Fall 2015 Lecture Circuit

Here’s a run-down of the papers that musicology and theory faculty and students are delivering this fall:

DunbarDouglassRecital_1901Marian Wilson Kimber presented a paper, “Li’l Brown Baby: Paul Laurence Dunbar, Dialect Verse, and Musically-Accompanied Recitation by Women” at the fall meeting of the Midwest Chapter of the American Musicological Society in Chicago.  The paper explored the use of music in the spoken-word performances of the African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, and role that the widespread popularity of his poetry with female elocutionists and composers played in its reception. Historical Dunbar and Douglass poster courtesy Ohio History Center, Columbus Ohio.

Cage ca. 1950

Cage ca. 1950

Jennifer Iverson presented a paper, “Preparing Electronic Music” at the national meeting of the Society for Music Theory in St. Louis. The paper explored the reception of John Cage‘s prepared piano music in West Germany between 1952-54. Before the aleatory debates of the later 1950s, Cage’s prepared piano had a profound effect on both the sound and the temporal structure of early WDR electronic music.


Kelsey McGinnis

Kelsey McGinnis

Kelsey McGinnis, a PhD student in musicology, gave a presentation titled “Intersections: Music, Human Rights, and Cultural Diplomacy in an Iowa POW Camp” at the International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy in the United Nations. The conference was hosted at the United Nations headquarters and other UN consulates in New York, bringing together academic and political professionals. Kelsey presented her work on the musical activities of German POWs in Iowa during WWII as a case study in the history of U.S. cultural diplomacy.

Iverson is Stanford External Faculty Fellow

Hoover Tower at Stanford University

Hoover Tower at Stanford University

Jennifer Iverson, assistant professor of music theory, has won an External Faculty Fellowship from the Stanford Humanities Center. Iverson is one of ten external fellows selected from a pool of over four hundred applicants, making this one of the most competitive and prestigious residential fellowships in the nation. In a happy coincidence, a second University of Iowa professor, Blaine Greteman, is also in the 2015-16 Stanford cohort. A College of Liberal Arts and Sciences article about that is here.

Iverson will spend the year in Palo Alto working on her book project, Electronic Inspirations: The WDR Studio and Musical Thought at Mid-Century. Her research elucidates the impact of the WDR (West German Radio) studio and its music on the post-war European musical avant-garde in the critical decades of the 1950s and 1960s. The WDR in Cologne quickly became a new music mecca due to robust government funding for its electronic studio and related concert series and broadcasts. It is a crucial but so far overlooked institution for the pan-European post-war musical avant-garde. The rise of electronic music at mid-century is deeply engaged with broader cultural questions about the role of technology in institutions, art, and life. Electronic Inspirations shows how the electronic music made at the WDR drove the development of mid-century classical music, and shaped the proliferation of technology in post-war culture more broadly.

Stanford Humanities Center

Stanford Humanities Center

The fellowship represents an incredible and rare opportunity for focused research and writing within a community of top-notch humanities scholars. This broader humanities context is quite desirable, as Iverson and Matthew Arndt found during their tenure as fellows-in-residence at the Obermann Center at the University of Iowa. As Iverson explains, “More and more, I find that feedback on my writing and my ideas from those trained in the humanities, but not necessarily in music theory or musicology, is extremely insightful and valuable.” Iverson will return to teaching at the University of Iowa in Fall 2016.

Christopher Jette Joins Faculty as Grant Wood Fellow

Composer Christopher Jette is joining us this year as a Grant Wood Fellow.  Jette considers himself “a curator of lovely sounds” and has a special focus on the artistic possibilities at the intersection of human performers/creators and technological tools. Jette’s personal website contains videos, scores, and many sound samples of his work, like video included below of his recent electro-acoustic work utuquq (2014) for piano, kinect sensor, and live electronics. Characteristic of Jette’s multifaceted aesthetics, utuquq draws together recorded walrus sounds, the ridge lines of the White Mountains, and technological processes controlled by human gestures. In addition to creating new work, he will direct the Laptop Orchestra of the University of Iowa (see the earlier post about LOUI here). Jette will also teach Composition, Composition Seminar, and co-teach Collaborative Performance with faculty from the Department of Dance.

Welcome Professor Jette!

Faculty Summer Research 2015

Musicology, Music Theory, and Composition faculty members have been hard at work during the summer months developing their scholarly and creative projects.

Ananuri, Georgia


Matthew Arndt (Music Theory) went on a trip to Georgia in order to learn more about Georgian music. In particular, Dr. Arndt took a Cultural Heritage Tour through western Georgia led by John Graham, an expert on Georgian music. He heard lots of folk and sacred music, and obtained various chant books and recordings. The picture at the left shows Ananuri, a castle on the Aragvi River in Georgia.

Michael Eckert (Composition and Theory) is celebrating the release of his new CD Brazilian Dreams: Music of Michael Eckert. The album features Dr. Eckert’s original compositions in the chôro style with performers the Unison Piano Duo, Amanda McCandless (clarinet), and Polina Khatsko (piano). A genre of Brazilian popular music that developed in Rio de Janeiro in the late nineteenth century, chôro has its roots in a performance style for social dances such as the polka, mazurka, waltz, and maxixe, combining harmonic and formal features of European music with Afro-Brazilian rhythms. The album is available on the MSR Classics website and on Amazon now (MS 1549), with the retail release scheduled for October 2015.

Lawrence Fritts (Composition) is performing micro-surgery on up-close recordings of a male theatre student’s dramatic speaking voice for a new piece.  He is also supervising a $70,000 major upgrade to the University of Iowa’s Electronic Music Studios, which are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.

Christine Getz (Musicology) spent significant time this summer doing archival research in Milan, Italy. There, she promoted her book chapter titled “Music in the 16th and 17th Centuries” in a history volume, A Companion to Late Medieval and Early Modern Milan: The Distinctive Features of an Italian State, edited by Andrea Gamerini and published by Brill, a publishing house known for its international focus. A formal, televised presentation of the book was held on June 8 at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, a historic library in Milan. A panel of well-known historians discussed the importance of the book and its content. The two chapters on music, one of which was penned by Getz, were among those discussed at length by the Italian intellectuals.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands


Jennifer Iverson (Music Theory) spent five weeks abroad in April and May, visiting Cologne, Kuerten, Basel, Amsterdam, and The Hague. Dr. Iverson is researching a book about the WDR electronic music studio, and its impacts on the Darmstadt avant-garde in the 1950s-60s. This involves studying correspondence, sketches, and scores from archives such as the Stockhausen Foundation (Kuerten) and the Paul Sacher Foundation (Basel). A highlight of the trip was a lengthy formal interview with Gottfried Michael Koenig, a pioneer of electronic and computer music. Koenig served as the technician for Stockhausen’s Gesang der Jünglinge as well as many other of the early WDR works, and then expertly led the electronic and computer music innovations at the Institute of Sonology in the Netherlands for more than twenty years. The interview will be published in issue 276 of Tempo. The picture at the left shows the canals of Amsterdam.

Platte at the British Library

British Library

Nathan Platte‘s (Musicology) summer activities included a trip to Los Angeles, where he visited UCLA’s Special Collections and the Margaret Herrick Library to conduct research on film composer Max Steiner’s early years in Hollywood. In July Dr. Platte participated in an international conference at the British Library that investigated the opportunities and challenges facing researchers working in audio-visual archives. The program included presentations, round-table discussions, and film screenings. An interview with film composer Ilan Eshkeri about his score for Still Alice (2014) included live performances by the piano quartet heard on the film’s soundtrack. Dr. Platte served on the conference’s program committee, shared a research paper about Max Steiner’s savvy navigation of the Hollywood studio system, and offered a position paper during the round-table discussion. The picture at the left shows Platte at the British Library.

Zack Stanton (Composition and Theory) has been working on a commission for the Midfest Band Festival at the University of Georgia. It is an honor band festival that takes place in December for the best middle school bands in that region. Lest you think that a middle school band piece is a piece of cake, Stanton reports, “You can’t imagine how difficult it is to write for middle schoolers.” Dr. Stanton also is hard at work on two future commissions from solo performers.

Marian Wilson Kimber (Musicology) received a second (!) publication subvention for her forthcoming book, Feminine Entertainments: Women, Music, and the Spoken Word (University of Illinois Press), from the AMS 75 PAYS Endowment of the American Musicological Society, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Wilson Kimber’s new article, “Ringing Bells in Accompanied Recitation and Musical Melodrama,” appears in The Hidden Soundtrack of the Long Nineteenth Century, special issue of Journal of Musicological Research 34, no. 3 (2015): 249–265. The article describes how, due to the prevalence of bells in poetry performed by late-nineteenth-century elocutionists, melodramatic compositions frequently included bell sounds to create poetic meanings surrounding the passage of time, religious rituals, and death.

Harvey, Iverson, and Platte Organize First Annual “Front Porch Music Festival”

Zack Stanton and Trevor Harvey playing in the open jam

Zack Stanton and Trevor Harvey playing in the open jam

Trevor Harvey (ethnomusicology), Jennifer Iverson (music theory), and Nathan Platte (musicology) and their families collaborated to host the first annual Front Porch Music Festival on Saturday June 20 2015. The festival encouraged residents of the Longfellow neighborhood in Iowa City to play music together on their front porches. An open jam (pictured above) ran concurrently through the length of the festival. “All are welcome to play, whether you consider yourself a ‘real musician’ or not,” said co-organizer Iverson. “We expect to see everyone from 2-year-olds with homemade percussion instruments to professional cellists.” Indeed, the diverse line-up of performers included young piano students, youth folk trio the Skipperlings, various small ensembles including banjo, guitar, dulcimer, cello, piano, flute, trombone, and voice, wind quintet LIROS, the inter-generational choir Family Folk Machine, and a rock band.

The organizers were inspired by Platte’s previous experience with a similar festival, the Water Hill Festival, in Ann Arbor, MI and Make Music Day on June 21, a world-wide celebration of music-making. As Harvey points out, “Making music together can and should be an important aspect of sharing a neighborhood, a community, a culture.” Though Harvey, Iverson, and Platte now practice ‘academic’ music professionally—-teaching about historical, structural, and cultural aspects—-they all trained as performers for a large portion of their lives. “It was fun to get back to performing and playing,” Platte said. Platte and other performers are featured in a local news video segment from KCRG Channel 9. The organizers plan to make the festival an annual celebration.

Wilson Kimber, Cook, and Others Honored by Society for American Music

elocution and the 19th century American woman

elocution and the 19th century American woman

The Society for American Music has recently chosen musicologist Marian Wilson Kimber as the recipient of a publication subvention–an award that will defray the costs of publishing a book–for her monograph Feminine Entertainments: Women, Music and the Spoken Word (forthcoming from University of Illinois Press). The H. Earle Johnson Publication Subvention is “intended to support the costs of the publication of a significant monograph on an important topic in American Music.”  This is quite a significant award, as SAM awards only two subventions per year of $2500 each. Wilson Kimber’s book offers a detailed look at the under examined, gendered practice of elocution in the 19th century. She shows that elocution was a touchstone for women’s participation in a host of creative literary, dramatic, musical and dance activities. Wilson Kimber uniquely reveals the 19th-century American woman to have used the art of the spoken word not just for artistic and musical expression but also as a space to exert moral and cultural authority. At the same meeting, music theorist Robert Cook received an honorable mention for the Irving Lowens Memorial Article Award for his article “The Vocal Ecology of Crumb’s Crickets” in JSAM volume 7. An earlier post about that article is here.

Current and former University of Iowa faculty and students also made strong research presentations. At the conference’s opening session, School of Music Assistant Professor Nathan Platte presented new historical findings on the “Tara” theme from Gone With the Wind. Alumna Katheryn Lawson (MA, Musicology, 2013) hosted a discussion panel titled “Childhood and American Music.” Alumnus Michael Accinno (MA, Musicology, 2010) presented a paper on musical activity at the Perkins School for the Blind in the nineteenth century. At a special ceremony that featured a performance of his Piano Trio, UI alumnus Olly Wilson (Ph.D., Composition, 1964) received an Honorary Membership Award from the Society for his “inestimable contributions to American musical culture through his compositions, his teaching, and his championing of African-American music.” Further news about Iowa contributions at the 2015 SAM meeting are here.

Hearty congratulations to Professors Wilson Kimber, Cook, Platte, and other University of Iowa affiliates for such strong work in American music!

Kati Meyer presents at Royal Music Association Student Conference

Kati Meyer, a PhD candidate in Music Theory, traveled to Bristol, UK to give a paper at the RMA Student Conference January 8-10, 2015. The three day conference featured three keynote addresses (Bettina Varwig, Janet Topp Fargion, and Rachel Beckles Willson)  as well as a variety of topics from aspiring music scholars primarily from the UK, and from around the globe. Kati’s paper, ‘I Hope You Don’t Mind That I Put Down in Words’: The Cognitive Strategies in the Music of Elton John, was well attended and well received by her peers at this exciting conference.


Victoria Rooms Music Building, University of Bristol, UK


Iowa faculty featured in The Journal of the Society for American Music

The Journal of the Society for American Music (JSAM) has recently published three articles by Iowa faculty and alumnus, all of which have graced the journal’s covers:



Robert C. Cook, Associate Professor, Music Theory, University of Iowa. “The Vocal Ecology of Crumb’s Crickets,” JSAM 7, no. 2 (May 2013)







Nikki Malley, Ph.D., Musicology, University of Iowa (2012), Associate Professor of Music at Knox College. “A Sale You Can Dance To: Entrainment, Flexibility, and Improvisation in the Metric Practice of the American Auctioneer,” JSAM 7, no. 3 (August 2013)





Nathan Platte, Assistant Professor, Musicology, University of Iowa. “Before Kong was King: Competing Methods in Hollywood Underscore,” JSAM 8, no. 3 (August 2014)





In addition, Marian Wilson Kimber, Associate Professor of Musicology, University of Iowa, who is completing a book on the role of women in the creation of American melodrama, contributed a review of the newly-released CD The Music of William C. Wright in JSAM 8, no. 2 (May 2014).

Iowa Faculty Present at AMS/SMT Milwaukee

Faculty members are making a strong showing at the 2014 joint national conference of the AMS (American Musicological Society) and SMT (Society for Music Theory) in Milwaukee. Join us at the following papers during the conference, which runs November 6-9 2014.

Robert C. Cook, “A Timbral Ecology of the Heiliger Dankgesang,Friday Nov. 7, 9:30-10:15 p.m. (W:101A)

Marian Wilson Kimber, “Kitty Cheatham, Classical Music, Spirituals, and the Career of a Professional Child,” Saturday Nov. 8, 4:15-5:00 p.m. (W:101B)

Jennifer Iverson, “The Disabled Body in Babbitt’s Philomel and Wishart’s Red Bird,” on special session Recasting Music: Body, Mind, AbilitySaturday Nov. 8, 9:30-10:30 p.m. (H:Juneau)