Lamont Colloquium

May 26

2:30pm - 4:30pm

Newman Center for the Performing Arts, Room 229, Classroom

Audience: Alumni,  Current Student,  Faculty,  Families,  Neighbor or Friend,  Prospective Student,  Staff

The finest in music scholarship from the Lamont School of Music! 

We will have three presenters:

Rachel Clausing – Copland and Bernstein: How the American Left Responds to McCarthyism through Music.

Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein were not only two of the most influential American composers but were also important cultural figures in left-wing American politics throughout their lifetimes. As public figures with communist sympathies, they fell victim to McCarthyism’s Red Scare tactics, facing scrutiny from the U.S. government. The Cold War era, marked by a contradictory combination of a cultural push for family values and consumerism with the overarching fear of foreign infiltration and nuclear annihilation, led to a feeling of anxiety and mistrust. In this paper, I examine the ways in which Copland’s and Bernstein’s politics informed their compositions in response to McCarthyism and the Cold War era. Primarily through the examples of both a stage work (Copland’s The Tender Land and Bernstein’s Candide) and a symphonic work (Copland’s Symphony No. 3 and Bernstein’s Symphony No.2), this response can be analyzed through both explicit messaging and subtle musical characteristics.


Mark Winston - Speaking in tones: A Semiotic Analysis of Recordings of Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 72 No. 1 by Horowitz and Rubinstein.

In his lifetime, Chopin was renowned (and sometimes reviled) for playing with ample rubato, dramatic dynamics, and free interpretation of notated rhythms. Despite his highly expressive, somewhat improvisatory style, a performance practice of his music has evolved through uniform conventional use of the expressive techniques he was known for. This establishment of and adherence to conventional practices leads away from unique interpretations of the composer’s music. Instead, it encourages recreations of a conventional interpretation. This depletes the agency of the performer.

Using semiotics as an analytical toolset, I will examine two strikingly different recordings of Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 72 Nr. 1 by Vladimir Horowitz (1952) and Artur Rubinstein (1967). I will show that each performer can effectively communicate a unique emotional interpretation of the composer’s work using expressive techniques in different ways. This analysis will suggest that performance practice is not a set of rules, but a method of communication. Semiotically speaking, performance practice is a set of signs, or a code, which performers can use to express their own complex emotions and ideas.


Kelsey Smith – An Homage to Paul Robeson: The Fourth Movement of David Baker’s Singers of Songs/Weavers of Dreams for Cello and Percussion

David Baker was an American composer, performer, and pedagogue who wrote over 2000 works during the course of his career. Baker’s output spans a wide variety of genres and styles, including compositions for jazz band, symphony orchestra, choir, and various chamber ensembles. Using elements from his background in both jazz and classical music, Baker’s musical language is one that creates a true synthesis of styles, especially when writing in a third stream context. Additionally, Baker was inspired by African American figures from his past, and often wrote music honoring those who came before him. In this way, Baker adds his own compositional voice to the narrative of African American culture, engaging with a tradition known as Signifyin(g).

A prime example of Baker’s practice of paying homage through Signifyin(g) is his work Singers of Songs/Weavers of Dreams for cello and percussion. In addition to blending jazz and classical elements, Baker honors a different Black music icon, such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane, in each movement. This research focuses on the fourth movement, in which Baker honors the singer, actor, and activist Paul Robeson, by Signifyin(g) on two African American cultural traditions: spirituals and the jazz funeral.