York Times refers to Brown as “a leading member of a new generation of composers who embody high hopes for the American musical.” The Last 5 Years was cited as one of Time Magazine’s 10 Best of 2001 and won Drama Desk Awards for Best Music and Best Lyrics, and has been adapted for the screen by Brown and director Richard LaGravenese. Brown won a 1999 Tony Award for his score to Parade, a musical written with Alfred Uhry and directed by Harold Prince, which subsequently won both the Drama Desk and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for Best New Musical. Brown is the winner of the 2002 Kleban Award for Outstanding Lyrics and the 1996 Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Foundation Award for Musical Theatre.
Additionally, Brown was conductor and orchestrator for Yoko Ono’s musical, New York Rock, at the WPA Theatre (on Capitol Records), and he orchestrated Andrew Lippa’s john and jen, Off-Broadway at Lamb’s Theatre. He has conducted and created arrangements and orchestrations for Liza Minnelli, John Pizzarelli, Tovah Feldshuh, and Laurie Beechman, and his songs, including the cabaret standard “Stars and the Moon,” have been performed and recorded by Audra McDonald, Betty Buckley, Karen Akers, Renée Fleming, Philip Quast, Jon Hendricks, and many others. Brown’s new Broadway musical The Bridges of Madison County, with a book by Marsha Norman based on Robert James Waller’s novel, opens next January, directed by Bartlett Sher and starring Kelli O’Hara.
The Blodgett Artist-in-Residence program of the Department of Music is made possible through a gift from Mr. and Mrs. John W. Blodgett, Jr. The program provides for visiting artists to lecture and perform in a variety of musical disciplines. Recent appointments have been Koo Nimo (Ghanaian music), Sir Harrison Birtwistle (composer), Neba Solo (Malian balafon musician), and jazz pioneer Geri Allen.
The Learning From Performers program of the Office for the Arts at Harvard (OFA) brings to Harvard professional artists in all disciplines who interact with students in a range of educational forums, many open to the public. Through this and other programs and services, the OFA supports student engagement in the arts and integrates the arts into University life.
READ: THE MAKING OF A MUSICAL. Jason Robert Brown, artist in residence, explains his craft, as his latest show runs on Broadway
Harvard University Department of Music
Future Looks Bright for Recent Alums
Recent graduates in music talk about their careers in and outside
of the arts
“According to the latest findings from a national survey of more than 33,000 arts alumni, arts graduates, including those who studied music performance, are likely to find jobs after graduation and use their education and training in their occupation.”—majoringinmusic.com
|Forrest O'Connor '10
||Aram Demirjian '08
||Ben Eisler '08
||Emily Richmond Pollack '06
||Lara Hirner '05
||Berenika Zakrzewski '05
According to a recent Strategic National Arts Alumni Project survey of more than 33,000 arts alumni, skills developed as arts majors are “applicable for any vocation and often provides opportunities for arts majors to be major contributors in any environment.” A large percentage of undergraduates with a music degree are successfully employed both in and outside the arts.
The Music Department’s alumni experience seems to square with this, as recent graduates report working in the arts, journalism, science, education and health, and cite their music concentration as a source of skills applicable to their professional lives. We asked some of our recent alumni weigh in on how their music concentration helps shape their careers. (Read the full interviews at www.music.fas.harvard.edu/undergraduate.html)
Forrest O’Connor ’10, co-founder, Concert Window
I co-founded and run a national live concert webcasting network. I actually met my co-founder, Dan Gurney, in a class I counted toward my concentration, so perhaps my job wouldn’t exist had I not chosen to study music! But the truth is that music pervades my job. Dan and I started Concert Window because we love music and wanted to create a new revenue stream for the industry. As an undergraduate, I learned how different people value different types of music, and that has helped us figure out how to present webcasts to the public, why some webcasts work and others don’t, and all the implications of making a musical event in one place immediately accessible to anyone in the world with an Internet connection.
Aram Demirjian ’08, Assistant Conductor, KSO
My primary responsibilities with the Kansas City Symphony are conducting the Pops, Family, Education and Outreach concerts, and covering all Classical Series concerts. My extracurricular activities at Harvard, particularly conducting BachSoc, were the best imaginable hands-on preparation for life as a professional conductor. My training in the Harvard Music Department prepared me for becoming a conductor better than I could have ever predicted as an undergrad, especially the theory classes. It sounds cliché, but all of that work—playing and analyzing Bach chorale upon Bach chorale, endless form and harmony exercises, and ear training practice—really pays off.
Ben Eisler ’08, Health Producer, CBS News
I oversee health coverage for CBS This Morning, a national news show. Music taught me how to listen to melodies, but also to sources, colleagues, and supervisors. Its tensions and structures have made me a better story teller. Its elements of performance have improved my ability to engage people. And perhaps most importantly, it has heightened my sensitivity to the human condition. It has in many ways made me who I am today.
Emily Richmond Pollock ’06, Assistant Professor, MIT
The first two years I was at Harvard, I pursued a joint concentration in music and social anthropology, but I came to be more and more interested in the history of Western music and especially in the history of opera, and I eventually decided to finish my degree in the music department alone. Sophomore tutorial in particular was a transformative experience for me, because it was in that course that I discovered all the wonderful music that I had never heard growing up as an oboist in orchestras. Harvard’s curriculum was phenomenal preparation for pursuing a PhD in music history. [Now] I teach music courses to undergraduates at MIT, including a music history survey, a symphonic repertoire course, and a course on opera. As a teacher and writer, not a day goes by that I don’t use the concepts and strategies I learned during my time in Harvard’s music department.
Lara Hirner ’05 Speech Language Pathologist
I work as a speech language pathologist in an adult acute care hospital (Massachusetts General Hospital). My career as a musician is what guided me to the field of speech pathology. I wanted to find a career that would wed my knowledge and training in voice with my interests in providing care. I also feel that my training in ethnomusicology and analysis of identity has helped foster another skill I use daily: cultural sensitivity and the value of difference, diversity, and belief systems when helping to facilitate health care decision making.
In addition to my work as a speech therapist, I continue to perform as a singer in a limited capacity. One of my favorite long-standing performance opportunities is my work as the soprano soloist for the New York City Ballet’s production of the West Side Story Suites. My performance career post-graduation was largely facilitated through connections I made at Harvard.
Berenika Zakrzewski ’05
Pianist, Arts Administration
I am a concert pianist and the music department at Harvard offered me the capacity to grow as a musician and scholar. I joined my music concentration with Government, as I wanted to see my place as an artist and musician in a context beyond myself. Music is a great connector of people and it functions as a conduit for social and economic progress in various fields.
Harvard University Department of Music
Internationally Acclaimed Parker Quartet Named Blodgett Quartet-in-Residence at Harvard University Music Department
The Harvard University Department of Music is delighted to announce that the Parker Quartet will become part of the music department teaching faculty at Harvard University beginning in the fall of 2014.
“Thanks to the Blodgett Artists-in-Residence Program, we have been fortunate to have had a Quartet-in-Residence for four weeks a year since 1985,” said Music Department chair Alexander Rehding. “However, the role of performance in the music department and the University has changed significantly, and this is the right time to bring professional musicians to campus as full-time residents. We are confident that the extended exposure to the string quartet will be highly beneficial to our students, especially our many talented undergraduate performers, allowing them to engage in the practice of chamber music on an unprecedented scale. We welcome the Parker Quartet to Harvard with immense pleasure.”
The renowned Parker Quartet (Daniel Chong, Ying Xue, violin; Jessica Bodner, viola; Kee-Hyun Kim, cello) will, as part of the expanded Blodgett residency, present free concerts each year for the general public and recitals as part of the Dean’s Noontime concert series. They will teach, participate in class demonstrations, read and perform student compositions, and coach Harvard undergraduate chamber ensembles in weekly master classes for Harvard credit. The Parker Quartet's full time presence in the program will allow for the expansion of the chamber music and performance study opportunities for students in the Harvard University Music Department.
Formed in 2002, the Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet has rapidly distinguished itself as one of the preeminent ensembles of its generation. The New York Times hailed the quartet as "something extraordinary," and the Boston Globe acclaims their "pinpoint precision and spectacular sense of urgency.” The quartet began touring on the international circuit after winning the Concert Artists Guild Competition as well as the Grand Prix and Mozart Prize at the Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition in France. Chamber Music America awarded the quartet the prestigious biennial Cleveland Quartet Award for the 2009-2011 seasons.
Performance highlights from recent seasons include appearances at Carnegie Hall, 92nd Street Y, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Library of Congress, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Wigmore Hall in London, Musikverein in Vienna, Monte Carlo Spring Festival, Seoul Arts Center, Rockport Chamber Music Festival, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festspiele in Germany, and San Miguel de Allende Festival in Mexico. The quartet recently collaborated with artists including Kim Kashkashian, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Anne-Marie McDermott, Shai Wosner, Jörg Widmann, and Claron McFaddon. In 2012 the Parker Quartet was the recipient of a Chamber Music America commissioning grant, enabling the ensemble to commission and premiere Capriccio, an hour-length work by American composer Jeremy Gill. This upcoming season includes return engagements to Carnegie Hall, Library of Congress, and Monte Carlo Spring Festival, performances of the Beethoven quartets on the Slee Series in Buffalo, and collaborations with Kikuei Ikeda of the now retired Tokyo String Quartet.
Successful early concert touring in Europe helped the quartet forge a relationship with Zig-Zag Territoires, which released their debut commercial recording of Bartók’s String Quartets Nos. 2 and 5 in July 2007. The disc earned high praise from numerous critics, including Gramophone: “The Parkers’ Bartók spins the illusion of spontaneous improvisation… they have absorbed the language; they have the confidence to play freely with the music and the instinct to bring it off.” The quartet’s second recording, of György Ligeti’s complete works for string quartet was released on Naxos in December 2009 to critical acclaim. This recording won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance.
Currently based in Boston, the Parker Quartet holds teaching and performance residencies at the University of South Carolina and the University of St. Thomas. From 2008 to 2013, the quartet spent much of its time in St. Paul, MN, where they served as Quartet-in-Residence with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (2008-2010), were the first-ever Artists-in-Residence with Minnesota Public Radio (2009-2010), and visiting artists at the University of Minnesota (2011-2012).
The Parker Quartet’s members hold graduate degrees in performance and chamber music from the New England Conservatory of Music and were part of the New England Conservatory’s prestigious Professional String Quartet Training Program from 2006-2008. Some of their most influential mentors include the Cleveland Quartet, Kim Kashkashian, György Kurtág, and Rainer Schmidt.
The Parker Quartet will begin their residency at Harvard in the fall of 2014 through the Blodgett Artist-in-Residence program, made possible through a gift from Mr. and Mrs. John W. Blodgett, Jr. The program is now in its 29th year.
Harvard University Department of Music
Silent to Synchronized Sound:
Hannah Lewis Explores Music in Early Sound Films
“I didn’t expect to work on film music at first,” says fifth-year graduate student Hannah Lewis. “I entered grad school interested in studying post-war American experimental music, particularly John Cage. But I decided to pursue a secondary field in Film and Visual Studies, since experimental art is often multimedia, and I became fascinated by the intersections between music and visual media.”
Lewis became especially interested in moments of technological change, which drew her to the transition from silent to synchronized sound film. This was, she believes, one of the most dramatic transformations in the history of cinema; it radically shifted the technology, practices, and aesthetics of filmmaking in a few short years.
“The role of music in film changed completely. When there was a live orchestra, organ, or piano accompanying silent film, the experience of moviegoing was partially a live experience. Once there was synchronized sound, the experience was entirely mediated, which meant that the spectator’s film-going experience was very different. But it also meant that the director suddenly had more control over music. Music could become an essential component of a film from its conception.”
Lewis began examining the transition both in the United States, where the development of synchronized sound first took place, and in France, where the shift was imposed, and whose filmmakers were particularly ambivalent about the transition.
“The French film director René Clair was originally a silent film director, and he used film to create what he called ‘visual poetry,’ or an ability to express through images, without language,” Lewis explains. “Clair was terrified when sound came; he didn’t want to destroy the magic of his film style with dialogue. But music, like silent film, could express without words. If you had music, he thought, you didn’t need to rely on dialogue.”
Clair’s reluctance to switch to sound is reflected in several of his films from the early 1930s, which incorporate music in provocative ways. They rely heavily on opera and operetta, and serve as both pointed critiques of existing filmmaking practices and alternative models for the sound-image relationship in film.
“Clair dealt directly with live musical theatrical forms,” says Lewis. “There’s an overt comment on the genre of opera in Le Million, for example. He makes fun of opera as being over-the-top, but still sees it as a genre that sound film could emulate, as well as one that can highlight what film does better than spoken plays.”
Sound film practices had basically solidified by 1934, leaving a brief eight years from the advent of synchronized sound to the time when sounds in movies most often took the “realistic” narrative form we are accustomed to. It is this brief period of experimentation that has become the focus of Lewis’s dissertation.
“There was an aesthetic unsettledness at that time; people understood music’s role in different ways. There wasn’t yet the assumption that we must see someone and hear his or her voice at the same time to seem natural. There could be an artificial connection. Clair, for example, filmed a chase scene to which he added the sound of crowds cheering at a rugby match. There was no attempt to represent reality; the sound made its own statement separately from the image.”
Lewis is researching films that have been overlooked by many scholars because they are considered to be transitional. She’s also looking into the differences between mainstream narrative films created and controlled by large studios and the experimental films of the period, where directors’ roles were closer to that of auteur.
“I’m looking at how different stakeholders influenced the musical decisions being made. Rouben Mamoulian, for example, was a stage director for opera and musicals, and that informed his cinematic work in ways that challenged standardized studio practices and distinguished him from other Hollywood directors of the period. It’s particularly evident in his film musical Love Me Tonight, with music by Rodgers and Hart, where he experimented with the different things that music can do.
In one scene, for instance, Maurice Chevalier sings a refrain that is picked up by various characters as they travel, first on a taxi cab, then a train, through the French countryside, until it is sung by Jeanette MacDonald. This required innovative camera editing and gave music, particularly song, a very powerful presence, integrating it into the narrative rather than giving it a frivolous role. [Armenian-born Mamoulian was one of biggest creative forces behind two American cultural icons: he directed both Porgy and Bess and Oklahoma.]
“French director Jean Vigo, on the other hand, was not widely recognized during his lifetime but subsequently had a significant impact on both French and American experimental film. He’s been hailed as a founder of poetic realism in film; but alongside his gritty, naturalistic style, he incorporated dreamlike, fantastical elements highlighting music’s magical qualities. For Vigo, music became a means of accessing a new, politically charged cinematic aesthetic. In a collaboration with film composer Maurice Jaubert, for example, he created a score for one of his films about an uprising of school boys, Zéro de Conduite. Jaubert composed the piece backwards, recorded it, and then reversed the recording. It sounds very dream-like; it’s an amazing, singular experimentation that foreshadows some of the practices of musique concrète in the 1950s. I’m fascinated by how music created more whimsy in Vigo’s cinematic world, alongside the politically subversive narrative content.
Famous pillow fight scene in Zero de Conduite
“As a completely different model, I am researching the early sound films produced by Warner Bros. using their new Vitaphone technology—an analog system in which the soundtrack was recorded on a 33 1/3 rpm phonograph record and played on a turntable while the film was being projected. I’m focusing on feature films from Don Juan (1926), the first Vitaphone feature film to contain a mechanically synchronized musical score, up to The Jazz Singer (1927), the first feature length film with synchronized dialogue. The changes in technology and music during the span of a single year were an important part of Warner Bros.’ attempts to articulate what the new medium could be.”
Lewis spent months in the French Bibliothèque Nationale looking at Clair’s shooting scripts, as well as in California at the UCLA Film and TV Archive. She worked with the USC Warner Bros. Archive, which holds a number of financial documents, contracts, and correspondence, and visited with Miles Kreuger, head of the Institute of the American Musical, who oversees that organization’s archive. Lewis worked at the Library of Congress with the Mamoulian papers, which only became available in 2009. She’s one of the early scholars to look at his work on Love me Tonight in the context of this new material.
“These early synchronized-sound film directors—Mamoulian, Clair, Vigo—had differing responses to sound and music in film,” summarizes Lewis. “Music could mean different things to different directors. In trying to define a new form for film there was more openness, and definitely more possibilities during this period of transition.”
Hannah Lewis’s dissertation is tentatively titled “New Possibilities For Sound: Music in Early Sound Film in the U.S. and France, 1926-1934.” She is the recipient of the AMS Harold Powers World Travel Grant, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History Term Time Research Grant, and the Oscar Shafer Award.
Harvard University Department of Music
Interview: Zachary Sheets ’13
Zachary Sheets is a joint concentrator with Romance Languages and Literatures. He is currently working on his senior thesis as well as a solo cello piece for Alan Toda-Ambaras, and has plans in the works with a contemporary music ensemble in Vermont and a wind quintet in Montreal. Sheets is a former president of the Harvard Composers Association, and a member of the HRO and Dunster House Opera Orchestra. He was awarded an Artist Development Fellowship from the Office for the Arts for summer 2012 study at the highSCORE Contemporary Music Festival, where he had a performance of his“What is on the End of a Feather” by the Quartetto Indaco, and at the Mozarteum Summer Academy with the French composer Pascal Dusapin.
Talk a bit about your thesis and how you combined your concentrations?
My thesis is a one-act opera, based on French and Francophone retellings of the myth of Medea. In a way, it is as much an “opera” as it is a song cycle with spoken dialogue interpolated; the interesting thing is the language divide. I took up a more classical idea of aria and recitative and applied it to the dialogue and songs, so I’ve chosen to have the dialogues spoken in English translation (my own), while the songs stay in their original French. The three versions I’m working with are by Pierre Corneille, a 17th century French playwright; Jean Anouilh, who wrote during and shortly after WWII; and Max Rouquette, a writer of French-Occitan descent who died in 2005. Paradoxically, it is the anachronism of combining the three texts that has elucidated precisely what is so timeless about Medea’s character.
Did you intend to concentrate in both areas when you came to Harvard or have you developed these interests over your time here?
I knew that I was going to study music in one way or another, as music is what I want to do with my life. French literature had always been an interest of mine, and I was fortunate enough to take two years of courses in literature at Dartmouth College while I was in high school (my hometown in Vermont bordered Hanover, NH). When it came time to declare a major, I had already taken so many courses in both that a joint concentration made the most sense. I also had the idea of a song-cycle or small-scale opera in mind as a possible senior thesis.
Has the undergraduate composition scene changed during your time here?
It has changed immeasurably. I joined the Harvard Composers Association as a freshman. Every meeting was different; sometimes twenty people showed up—one with a piano arrangement of ‘Happy Birthday,’ another with a dodecophonic composition for large orchestra—sometimes it was just a handful of people. We began to organize collaborations between student composers and student performers once a semester, and developed weekly masterclass-style meetings with our advisor, Edgar Barroso, who really helped us blossom into what we are today. We were very fortunate to receive funding from the Music Department and the OFA, and in March of 2012 put on a concert with the Juventas New Music Ensemble in Paine Hall. It was a huge success, I think, and the new board, led by Lydia Brindamour and Aviva Hakanoglu, has arranged to bring in the Callithumpian Consort for a concert of our work this February, which is tremendously exciting!
When do you compose? Do you have a regimen, or are you deadline-driven?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. Amnon Wolman, with whom I had the great privilege to work in the fall, talks a lot about the idea of composition as a skill that should be practiced daily, as an instrument. This is not necessarily how I work, but, in a way I’m never not working on something. Roger Reynolds, whom I also worked with, said that when we have a project we’re always thinking about it to some degree. A composer is never really divorced from thinking about sound or creation in one way or another. As nice as this sounds, real life gets in the way sometimes! Projects often require a big push toward their deadlines, especially since it’s important to be so exact and detailed in one’s notation. This takes time, so the piece better be intellectually and creatively squared away well in advance of when it needs to be sent to a player.
Do you write for specific musicians you know?
Very often, yes. While I’ve been at Harvard, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Bach Society Chamber Orchestra, the Brattle Street Chamber Players, the Harvard University Flute Ensemble, and a number of “pick-up” groups who have assembled to play my pieces at Harvard Composers Association Concerts. Many of these have been done with the specific players in mind.
You won the Bach Soc’s composition competition in 2010, then again in 2012—do you see a difference in your work over those two years?
My music has evolved exponentially. That’s the thing about being exposed to such a diverse and stimulating place like Harvard (not to mention having teachers like Chaya, Roger, or Amnon!): you grow and change and think so tremendously quickly. My first Bach Soc piece was an orchestration of a piece I wrote when I was 17 (a nice jazzy thing for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano), and my second piece was written for Professor Cortese’s orchestration class. It’s interesting for me to think about the trajectory from one to the other to now.
Who do you write for? Who inspires you?
I see beautiful things all the time: in nature, in literature, in other art, in philosophy, in whatever. Turning any of these compelling thoughts into music is a little bit different every time, and it’s rarely important that the inspirations are identifiable in the music. Generative principles are funny things—the most fragile and ineffable we deal with as artists. In terms of who I write for, I think Bernard Rands, a former faculty member here, has a beautiful answer to that question: “I never think, in a sense, about writing for an audience, because I don’t know who they are. I only assume that like me, they’re human, they have all the frailties of humanity; they have aspirations, they have disappointments, they have nostalgic memories of when they heard one piece or another, but collectively we don’t know who they are. They are as many people as are in that hall, and they will hear the piece that many times, all differently from each other.”
Harvard University Department of Music
Fromm Foundation at Harvard: Celebrating 60 Years of New Music
Concerts, April 12, 13 at 8pm in Paine Hall (free)
The 2012-13 year marks the 40th anniversary of the Fromm Contemporary Music Foundation at Harvard (1972) and the 60th anniversary of the Foundation itself (1952). In celebration, the Music Department has programmed two free concerts by the Fromm Players at Harvard on April 12 and 13, 2013, with the renowned music ensemble SOUND ICON, conducted by Jeffrey Means. These concerts, entitled Celebrating 60 Years of the Fromm Foundation (1952-2012), will be held in John Knowles Paine Concert Hall and devoted to works commissioned by the Fromm Foundation over the years: music by Luciano Berio, Elliott Carter, Lee Hyla, Leon Kirchner, Liza Lim, Bruno Maderna, Karola Obermüller (world premiere), Gunther Schuller, and Barbara White. In addition, an exhibit created from the archived, but largely unexplored, Fromm personal papers is currently on display in the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library.
The Fromm Foundation is the legacy of Paul Fromm (1906-1987), one of the most significant patrons of contemporary art music in the U.S. in the second half of the twentieth century. He was an emigrant from Nazi Germany who personally (and later, his foundation) commissioned hundreds of composers for new works, including major figures of 20th-century music. At a time when few women composers received major commissions, Fromm supported the work of Joan Tower, Betsy Jolas, and Shulamit Ran, and let it be known that supporting female creativity was one of the Foundation’s goals. Since Fromm moved his Foundation to Harvard in 1972, the Fromm Foundation has continued to commission new works from 12-15 composers a year.
The Boston-based Sound Icon is well-known for groundbreaking performances of new music. Their sinfonietta-sized ensemble offers the colors of a full orchestra alongside the flexibility and precision of a chamber ensemble.
Library Exhibit, open through May 2
In addition to the two concerts, a library exhibit, Composing the Future: The Fromm Foundation and the Music of Our Time, is currently open to the public, curated by members of Professor Anne Shreffler's Fall 2012 graduate seminar on the Fromm Foundation.
The Fromm Music Foundation forged patronage networks that supported some of the most significant compositions, journals, performing ensembles, and recordings in the landscape of contemporary American music in the second half of the twentieth century.
The Foundation's voluminous archival holdings in Harvard libraries (115 boxes) offer a treasure trove of unexplored information about contemporary concert music in America.
The exhibit highlights the Fromm Foundation's activities by focusing on four themes: "Patronage Networks," "Homage to Fromm" (his 70th, 75th, and 80th birthday celebrations), "Making a Modern Canon," and "The Princeton Seminars in Advanced Musical Studies." The exhibition features musical scores, correspondence, recordings, programs, photographs, recordings, and other documents by figures including John Adams, Luciano Berio, Elliott Carter, Lou Harrison, Barbara Kolb, Gunther Schuller, and Roger Sessions, and includes gems such as the unique photo of a Fromm-hosted social gathering, below.
On couch: Earle Brown, Matthias Kriesberg, Ingram Marshall, Ben Johnston, Bernard Rands, Jacob Druckman, Joan Tower, Morton Subotnik, Paul Fromm. Floor: Alvin Lucier. Standing: James Tenny, Luciano Berio
Harvard University Department of Music
The Harvard University Department of Music celebrates the renovation and reopening of Paine Hall, classrooms, and sate-of-the-art practice rooms with a concert featuring the composition of its founder, John Knowles Paine.
Feburary 24, 2012 at 5:00 pm in John Knowles Paine Concert Hall
Pre-concert mini-talks by Dr. Evan MacCarthy and Professor Anne Shreffler on the music and legacy of Paine
January, 2012: Renovation of the music building this past year has resulted in new, state-of-the-art practice rooms, upgraded classrooms, and modernized heating and cooling of John Knowles Paine Concert Hall.
In celebration, the Music Department is hosting a performance of a recently-premiered work by its founder and Portland, Maine native, John Knowles Paine. The manuscript score of Paine's String Quartet in D Major, Op. 5 (1855), was made available to the Portland String Quartet by Houghton Library, and was premiered by the quartet in 2011. Also on the program is Quartet No.1 by Harvard composer and former Music Department chair, Walter Piston.
"We are convinced that this work should become recognized as an important part of America's music history,"writes Julia Adams, violist of the Portland String Quartet. "For complex part writing, beautiful melodic content and a mastery of classical forms, this work demonstrates why a young lad of 16 from Portland, Maine, was to become through his dedicated career at Harvard 'the dean of American music."'
Paine Hall was the subject of a recent booklet by the late Professor Reinhold Brinkmann [read or download the booklet here], and was named for Harvard's first music professor, who chaired the new department from1871 when music was established as an academic study through his death in 1906. The concert hall has a long and storied history, but has never seen the performance of a work by its namesake until now.
The public is invited to the concert and to a reception immediately afterwards in the Taft Lounge.
About the Portland String Quartet
Coming together from musical training at Curtis, Eastman, Indiana, Juilliard and Oberlin, the Portland String Quartet has played an important role in the artistic renaissance of the City of Portland and the State of Maine, championing Maine and American composers both nationally and internationally. Their recordings span the repertoire from Bach to living composers. Of particular note are the complete string quartets and piano quintets of George Whitefield Chadwick, Ernest Bloch and Walter Piston for which they have received “Best Recording of the Year” commendations from The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
Concert tours throughout Europe, Latin America and Japan, in addition to music river cruises to Europe’s major cultural destinations are international highlights of their career. Annual String Quartet Workshops for professionally aspiring young students and adult amateur players attract students from all over Maine and New England and as far away as Russia, Japan, Israel, and many countries in Latin America. Since l976 the Portland String Quartet has worked extensively with two generations of musicians from Venezuela’s internationally renowned Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra.
About John Knowles Paine
Besides receiving a solid training in music theory and musicianship in his native Portland, Maine, Paine had become a formidable organ virtuoso. His performances of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach were held in especially high regard; more and more, the professional critics recognized Paine’s extraordinary musicianship. In 1861, immediately after his return from the obligatory studies in Europe (in the mid-nineteenth century still primarily in Germany) Paine accepted the prestigious position as the organist at Boston’s Old West Church; the job included teaching organ, piano, and music theory (composition). Harvard reacted promptly and offered Paine the position of “teacher of sacred music.” Once he was associated with Harvard as an instructor in 1862, Paine’s goal was to establish the study of music as a full-fledged University department. This did not happen without opposition among the faculty, the loudest from Professor Francis Parkman, a well-known historian who, in meetings of the Corporation, used to proclaim: “musica delenda est” (music must be destroyed).
Against all adverse circumstances, Paine succeeded, establishing a music curriculum, courses for credit, and advocating for the position of music within the University, as well as a constant need for space. John Knowles Paine was not able to experience the fulfilment of his professional dreams: the Music Building, which would have been the capstone of his work at and for Harvard, was finally realized in 1914, eight years after his death in 1906. Paine had discussed the project with the inner circle of the Department so intensely and in such detail that it is safe to say the 1914 building in fact still realized his ideas.