My research interests lie primarily in contemporary film and video game music, tonal and post-tonal analysis, popular music in media, the digital humanities, and the history of music theory. I am currently at work on three primary projects: a book manuscript dealing with the use of recomposition throughout the history of music theory; an exploration of musical style in video game soundtracks (with a particular interest on interpretations of both modernist and popular styles in game soundtracks); and an exploration of solo cover songs on YouTube. For more information on my work, see my Academia.edu page.
News & Recent Work:
- My paper "Music Theory and the Epistemology of the Internet; or, Analyzing Music Under the New Thinkpiece Regime," has been accepted for a special issue on Music Analysis, Politics, and Culture, in the journal Analitica: Rivista online di studi musicali. The paper examines the recent phenomenon of pop music analyses appearing on websites like Slate and Vox, and will appear sometime this spring.
- In early January 2018, I published a short essay at Musicology Now on singer-songwriter Kawehi's interpretation of Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box," and the larger genre of solo YouTube covers.
- Also in January 2018, I presented a paper about hard rock tropes and compositional techniques in the soundtracks of Capcom's early (1987 - 1993) Mega Man games, at the fifth annual North American Conference on Video Game Music in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A video of the talk is available here.
- In November 2017, I presented a paper on Hans Keller's system of "Functional Analysis" at the annual meeting of the Society for Music Theory in Arlington, Virginia. You can read the full typescript of the paper here.
- In September 2017, I presented a paper on Amy Beach's "Hermit Thrush" pieces at a conference devoted to Beach, Teresa Carreño, and their contemporaries, at the University of New Hampshire.
- In June 2017, I published a short essay on the music of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Find it on Musicology Now, the official blog of the American Musicological Society: "Diegetic Music, Mythmaking, and the Heroic Theme in Guardians of the Galaxy."
- In April 2017, I published a paper based on some of my dissertation research in the Newsletter of the Mozart Society of America. You can find the supplemental materials here.
- I defended my dissertation in April 2017, and have posted my public talk online: read it here. The full dissertation is forthcoming online, once I complete my "director's cut" by replacing some fuzzy figures that snuck into the final draft.
Book Project: Recomposition in Music Theory
I am currently at work on a book manuscript entitled Recomposition in Music Theory. Building off of my dissertation research, the project explores how scholars, critics, and pedagogues from Rameau to the present have often recomposed music in order to prove their arguments. These theoretical recompositions take many forms. Some are offered as corrections, as in the famous case of Mozart's "Dissonance" Quartet (K. 465). Others are hypothetical, meant to propose prototypical models for unusual passages, to make arguments about the composer’s process or intent (as a kind of “sketch study in reverse”), or to clarify a given theorist’s own ideas. In the early 1800s, for example, critics corrected dissonant passages in Mozart’s music because such aberrations did not fit into the popular image of the effortless and genial master, while the controversial BBC radio personality Hans Keller broadcasted his own didactic versions of famous pieces in the 1950s, hoping to educate British audiences about the compositional processes of famous composers. While theoretical recompositions have been a tool of music theorists since the 1700s, and are common in teaching and scholarly writing today, they have rarely been studied for their own sake. As paratextual images that accompany analytical prose, recompositions—and musical examples in general—have often escaped scrutiny, taking on immense rhetorical force by pure indexicality: “As Figure 1 demonstrates…” Or, as in cases like Keller’s radio experiments, recompositions are ignored as mere curiosities. Drawing together scholarship about musical borrowing, authorship, and influence with reflections on analysis and music theory pedagogy (both historical and contemporary), my book will read recompositions as the result of individual and idiosyncratic encounters with music. I argue that in their use of music notation and their ability to tacitly summarize several steps of an argument, recompositions encode aesthetic values that are rarely evident from the prose they accompany. Finally, approaching the topic from another angle, I describe a more general recompositional impulse that underlies such disparate topics as intertextuality, the perception and analysis of musical form, and the enharmonic tricks of 19th-century composers like Wagner, Schubert, and the Schumanns.
Film and Multimedia
Along with my interests in the history of music theory and the philosophy/methodology of music analysis, I am active in film and video game music studies. I am especially interested in interactivity in music and games, and in ways in which video game soundtracks have been influenced by avant garde and modernist tendencies on one hand, and by popular music on the other. My upcoming paper at the North American Video Game Conference (University of Michigan, January 2018) explores pop music as a metaphor for listening to 1980s game soundtracks. I have also presented research on David Key and Ed Kanaga's experimental game Proteus (NACVGM 2014), and helped to co-convene an interactive "poster session" on current approaches to video game music at the 2014 joint meeting of AMS and SMT in Milwaukee. In 2015, I presented a paper on Leonard Rosenman's partially atonal score for the James Dean film East of Eden (1955) at the annual American Musicological Society meeting in Louisville, KY. All of these papers are part of a larger project, which will examine how popular culture has borrowed and transformed the materials and tendencies of modernist composition, and repackaged them for popular consumption.
I have a longstanding interest in the relationship between music and play--the other side of "ludomusicology," if you will--and am currently developing an essay for publication based on a pair of conference presentations from a few years ago.
I have also taken an interest in the history and development of David Lewin's transformational theory. I spent a few days working in the Lewin archives at the Library of Congress in 2014, and in my spare time I enjoy tracking down various pieces of Lewiniana at Harvard. I recently finished writing a review of David Lewin's Morgengruss: Text, Context, Commentary (Oxford, 2015), edited by Richard Cohn and David Bard-Schwarz, which will appear in the journal Music Theory and Analysis in 2018.