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Musicology Distinguished Lectures

The Univ. of Michigan Department of Musicology is delighted to announce the full schedule for this academic year's Distinguished Lecture Series.

Unless otherwise noted, all talks are scheduled on Fridays at 5 p.m. and held in Watkins Hall of the Moore Building (please note that unlike in years past, our lectures now take place on North Campus).

Fall 2015

September 25

Prof. Glenn Watkins (University of Michigan)

“The Composer and the Musicologist: Writing History Together”

This lecture will consider some of the ways in which the musicologist and composer reviewed history together in the 20th century. I will examine how the musicologist, working frequently in tandem with the composer, retrieved the sounds of both culturally and chronologically unfamiliar repertoires and helped to revitalize them for a new age.

October 9 (4:30 p.m.)

Barbara Haws (NY Philharmonic),
“A Vision of Public Musicology: How Musicians, Composers, and Scholars Can Use Local Performance Histories to Connect to their Communities”

So much of our focus in music history is on the life, time and culture of the composer that we overlook how, why and when seminal works are performed in a particular community. Relating local performance history to a community’s broader history and culture not only provides a better understanding of that community, but it forges unique bonds between the community and the music that was previously thought to be from somewhere else. Barbara Haws has been the Archivist and Historian of the New York Philharmonic since 1984 and will discuss how she has gone about relating the Philharmonic’s concert experience to the broader cultural life of the city.

This lecture is co-sponsored by the UMS and the American Music Institute.

October 23

Prof. Dinko Fabris (Università della Basilicata and Conservatorio di Napoli, President IMS)

“Gesualdo: A Renaissance Myth for the Third Millenium. A Tribute to Glenn Watkins"

The figure of Carlo Gesualdo, prince of Venosa (1566-1613), has fascinated Glenn Watkins since his pioneering first critical edition of Gesualdo’s extraordinary sacred music in the early 1960s, a project that garnered the enduring admiration of the like-minded Igor Stravinsky. In his recent masterwork, The Gesualdo Hex (2010), Watkins scrutinizes all the interrelations among “Music, Myth, and Memory” in the so-called “Gesualdo saga.” His insights reflect some fifty years of tracing and contemplating the strands of the Gesualdo tapestry. The eccentric personality of a sixteenth-century southern-Italian aristocrat, the violent murders he committed, and the superstitions and fanaticism that have arisen ever since around this supposed honor-killing founded in erotic romantic love---these are inextricably woven into Watkins’ consideration of the reception of Gesualdo’s stunning music. Gesualdo’s status as perceived outlier, together with his harmonic daring, attracted avant-garde composers, who claimed the moody Neapolitan prince as a beloved hero. His story and his music fascinated important composers such as Stravinsky, Schoenberg, d’Avalos, Schnittke, and Sciarrino; the conductor Claudio Abbado; and the cinematographers Bertolucci and Herzog. The recent production of Gesualdo, an opera by Bo Holten, is among at least a dozen new theatrical works about the mythical Gesualdo produced by contemporary composers.

In this lecture in honor of Emeritus Professor Glenn E. Watkins, Fabris, a prolific historian of Neapolitan music and general editor of the new Gesualdo Opera Omnia, will scrutinize the most recent biographical and musical findings concerning Gesualdo, prince of Venosa, and his “Hex,” while underlining the essential nature of Watkins’ contribution to the critical discovery, understanding, and relocation of Gesualdo’s music within global musical culture at the start of the third millennium.


November 20

Prof. Michael Figueroa (University of North Carolina)

“’It is No Dream, My Friend’: Music and the Narrative Presence of War in Israeli Society”

My lecture will explore the history of war music in Israel, with a focus on how musicians have helped facilitate postwar catharsis in public rituals of commemoration. Of special concern will be the ethnographic and experiential dimensions of these performances, as I examine how Israelis musically remember times of war and internalize a sense of personal agency within national narratives of the violent past.

Winter 2016

February 19

Prof. Holly Watkins (Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester)

“On Not Letting Sounds Be Themselves”

Taking biosemiotics as its point of departure, this paper argues that the modernist notion of “sounds themselves” (developed by nature-loving composers such as John Cage and John Luther Adams) articulates not closeness to nature but distance from it. The paper charts alternative common ground between music and natural sound based on the semiotic character of both.

March 18

Prof. Thomas Irvine (University of Southampton)

“A.B. Marx, Hegel and the Challenge of Chinese Music History"

Friedrich Hegel is credited with providing the theory to go with the idea that history is like a river flowing towards a better present. This talk examines how this worked in the emerging field of music history in the first decades of the nineteenth century using the problem of Western narratives of Chinese music history as an example. I will trace the development of a perspective implied in Johann Nikolaus Forkel’s fundamental rejection of Chinese music in the 1780s towards A.B. Marx's article on Chinese music in Schilling’s Universal-Lexikon der Tonkunst. Marx, better known for his writings on Beethoven and musical form than for his interest in global music history, is strangely ambivalent about China. The important place of music to Chinese statecraft, for instance, wins his undivided respect. Nonetheless, Marx’s writings on China are an important early statement of the Hegelian position that Western music history is the ‘right path.’ At the conclusion of this talk I reflect on the extent to which our own practice—as historians, music historians and ethnomusicologists—still reflects this (untenable) position.

Lecture co-sponsored by the Confucius Institute of the University of Michigan.

This lecture is co-sponsored by the Confucius Institute of the University of Michigan.

April 8

Prof. Jane Bernstein (Tufts University)

“Spectacular Matters and Print Culture: Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione di anima et di corpo"

Of all Italian music publications, Rappresentatione di anima e di corpo (1600) was by far the most innovative and extravagant music edition printed up to that time. Its composer, Emilio de’ Cavalieri was an aristocrat, who, like Gesualdo, defied conventions of his time. Much has been written about the place of Cavalieri’s music drama with regard to the history of opera, oratorio, and the new recitative style, but other important aspects of this revolutionary score have been overlooked, in particular the novelty of the edition itself. This paper will focus on the materiality of the music print; it will also explore the importance of the print medium as a tool to broadcast not only the music, but also significant elements of the production and spectacle.

Past Musicology Lectures


Interdisciplinary Music Forum

IMF is a Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop that fosters conversation among faculty and graduate students who work with music in their research. Lectures are open to all, and workshops are intended for graduate students. For more information, please contact Patrick Parker ( or Leah Weinberg (Musicology;



Prof. Thomas Irvine (University of Southampton)
"A.B. Marx, Hegel and the Challenge of Chinese Music History"
March 18, 2016

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower