Scriabin Conference in Reading

Happy to be participating in the Scriabin @ 150 conference and celebration, taking place the following weekend at Queen Anne’s School, Caversham, Reading, UK. Alongside an illustrious line-up of scholars and musicians sharing their thoughts, interpretations, and approaches towards Scriabin’s music, I will contribute my bit on the relationship and latent intercommunities between Scriabin and his Muscovite contemporary Nikolai Medtner. Thank you, Kenneth Smith, Marina Frolova-Walker, and everybody else involved, for making this happen!

NB. I am super excited about this event for two particular reasons:
  • It is the prime candidate for the Sexiest Conference of the Year award.
  • It is probably the only conference that offers a free DIY Scriabin facemask for downloading, printing, and colouring (according to the composer’s synaesthetic preferences, I would suggest).

Lysenko’s Soviet Legacy?

Recently I was made aware of the claim that the Soviet national anthem, written by Aleksandr Vasilyevich Aleksandrov in 1943 and adopted as the anthem of the Russian Federation in 2000, might have been inspired by a piano work by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Vitaliyovych Lysenko, Fragment épique of 1876. Indeed, the hymn’s beginning sounds very similar to a passage near the ending of Lysenko’s composition. Is this creative appropriation, as one source argues, or even plagiarism (provided that Aleksandrov knew Lysenko’s work, which might be hard to substantiate)? Or is it just a random resemblance, with the melody and harmonic progression of both examples being derived from the common Romanesca schema, also known as major-minor parallelism? What do you think?

An Unconvenient Solitaire

One of the most disputatious musicologists of all time has left the stage: Richard Taruskin (1945–2022) died a few days ago. As a music scholar and practitioner, he incited controversy wherever he raised his eloquent and often relentless voice. His merit is to have polarised and politicised musicological discourse in such a way that it became a public affair again, unquestionable in its social relevance. With his prolific writing, he took Russian music studies to a new level, continuously debunking myths and disenchanting widespread opinions in historiography. Most certainly, even those who ardently disagreed with Taruskin will regret that his voice fell silent. My own German-language obituary appeared in VAN Magazin today.

A Little Appreysal

One of my most formative teachers who influentially shaped my way of thinking about music and art is the music theorist, double bassist, mathematician at heart, and philanthropist Stefan Prey. At the end of the current semester he will take his leave after four decades of teaching at Universität der Künste Berlin. His career has been a silent and dedicated one: never striving for publicity or reputation, but constantly focusing on the subject and the students’ interests in a way I have not experienced anywhere else. The appearance of his website tells more about him and his attitude than I can explain here. This is just to say that my approach to teaching and my general understanding of how music can be perceived and comprehended owes quite a lot to Stefan and his paragon. So I am grateful and humbled to contribute my bit to the online festschrift for his 65th birthday—an analytical paper on the music of Amy Beach, which is accessible here. Thank you so much!

Diversifying (the History of) Music Theory

Only now I read Alexander Rehding‘s blogpost series »Can the History of Music Theory Be Decentered« in full length (original version here). The text originally dates from 2020, but was recently translated into German and published on the musiconn.kontrovers blog (see here). The article leaves me intrigued, deeply inspired, and a bit perplexed. Questioning the canon of Western music and theory is one thing (which I think I started a while ago), but taking the next step and setting out to diversify curricula and course content still poses a remarkable challenge for someone rooted in an essentially non-diverse academic environment. Well, I guess the process needs to commence in the heads, and takes some time to materialise. I’m on my way.