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Report to the Friends of Music

Angélique Kidjo delivers 2015 Elson Lecture

Angélique Kidjo is a Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter and world activist from Benin, noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos. Her memoir, "Spirit Rising," was published last year with a preface by Desmond Tutu. She has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2002.
On Tuesday, November 17 at 5:15 pm, she delivered the Music Departments's 2015 Louis C. Elson lecture. MORE



Yosvany Terry Appointed Director of Jazz Ensembles

The Harvard University Music Department is delighted to announce Grammy Award-nominated saxophonist, percussionist, composer and educator Terry will assume the newly conceived post on July 1, 2015. Mark Olson has been appointed Director of Harvard's Band and Wind Ensemble.



Music Department Awards over $210,000 in Fellowships, Prizes

The Harvard University Music Department is delighted to announce this year's recipients of awards and fellowships to support summer travel, language study, fieldwork, dissertation writing, and archival research by graduate and undergraduate music students at Harvard.

Stella Chen ‘15, recipient of the first Robert Levin Prize In Musical Performance

The Office for the Arts at Harvard (OFA) and the Council on the Arts at Harvard, a standing committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, are pleased to announce the recipients of the annual undergraduate arts prizes for 2015. The awards, presented to over 120 undergraduates for the past 33 years, recognize outstanding accomplishments in the arts undertaken during a student’s time at Harvard.

Stella Chen ‘15, recipient of the first Robert Levin Prize In Musical Performance. This prize has been established to recognize an extraordinarily gifted undergraduate musician, preferably of the senior class. The award honors Robert Levin ’68, Professor Emeritus and former Dwight P. Robinson Jr. Professor of the Department of Music at Harvard University.

A resident of Kirkland House enrolled in the Harvard/New England Conservatory joint five-year A.B/M.M. program concentrating in Psychology, Stella Chen is a violinist and concertmaster of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra and the Dunster House Opera and is a co-president of the Brattle Street Chamber Players. In 2013, Chen received an Artist Development Fellowship to participate in the Perlman Music Program, the Ravinia Steans Music Institute, and the Mozarteum International Summer Academy in Salzburg. This May she will perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the Bach Society Orchestra. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career as a performer and teacher of music. 


Fromm Players concert, Voces de America Latina features ICE

Voces de America Latina Features ICE

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), writes the New York Times, is “one of the most accomplished and adventurous groups in new music.” On Friday April 17 and Saturday, April 18 at 8pm in Paine Hall, ICE will present “Voces de America Latina.” The program will be conducted by Steven Schick, and is presented by the Fromm Players at Harvard.
Voces de America Latina is a window on today’s vibrant new-music scene throughout the Americas. The composers represented here hail from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, and Spain. Some made their careers in the United States or Europe. Others had significant artistic experiences abroad, then returned home. Together they form a multigenerational, multinational Latina/o network that extends beyond stylistic boundaries. With astounding flexibility and resourcefulness, they cross all sorts of borders with abandon. MORE

Photo by Jon Chase, Harvard News Office

Laurie Anderson delivers Elson Lecture

—Sarah Sweeney, Harvard Gazette

For more than four decades, Laurie Anderson’s music and performance art have delighted and often mystified — so much so that even NASA took notice, offering her a gig as its first artist in residence.

The collaboration with NASA spawned “The End of the Moon,” a sprawling violin concert interwoven with narrative fragments, including the blooper about Anderson hanging up on the NASA representative who’d phoned, out of the blue, to offer her the position. READ MORE



Sir John Eliot Gardiner Residency at Harvard Begins in February

Conductor John Eliot Gardiner has been appointed the Harvard Music Department’s inaugural Christoph Wolff Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the Music Department, supported by the Christoph Wolff Fund for Music. Gardiner—an English conductor, early music expert, and Bach biographer—will participate in a series of events February 2-8: a public conversation with Vijay Iyer, an open rehearsal with Harvard choral groups, and an informal rehearsal with the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra and pianist Robert Levin. Each of the three events is free There are no tickets required; seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis, and open to the public. >MORE


Unmasking Jim Crow: Blackface Minstrelsy in American Popular Culture

The Harvard Music Department announces a new library exhibit, Unmasking Jim Crow: Blackface Minstrelsy in American Popular Culture, examining the painful racist history and complex legacy of blackface performance in American culture. The exhibit will be on display January 26 through May 8, 2015 on the second floor of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library. Included in the exhibit are images, sheet music, songsters, and other minstrel show artifacts from the Harvard Theater Collection, which houses one of the most important collections of 19th century minstrelsy materials in the world.



Rehding Receives 2015
Dent Award

June, 2014: Alexander Rehding was named the Dent Medal recipient for 2015 by the Royal Musical Association. The RMA writes: "Professor Rehding’s two monographs, Hugo Riemann and the Birth of Modern Musical Thought (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and Music and Monumentality (Oxford University Press, 2009) along with the edited volumes Music Theory and Natural Order (with Suzannah Clark; CUP, 2001) and The Oxford Handbook of Neo-Riemannian Music Theory (with Ed Gollin; OUP, 2011) have established Professor Rehding as a leading force in the aesthetics, philosophy and theory of music. His work has broadened almost immeasurably our understanding of how music was perceived in various eras and particularly in the nineteenth century. He has led a number of imaginative projects including the exhibition, ‘Sounding China in Enlightenment Europe’ and many distinguished articles ranging from ancient Egyptian music to enharmonicism in Rameau and Rousseau.



Wolf Wins Humboldt Prize

June, 2014: Ethnomusicologist Richard K. Wolf, winner of the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Prize awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, has embarked on a collaborative project with Prof. Frank Heidemann at LMU’s Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology.

Professor Richard Wolf is one of the world’s leading ethnomusicologists. For over 30 years he has dedicated himself to the investigation of the musical traditions of South India. His research interests focus on the musical and social aspects of the classical South Indian tradition and on the significance of music in the context of rituals and religious ceremonies. In recent years, he has extended the geographical reach of his interests towards Central and Western Asia. In addition to his high reputation as a scholar, Wolf is also an internationally acclaimed virtuoso on the vīṇā, one of the string instruments used in the classical music tradition of South India. In the course of his stay in Munich, Wolf will work in collaboration with Heidemann on the manuscript of his new publication, entitled “The Bison and the Horn: Indigeneity, Performance, and the State of India”.



Harvard News Office photo

Herbie Hancock on the Ethics of Jazz

Jazzman Herbie Hancock trumpets the wisdom of Miles, the import of breaking rules [Harvard Gazette 2.5.14]












Voces de America Latina Features ICE

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), writes the New York Times, is “one of the most accomplished and adventurous groups in new music.” On Friday April 17 and Saturday, April 18 at 8pm in Paine Hall, ICE will present “Voces de America Latina.” The program will be conducted by Steven Schick, and is presented by the Fromm Players at Harvard.

Voces de America Latina is a window on today’s vibrant new-music scene throughout the Americas. The composers represented here hail from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, and Spain. Some made their careers in the United States or Europe. Others had significant artistic experiences abroad, then returned home. Together they form a multigenerational, multinational Latina/o network that extends beyond stylistic boundaries. With astounding flexibility and resourcefulness, they cross all sorts of borders with abandon.

Friday and Saturday’s programs include four works never heard before in Boston, and one US Premiere.

Cuban composer Leo Brouwer wrote the film score for Like Water for Chocolate; his Parabola, inspired by the artist Paul Klee, is programmed for Saturday’s concert. Fellow Cuban composer, Grammy-nominated Tania León, famously collaborates with artists outside her genre (writers Margaret Atwood and Derek Wolcott, theater director Julie Taymor). León has pieces on both Friday’s and Saturday’s program, and she co-curated “Voces” with Music Department Chair Carol J. Oja. On Thursday, April 16 at 4pm in Farkas Hall Studio (10-12 Holyoke Street, Cambridge), the OFA hosts a public interview of León by Alejandro Madrid. Tania León is the Eileen Southern Distinguished Visitor, Harvard Music Department.

Also on the “Voces” programs are works by five Mexican composers—Julio Estrada, Marisol Jimenez, Gabriela Ortiz, Hilda Paredes, and Carlos Iturralde—and Brazilian composers Marcos Balter and Felipe Lara. From Argentina, Pulitzer prize-winning Mario Davidovsky’s Divertimento for 8, Ambiguous Symmetries will have its Bostonpremiere.

Both concerts are free and open to everyone. There are no tickets required.
Free parking is offered in the Broadway Garage, corner of Felton and Broadway in Cambridge. John Knowles Paine Hall is in the Music Building at Harvard University, and is located directly behind the Science Center (1 Oxford Street, Cambridge). The hall is wheelchair accessible (elevator), and is a short walk from the Harvard Square Red Line stop. Information:  617-495-2791.


Sir John Eliot Gardiner Residency at Harvard

Conductor John Eliot Gardiner has been appointed the Harvard Music Department’s inaugural Christoph Wolff Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the Music Department, supported by the Christoph Wolff Fund for Music. Gardiner—an English conductor, early music expert, and Bach biographer—will participate in a series of talks and events in early February. Each of the three events is free and open to the public. There are no tickets required; seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Monday, February 2nd at 3pm in John Knowles Paine Hall
J.E. Gardiner and pianist Vijay Iyer: A Conversation

Saturday, February 7th at 4:30pm in Memorial Church
The public is invited to attend an informal concert with University Choir, Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, conducting.

Sunday, February 8th at 8pm in Sanders Theatre
Discussion and open rehearsal of Mozart Piano Concerto K 491 in C Minor no. 24
with members of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra and pianist Robert Levin, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, conducting.
(free parking at Broadway Garage for this event only)

For more information: | | 617-495-2791
Harvard University is located a short walk from the Harvard Square Red Line. Paine Hall, Memorial Church, and Sanders Theatre are all wheelchair accessible.

Gardiner is one of the fathers of the period-instrument movement and the founder of some of its most iconic ensembles — the Monteverdi Choir, the English Baroque Soloists, and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. He has recorded over 250 albums with these and other musical ensembles. Gardiner has served as chief conductor of the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra and has appeared as guest conductor with such major orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Vienna Philharmonic.

Gardiner is a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur. He received Grammy Awards for Best Choral Performance (1994) and Best Opera Recording (1999).

In celebration of Professor Christoph Wolff's distinguished contributions to academic and musical life at Harvard University, his students, friends, and colleagues have established The Christoph Wolff Fund for Music. We are delighted to be welcoming our first distinguished guest, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, through the support of this endowment.  


Information available at  Call 617-495-2791 or write



December 23, 2014

Unmasking Jim Crow: Blackface Minstrelsy in American Popular Culture: Exhibit opens January 26

The Harvard Music Department announces a new library exhibit, Unmasking Jim Crow: Blackface Minstrelsy in American Popular Culture, examining the painful racist history and complex legacy of blackface performance in American culture. The exhibit will be on display January 26 through May 8, 2015 on the second floor of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library. Included in the exhibit are images, sheet music, songsters, and other minstrel show artifacts from the Harvard Theater Collection, which houses one of the most important collections of 19th century minstrelsy materials in the world.

An opening symposium will launch the exhibit on January 26, 2015 at 4:30 PM in the Spalding Room of the Music Library. Carol J. Oja, William Powell Mason Professor of Music and Samuel Parler, Ph.D. Candidate in Music, will offer introductory remarks, followed by a keynote address from Louis Chude-Sokei, Associate Professor of English at the University of Washington and author of The Last “Darky”: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora (Duke University Press, 2006).  The symposium will conclude with a performance by Rhiannon Giddens, banjoist and singer of the Grammy Award-winning folk trio The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Both the symposium and exhibit are free and open to the public.

The exhibit is curated by students from the seminar “Blackface Minstrelsy in 19th Century America,” taught by Oja and Parler during the fall semester. The artifacts of 19th-century minstrelsy include materials with toxic racial images and powerful, culturally ingrained musical texts. The historical impact of both the images and the music has been huge, and the goal of this project has been to engage students in a conversation about this important aspect of American racial history. The materials displayed document minstrelsy’s wide geographic and chronological span. Topics include the careers of composer-performers Thomas Dartmouth Rice (of European-American heritage) and James Bland (of African-American heritage); minstrel performance in America’s western frontier; black perspectives on blackface; and minstrelsy’s legacy in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The exhibit is supported by grants from the Elson Family Arts Initiative Fund and the Provostial Fund for the Arts and Humanities.









Harvard University Department of Music


Iyer Joins Harvard Faculty

Abbate Named University Professor

Jason Robert Brown Named AIR

Future Bright for Recent Alums

Parker Named Quartet in Residence

Celebrating Paine!

Sounding China

First Nights premieres Aucoin piece

Kelly Elected to Academy of Arts & Sciences, Knight of Arts & Letters

Levin Caps Two Decades With Recital

Silent to Synchronized Sound: Hannah Lewis' Film Score Studies

Interview: Zachary Sheets '13

Fromm Foundation Celebrates 60 Years


Harvard University Department of Music

Robert Levin Caps Two Decades With a Recital

Levin on 180, Musical Truth, and the Practice of Performance
January, 2014

A composer puts a mirror to the audience and asks us to recognize ourselves. It’s the same as with great plays.
Music is no less serious just because it is composed of tones, not words.

LISTEN: Levin plays Beethoven at La Scala

Robert Levin, the inaugural Dwight P. Robinson Jr. Professor of the Humanities at the Department of Music at Harvard, will retire from the University in 2014. As a tribute to Levin, the Music Department will honor him with a concert in Sanders Theatre on Sunday January 26 at 3:00 p.m. Internationally reknowned pianist Levin will perform pieces that he commissioned, premiered, or have been commissioned for him. These include Bernard Rands’ 12 Preludes, John Harbison’s Piano Sonata No. 2, Hans Peter Türk’s Träume, and Straccio vecchio and Sauce 180 by Yehudi Wyner. Knowing Levin’s skill with improvisation, there may some surprises as well.

Levin recently reflected on coming to Harvard, Music 180, musical truth, and the practice of performance.

If it weren’t for a tiny post office in a Black Forest German town, Professor Robert Levin may not have spent the last twenty years teaching performance at Harvard.

“I was senior professor of piano at the Musikhochschule in Freiburg,” recounts Levin. “One morning I was heading towards the post office—it was very small, with just one window—and I saw a man with a stack of packages heading in the same direction. I thought, ‘I’ve got to get there first or I’ll be here all morning.’ As I got closer I recognized him. It was Christoph Wolff.’”

Harvard music professor Wolff and his wife Barbara, it turns out, loved Freiburg so much they’d bought a condo there. The Levins and Wolffs lived but 150 yards from each other. They began to share dinners when the Wolffs were in town, and when Leon Kirchner announced his retirement, Wolff asked Levin if he would consider the position.

“It would have been a break with tradition to hire me,” Levin states. “Leon was a composer and a performer. Harvard wanted to perpetuate this tradition by having a composer/performer teach Music 180 [Performance and Analysis]. As Christoph Wolff described the position, the University was looking for a performer with an international career, but not just a pianist. My extensive work in theory and musicology seems to have appealed to the powers that be.”

Levin’s first instinct was to defer. “I don’t have to explain how wonderful Freiburg is,” he told Wolff. “I look out my windows at the Black Forest and the Vosges mountains in France. I have plum, quince, apple, cherry trees, and rose bushes. Why on earth should I leave and go to Harvard?”

Fate intervened again. Within a few years of Wolff’s query, Levin’s teaching load at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik was becoming too time-consuming for his increasingly demanding performance schedule. His future wife, pianist Ya-Fei Chuang, told him: “Don’t torment yourself. You have an offer from the world’s premier university! Go!”
Exactly 25 years after he graduated from Harvard, Levin landed in Cambridge, was featured at Symphony Hall’s Harvard Night at the Pops, and closed on a house.

Music 180

Although Levin was not a student in Music 180 (he graduated in 1968, and Kirchner offered Music 180 for the first time in 1969–70), he considers himself very close to Kirchner, both personally and curricularly.

“I took on the ideals of the course as well as the mechanics,” he says, “with some modifications. Leon taught with a preceptor (Lucy Stoltzman), and Leon took on the group settings with all the coachings done by Lucy. I wanted to have a more collegial arrangement with my preceptor—violinist Dan Stepner—so we both participated in the group sessions and we both coached the individual groups.”

In 180, everyone studies all the scores. Then, students play and the others comment. Stepner speaks, then Levin, sketching broad ideas and new artistic suggestions. The students perform again, incorporating the feedback.

“I wanted the course to work like a laboratory,” says Levin. “Every interpretation has emotional and intellectual consequences. The power of performance derives from these decisions.”

The structure of 180 has remained constant during Levin’s tenure of nearly a generation of student musicians.

“The course is a life-changing experience,” he says. “I find 180 alumni everywhere I tour. At nearly every performance one former student is in that orchestra—not all from Harvard, but a lot are 180 students. They tell me they feel tremendously warm about that course and the decisive role it had in steering them towards their paths in life. There are even numerous 180 marriages. I’ve seen probably a half dozen on my watch.

“Some students take 180 once. Some have taken it eight times. I want to give them something that sustains them throughout their lives.”

Levin feels the same way about the Core courses he’s taught—such as Chamber Music from Mozart to Ravel.

“I thought teaching in the Core curriculum was an extraordinary opportunity. For anyone afraid of classical music dying, anyone interested in the future world, to try and create a love of classical music in the elite of Harvard was extremely important to me. If, within a generation those people could support the arts, that would be critical to their survival.
“I’m optimistic. I heard from a Pakistani student at Columbia Medical School—a former Chamber Music student—that classical music was now his lifeline. It was music I’d taught him to love.”

A Serious Thing is a True Joy

Soon after his arrival at Harvard, Levin began to teach a series of undergraduate courses in period performance practice. It started with 18th century, expanded back to the 17th, alternated with the 19th, which then bled in to the 20th.

“They all related to 180. I didn’t want to assign anything, but rather have each student select a problem. Matt Haimovitz ’96, for example, wanted to write cadenzas for one of the Haydn cello concertos for an upcoming tour. Hazel Davis ’03 wanted to prepare an authentic performance of Strauss’ Second Horn Concerto. Julia Glenn ’12 wanted to reconstruct the original performance style of the Sixth Bartok Quartet to reveal how values and sounds changed. I tried to steer them to relevant literature: manuscripts, periodicals, documents. The entire seminar would give the individual students insights into a variety of topics they might not otherwise have discovered.

“I’m always amazed at what a hands-on experience is possible when researching music from 100 or 150 years ago. Artistic, physical, spiritual—all these areas underlie the performance of music.”

Students at Harvard, according to Levin, are extremely talented and smart; they want to play. They love details such as how much pressure to put on the pedal or which finger to use. But if he talks about how music is put together, there’s more restlessness.

“To that I would invoke the Latin motto in the Gewandhaus in Leipzig: ‘Res severa, verum gaudium’: ‘A serious thing is true joy.' I hope in my tenure at Harvard I have persuaded students that one derives joy from passionate advocacy of what is truly serious. A composer puts a mirror to the audience and asks us to recognize ourselves. It’s the same as with great plays. Music is no less serious just because it is composed of tones, not words. One reads music just as deeply inside.

“When Nadia Boulanger played a Bach piece, even if it was the 60th time she played it, she was moved by some basic musical truths. As a twelve-year-old boy listening to her I felt a sense of wonder. I perceived, as I shall forever do, how deep the spiritual nature of music was. Music is created within a structure; Bach was a great architect. But that’s not why we listen; we listen because it tells a great story.

“Thinking about art and performing it are inseparable. Knowledge and instinct fuse into intuition. You need to study everything you can, but when you walk out and play you’re not reading a cookbook. You have to risk everything. If I have a new idea on stage during a performance I cannot resist the lure of trying it out then and there. I can’t help it. I may fall flat on my face, but there’s no question I’ll take that risk.”

Robert Levin studied piano with Louis Martin and composition with Stefan Wolpe in New York. He worked with Nadia Boulanger in Fontainebleau and Paris while still in high school, afterwards attending Harvard. Upon graduation he was invited by Rudolf Serkin to head the theory department of the Curtis Institute of Music, a post he left after five years to take up a professorship at the School of the Arts, SUNY Purchase. In 1979 he was Resident Director of the Conservatoire américain in Fontainebleau, France, at the request of Nadia Boulanger, and taught there from 1979 to 1983. From 1986 to 1993 he was Professor of Piano at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. President of the International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Akademie für Mozartforschung [Academy for Mozart Research] in Salzburg, he has been the Dwight P. Robinson, Jr. Professor of Music at Harvard since 1993. Levin will retire in 2014.

The Levin Prize in Musical Performance was established in 2013 in recognition of Robert Levin's unique contribution to musical life at Harvard. To read more about the Prize, which supports young performers at a critical time in their lives, please CLICK HERE.

Source: Harvard University Department of Music




Harvard University Department of Music

Iyer Joins Harvard Faculty

Vijay Iyer has won wide acclaim in the music world as a jazz pianist and a composer, has an academic resume that includes degrees from Yale University and the University of California at Berkeley, and has published in a number of scholarly journals. And now Iyer, who in January will become the first Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts in Harvard’s Department of Music, is in even more select company.



Harvard University Department of Music


Abbate Named University Professor

Carolyn Abbate
, one of the world’s most accomplished and admired music historians, has been named to become a University Professor, Harvard’s highest honor for a faculty member.  Her appointment as the Paul and Catherine Buttenwieser University Professor will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.





Harvard University Department of Music

Tony-Award-Winner Jason Robert Brown appointed Blodgett Artist in Residence at Harvard

[Photo: USC School of Dramatic Arts]

The Harvard Department of Music and the Office for the Arts at Harvard are pleased to announce the appointment of Jason Robert Brown as Blodgett Artist-in-Residence during the spring of 2014. A celebrated American composer, Brown has been hailed as “one of Broadway’s smartest and most sophisticated songwriters since Stephen Sondheim” (Philadelphia Inquirer). He is known best as the award-winning composer and lyricist of the musical The Last 5 Years, and the Tony-award winning composer of Parade.

As an artist-in-residence at Harvard, Brown will participate in Professor Carol Oja’s seminar, “American Musical Theater,” as well as give master classes and workshops for Harvard students though the Office for the Arts Learning From Performers program. In addition, Brown’s music will be showcased in a concert/cabaret performance at the American Repertory Theater’s Oberon theater on March 27, 2014.

The New York Times refers to Brown as “a leading member of a new generation of composers who embody high hopes for the American musical.” The Last 5 Years was cited as one of Time Magazine’s 10 Best of 2001 and won Drama Desk Awards for Best Music and Best Lyrics, and has been adapted for the screen by Brown and director Richard LaGravenese. Brown won a 1999 Tony Award for his score to Parade, a musical written with Alfred Uhry and directed by Harold Prince, which subsequently won both the Drama Desk and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for Best New Musical. Brown is the winner of the 2002 Kleban Award for Outstanding Lyrics and the 1996 Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Foundation Award for Musical Theatre.

Additionally, Brown was conductor and orchestrator for Yoko Ono’s musical, New York Rock, at the WPA Theatre (on Capitol Records), and he orchestrated Andrew Lippa’s john and jen, Off-Broadway at Lamb’s Theatre. He has conducted and created arrangements and orchestrations for Liza Minnelli, John Pizzarelli, Tovah Feldshuh, and Laurie Beechman, and his songs, including the cabaret standard “Stars and the Moon,” have been performed and recorded by Audra McDonald, Betty Buckley, Karen Akers, Renée Fleming, Philip Quast, Jon Hendricks, and many others. Brown’s new Broadway musical The Bridges of Madison County, with a book by Marsha Norman based on Robert James Waller’s novel, opens next January, directed by Bartlett Sher and starring Kelli O’Hara.

The Blodgett Artist-in-Residence program of the Department of Music is made possible through a gift from Mr. and Mrs. John W. Blodgett, Jr. The program provides for visiting artists to lecture and perform in a variety of musical disciplines. Recent appointments have been Koo Nimo (Ghanaian music), Sir Harrison Birtwistle (composer), Neba Solo (Malian balafon musician), and jazz pioneer Geri Allen.
The Learning From Performers program of the Office for the Arts at Harvard (OFA) brings to Harvard professional artists in all disciplines who interact with students in a range of educational forums, many open to the public. Through this and other programs and services, the OFA supports student engagement in the arts and integrates the arts into University life.

READ: THE MAKING OF A MUSICAL. Jason Robert Brown, artist in residence, explains his craft, as his latest show runs on Broadway





Harvard University Department of Music

Future Looks Bright for Recent Alums
Recent graduates in music talk about their careers in and outside
of the arts

“According to the latest findings from a national survey of more than 33,000 arts alumni, arts graduates, including those who studied music performance, are likely to find jobs after graduation and use their education and training in their occupation.”—

Forrest O'Connor '10 Aram Demirjian '08 Ben Eisler '08 Emily Richmond Pollack '06 Lara Hirner '05 Berenika Zakrzewski '05

According to a recent Strategic National Arts Alumni Project survey of more than 33,000 arts alumni, skills developed as arts majors are “applicable for any vocation and often provides opportunities for arts majors to be major contributors in any environment.” A large percentage of undergraduates with a music degree are successfully employed both in and outside the arts.

The Music Department’s alumni experience seems to square with this, as recent graduates report working in the arts, journalism, science, education and health, and cite their music concentration as a source of skills applicable to their professional lives. We asked some of our recent alumni weigh in on how their music concentration helps shape their careers. (Read the full interviews at

Forrest O’Connor ’10, co-founder, Concert Window

I co-founded and run a national live concert webcasting network. I actually met my co-founder, Dan Gurney, in a class I counted toward my concentration, so perhaps my job wouldn’t exist had I not chosen to study music! But the truth is that music pervades my job. Dan and I started Concert Window because we love music and wanted to create a new revenue stream for the industry. As an undergraduate, I learned how different people value different types of music, and that has helped us figure out how to present webcasts to the public, why some webcasts work and others don’t, and all the implications of making a musical event in one place immediately accessible to anyone in the world with an Internet connection.

Aram Demirjian ’08, Assistant Conductor, KSO

My primary responsibilities with the Kansas City Symphony are conducting the Pops, Family, Education and Outreach concerts, and covering all Classical Series concerts. My extracurricular activities at Harvard, particularly conducting BachSoc, were the best imaginable hands-on preparation for life as a professional conductor. My training in the Harvard Music Department prepared me for becoming a conductor better than I could have ever predicted as an undergrad, especially the theory classes. It sounds cliché, but all of that work—playing and analyzing Bach chorale upon Bach chorale, endless form and harmony exercises, and ear training practice—really pays off.

Ben Eisler ’08, Health Producer, CBS News

I oversee health coverage for CBS This Morning, a national news show.  Music taught me how to listen to melodies, but also to sources, colleagues, and supervisors. Its tensions and structures have made me a better story teller. Its elements of performance have improved my ability to engage people. And perhaps most importantly, it has heightened my sensitivity to the human condition. It has in many ways made me who I am today.

Emily Richmond Pollock ’06, Assistant Professor, MIT

The first two years I was at Harvard, I pursued a joint concentration in music and social anthropology, but I came to be more and more interested in the history of Western music and especially in the history of opera, and I eventually decided to finish my degree in the music department alone. Sophomore tutorial in particular was a transformative experience for me, because it was in that course that I discovered all the wonderful music that I had never heard growing up as an oboist in orchestras. Harvard’s curriculum was phenomenal preparation for pursuing a PhD in music history. [Now] I teach music courses to undergraduates at MIT, including a music history survey, a symphonic repertoire course, and a course on opera. As a teacher and writer, not a day goes by that I don’t use the concepts and strategies I learned during my time in Harvard’s music department. 

Lara Hirner ’05 Speech Language Pathologist

 I work as a speech language pathologist in an adult acute care hospital (Massachusetts General Hospital). My career as a musician is what guided me to the field of speech pathology. I wanted to find a career that would wed my knowledge and training in voice with my interests in providing care. I also feel that my training in ethnomusicology and analysis of identity has helped foster another skill I use daily: cultural sensitivity and the value of difference, diversity, and belief systems when helping to facilitate health care decision making.

In addition to my work as a speech therapist, I continue to perform as a singer in a limited capacity. One of my favorite long-standing performance opportunities is my work as the soprano soloist for the New York City Ballet’s production of the West Side Story Suites. My performance career post-graduation was largely facilitated through connections I made at Harvard.

Berenika Zakrzewski ’05
Pianist, Arts Administration

I am a concert pianist and the music department at Harvard offered me the capacity to grow as a musician and scholar. I joined my music concentration with Government, as I wanted to see my place as an artist and musician in a context beyond myself. Music is a great connector of people and it functions as a conduit for social and economic progress in various fields.





Harvard University Department of Music

Internationally Acclaimed Parker Quartet Named Blodgett Quartet-in-Residence at Harvard University Music Department

The Harvard University Department of Music is delighted to announce that the Parker Quartet will become part of the music department teaching faculty at Harvard University beginning in the fall of 2014.

“Thanks to the Blodgett Artists-in-Residence Program, we have been fortunate to have had a Quartet-in-Residence for four weeks a year since 1985,” said Music Department chair Alexander Rehding. “However, the role of performance in the music department and the University has changed significantly, and this is the right time to bring professional musicians to campus as full-time residents. We are confident that the extended exposure to the string quartet will be highly beneficial to our students, especially our many talented undergraduate performers, allowing them to engage in the practice of chamber music on an unprecedented scale. We welcome the Parker Quartet to Harvard with immense pleasure.”

The renowned Parker Quartet (Daniel Chong, Ying Xue, violin; Jessica Bodner, viola; Kee-Hyun Kim, cello) will, as part of the expanded Blodgett residency, present free concerts each year for the general public and recitals as part of the Dean’s Noontime concert series. They will teach, participate in class demonstrations, read and perform student compositions, and coach Harvard undergraduate chamber ensembles in weekly master classes for Harvard credit. The Parker Quartet's full time presence in the program will allow for the expansion of the chamber music and performance study opportunities for students in the Harvard University Music Department.

Formed in 2002, the Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet has rapidly distinguished itself as one of the preeminent ensembles of its generation. The New York Times hailed the quartet as "something extraordinary," and the Boston Globe acclaims their "pinpoint precision and spectacular sense of urgency.” The quartet began touring on the international circuit after winning the Concert Artists Guild Competition as well as the Grand Prix and Mozart Prize at the Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition in France. Chamber Music America awarded the quartet the prestigious biennial Cleveland Quartet Award for the 2009-2011 seasons.

Performance highlights from recent seasons include appearances at Carnegie Hall, 92nd Street Y, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Library of Congress, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Wigmore Hall in London, Musikverein in Vienna, Monte Carlo Spring Festival, Seoul Arts Center, Rockport Chamber Music Festival, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festspiele in Germany, and San Miguel de Allende Festival in Mexico. The quartet recently collaborated with artists including Kim Kashkashian, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Anne-Marie McDermott, Shai Wosner, Jörg Widmann, and Claron McFaddon. In 2012 the Parker Quartet was the recipient of a Chamber Music America commissioning grant, enabling the ensemble to commission and premiere Capriccio, an hour-length work by American composer Jeremy Gill. This upcoming season includes return engagements to Carnegie Hall, Library of Congress, and Monte Carlo Spring Festival, performances of the Beethoven quartets on the Slee Series in Buffalo, and collaborations with Kikuei Ikeda of the now retired Tokyo String Quartet.

Successful early concert touring in Europe helped the quartet forge a relationship with Zig-Zag Territoires, which released their debut commercial recording of Bartók’s String Quartets Nos. 2 and 5 in July 2007. The disc earned high praise from numerous critics, including Gramophone: “The Parkers’ Bartók spins the illusion of spontaneous improvisation… they have absorbed the language; they have the confidence to play freely with the music and the instinct to bring it off.” The quartet’s second recording, of György Ligeti’s complete works for string quartet was released on Naxos in December 2009 to critical acclaim. This recording won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance.

Currently based in Boston, the Parker Quartet holds teaching and performance residencies at the University of South Carolina and the University of St. Thomas. From 2008 to 2013, the quartet spent much of its time in St. Paul, MN, where they served as Quartet-in-Residence with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (2008-2010), were the first-ever Artists-in-Residence with Minnesota Public Radio (2009-2010), and visiting artists at the University of Minnesota (2011-2012).

The Parker Quartet’s members hold graduate degrees in performance and chamber music from the New England Conservatory of Music and were part of the New England Conservatory’s prestigious Professional String Quartet Training Program from 2006-2008. Some of their most influential mentors include the Cleveland Quartet, Kim Kashkashian, György Kurtág, and Rainer Schmidt.

The Parker Quartet will begin their residency at Harvard in the fall of 2014 through the Blodgett Artist-in-Residence program, made possible through a gift from Mr. and Mrs. John W. Blodgett, Jr. The program is now in its 29th year.




Harvard University Department of Music

Silent to Synchronized Sound:
Hannah Lewis Explores Music in Early Sound Films

January, 2013

“I didn’t expect to work on film music at first,” says fifth-year graduate student Hannah Lewis. “I entered grad school interested in studying post-war American experimental music, particularly John Cage. But I decided to pursue a secondary field in Film and Visual Studies, since experimental art is often multimedia, and I became fascinated by the intersections between music and visual media.”

Lewis became especially interested in moments of technological change, which drew her to the transition from silent to synchronized sound film. This was, she believes, one of the most dramatic transformations in the history of cinema; it radically shifted the technology, practices, and aesthetics of filmmaking in a few short years.

“The role of music in film changed completely. When there was a live orchestra, organ, or piano accompanying silent film, the experience of moviegoing was partially a live experience. Once there was synchronized sound, the experience was entirely mediated, which meant that the spectator’s film-going experience was very different. But it also meant that the director suddenly had more control over music. Music could become an essential component of a film from its conception.”

Lewis began examining the transition both in the United States, where the development of synchronized sound first took place, and in France, where the shift was imposed, and whose filmmakers were particularly ambivalent about the transition.

“The French film director René Clair was originally a silent film director, and he used film to create what he called ‘visual poetry,’ or an ability to express through images, without language,” Lewis explains. “Clair was terrified when sound came; he didn’t want to destroy the magic of his film style with dialogue. But music, like silent film, could express without words. If you had music, he thought, you didn’t need to rely on dialogue.”

Clair’s reluctance to switch to sound is reflected in several of his films from the early 1930s, which incorporate music in provocative ways. They rely heavily on opera and operetta, and serve as both pointed critiques of existing filmmaking practices and alternative models for the sound-image relationship in film.
“Clair dealt directly with live musical theatrical forms,” says Lewis. “There’s an overt comment on the genre of opera in Le Million, for example. He makes fun of opera as being over-the-top, but still sees it as a genre that sound film could emulate, as well as one that can highlight what film does better than spoken plays.”

Sound film practices had basically solidified by 1934, leaving a brief eight years from the advent of synchronized sound to the time when sounds in movies most often took the “realistic” narrative form we are accustomed to. It is this brief period of experimentation that has become the focus of Lewis’s dissertation.
“There was an aesthetic unsettledness at that time; people understood music’s role in different ways. There wasn’t yet the assumption that we must see someone and hear his or her voice at the same time to seem natural. There could be an artificial connection. Clair, for example, filmed a chase scene to which he added the sound of crowds cheering at a rugby match. There was no attempt to represent reality; the sound made its own statement separately from the image.”

Lewis is researching films that have been overlooked by many scholars because they are considered to be transitional. She’s also looking into the differences between mainstream narrative films created and controlled by large studios and the experimental films of the period, where directors’ roles were closer to that of auteur.

“I’m looking at how different stakeholders influenced the musical decisions being made. Rouben Mamoulian, for example, was a stage director for opera and musicals, and that informed his cinematic work in ways that challenged standardized studio practices and distinguished him from other Hollywood directors of the period. It’s particularly evident in his film musical Love Me Tonight, with music by Rodgers and Hart, where he experimented with the different things that music can do.

In one scene, for instance, Maurice Chevalier sings a refrain that is picked up by various characters as they travel, first on a taxi cab, then a train, through the French countryside, until it is sung by Jeanette MacDonald. This required innovative camera editing and gave music, particularly song, a very powerful presence, integrating it into the narrative rather than giving it a frivolous role. [Armenian-born Mamoulian was one of biggest creative forces behind two American cultural icons: he directed both Porgy and Bess and Oklahoma.]

“French director Jean Vigo, on the other hand, was not widely recognized during his lifetime but subsequently had a significant impact on both French and American experimental film. He’s been hailed as a founder of poetic realism in film; but alongside his gritty, naturalistic style, he incorporated dreamlike, fantastical elements highlighting music’s magical qualities. For Vigo, music became a means of accessing a new, politically charged cinematic aesthetic. In a collaboration with film composer Maurice Jaubert, for example, he created a score for one of his films about an uprising of school boys, Zéro de Conduite. Jaubert composed the piece backwards, recorded it, and then reversed the recording. It sounds very dream-like; it’s an amazing, singular experimentation that foreshadows some of the practices of musique concrète in the 1950s. I’m fascinated by how music created more whimsy in Vigo’s cinematic world, alongside the politically subversive narrative content.

Famous pillow fight scene in Zero de Conduite

“As a completely different model, I am researching the early sound films produced by Warner Bros. using their new Vitaphone technology—an analog system in which the soundtrack was recorded on a 33 1/3 rpm phonograph record and played on a turntable while the film was being projected. I’m focusing on feature films from Don Juan (1926), the first Vitaphone feature film to contain a mechanically synchronized musical score, up to The Jazz Singer (1927), the first feature length film with synchronized dialogue. The changes in technology and music during the span of a single year were an important part of Warner Bros.’ attempts to articulate what the new medium could be.”

Lewis spent months in the French Bibliothèque Nationale looking at Clair’s shooting scripts, as well as in California at the UCLA Film and TV Archive. She worked with the USC Warner Bros. Archive, which holds a number of financial documents, contracts, and correspondence, and visited with Miles Kreuger, head of the Institute of the American Musical, who oversees that organization’s archive. Lewis worked at the Library of Congress with the Mamoulian papers, which only became available in 2009. She’s one of the early scholars to look at his work on Love me Tonight in the context of this new material.
“These early synchronized-sound film directors—Mamoulian, Clair, Vigo—had differing responses to sound and music in film,” summarizes Lewis. “Music could mean different things to different directors. In trying to define a new form for film there was more openness, and definitely more possibilities during this period of transition.”

Hannah Lewis’s dissertation is tentatively titled “New Possibilities For Sound: Music in Early Sound Film in the U.S. and France, 1926-1934.” She is the recipient of the AMS Harold Powers World Travel Grant, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History Term Time Research Grant, and the Oscar Shafer Award.



Harvard University Department of Music

Interview: Zachary Sheets ’13

January 2013
Zachary Sheets is a joint concentrator with Romance Languages and Literatures. He is currently working on his senior thesis as well as a solo cello piece for Alan Toda-Ambaras, and has plans in the works with a contemporary music ensemble in Vermont and a wind quintet in Montreal. Sheets is a former president of the Harvard Composers Association, and a member of the HRO and Dunster House Opera Orchestra. He was awarded an Artist Development Fellowship from the Office for the Arts for summer 2012 study at the highSCORE Contemporary Music Festival, where he had a performance of his“What is on the End of a Feather” by the Quartetto Indaco, and at the Mozarteum Summer Academy with the French composer Pascal Dusapin.

Zach Sheets:
Gathers no moss
What Is one the End of a Feather


Talk a bit about your thesis and how you combined your concentrations?
My thesis is a one-act opera, based on French and Francophone retellings of the myth of Medea. In a way, it is as much an “opera” as it is a song cycle with spoken dialogue interpolated; the interesting thing is the language divide. I took up a more classical idea of aria and recitative and applied it to the dialogue and songs, so I’ve chosen to have the dialogues spoken in English translation (my own), while the songs stay in their original French. The three versions I’m working with are by Pierre Corneille, a 17th century French playwright; Jean Anouilh, who wrote during and shortly after WWII; and Max Rouquette, a writer of French-Occitan descent who died in 2005. Paradoxically, it is the anachronism of combining the three texts that has elucidated precisely what is so timeless about Medea’s character.

Did you intend to concentrate in both areas when you came to Harvard or have you developed these interests over your time here?
I knew that I was going to study music in one way or another, as music is what I want to do with my life. French literature had always been an interest of mine, and I was fortunate enough to take two years of courses in literature at Dartmouth College while I was in high school (my hometown in Vermont bordered Hanover, NH). When it came time to declare a major, I had already taken so many courses in both that a joint concentration made the most sense. I also had the idea of a song-cycle or small-scale opera in mind as a possible senior thesis.

Has the undergraduate composition scene changed during your time here?
It has changed immeasurably. I joined the Harvard Composers Association as a freshman. Every meeting was different; sometimes twenty people showed up—one with a piano arrangement of ‘Happy Birthday,’ another with a dodecophonic composition for large orchestra—sometimes it was just a handful of people. We began to organize collaborations between student composers and student performers once a semester, and developed weekly masterclass-style meetings with our advisor, Edgar Barroso, who really helped us blossom into what we are today. We were very fortunate to receive funding from the Music Department and the OFA, and in March of 2012 put on a concert with the Juventas New Music Ensemble in Paine Hall. It was a huge success, I think, and the new board, led by Lydia Brindamour and Aviva Hakanoglu, has arranged to bring in the Callithumpian Consort for a concert of our work this February, which is tremendously exciting!

When do you compose? Do you have a regimen, or are you deadline-driven?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. Amnon Wolman, with whom I had the great privilege to work in the fall, talks a lot about the idea of composition as a skill that should be practiced daily, as an instrument. This is not necessarily how I work, but, in a way I’m never not working on something. Roger Reynolds, whom I also worked with, said that when we have a project we’re always thinking about it to some degree. A composer is never really divorced from thinking about sound or creation in one way or another. As nice as this sounds, real life gets in the way sometimes! Projects often require a big push toward their deadlines, especially since it’s important to be so exact and detailed in one’s notation. This takes time, so the piece better be intellectually and creatively squared away well in advance of when it needs to be sent to a player.

Do you write for specific musicians you know?
Very often, yes. While I’ve been at Harvard, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Bach Society Chamber Orchestra, the Brattle Street Chamber Players, the Harvard University Flute Ensemble, and a number of “pick-up” groups who have assembled to play my pieces at Harvard Composers Association Concerts. Many of these have been done with the specific players in mind.

You won the Bach Soc’s composition competition in 2010, then again in 2012—do you see a difference in your work over those two years?
My music has evolved exponentially. That’s the thing about being exposed to such a diverse and stimulating place like Harvard (not to mention having teachers like Chaya, Roger, or Amnon!): you grow and change and think so tremendously quickly. My first Bach Soc piece was an orchestration of a piece I wrote when I was 17 (a nice jazzy thing for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano), and my second piece was written for Professor Cortese’s orchestration class. It’s interesting for me to think about the trajectory from one to the other to now.

Who do you write for? Who inspires you?
I see beautiful things all the time: in nature, in literature, in other art, in philosophy, in whatever. Turning any of these compelling thoughts into music is a little bit different every time, and it’s rarely important that the inspirations are identifiable in the music. Generative principles are funny things—the most fragile and ineffable we deal with as artists. In terms of who I write for, I think Bernard Rands, a former faculty member here, has a beautiful answer to that question: “I never think, in a sense, about writing for an audience, because I don’t know who they are. I only assume that like me, they’re human, they have all the frailties of humanity; they have aspirations, they have disappointments, they have nostalgic memories of when they heard one piece or another, but collectively we don’t know who they are. They are as many people as are in that hall, and they will hear the piece that many times, all differently from each other.”




Harvard University Department of Music

Fromm Foundation at Harvard: Celebrating 60 Years of New Music

Concerts, April 12, 13 at 8pm in Paine Hall (free)

The 2012-13 year marks the 40th anniversary of the Fromm Contemporary Music Foundation at Harvard (1972) and the 60th anniversary of the Foundation itself (1952). In celebration, the Music Department has programmed two free concerts by the Fromm Players at Harvard on April 12 and 13, 2013, with the renowned music ensemble SOUND ICON, conducted by Jeffrey Means. These concerts, entitled Celebrating 60 Years of the Fromm Foundation (1952-2012), will be held in John Knowles Paine Concert Hall and devoted to works commissioned by the Fromm Foundation over the years: music by Luciano Berio, Elliott Carter, Lee Hyla, Leon Kirchner, Liza Lim, Bruno Maderna, Karola Obermüller (world premiere), Gunther Schuller, and Barbara White. In addition, an exhibit created from the archived, but largely unexplored, Fromm personal papers is currently on display in the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library.

The Fromm Foundation is the legacy of Paul Fromm (1906-1987), one of the most significant patrons of contemporary art music in the U.S. in the second half of the twentieth century. He was an emigrant from Nazi Germany who personally (and later, his foundation) commissioned hundreds of composers for new works, including major figures of 20th-century music. At a time when few women composers received major commissions, Fromm supported the work of Joan Tower, Betsy Jolas, and Shulamit Ran, and let it be known that supporting female creativity was one of the Foundation’s goals. Since Fromm moved his Foundation to Harvard in 1972, the Fromm Foundation has continued to commission new works from 12-15 composers a year.

The Boston-based Sound Icon is well-known for groundbreaking performances of new music. Their sinfonietta-sized ensemble offers the colors of a full orchestra alongside the flexibility and precision of a chamber ensemble.

Library Exhibit, open through May 2

In addition to the two concerts, a library exhibit, Composing the Future: The Fromm Foundation and the Music of Our Time, is currently open to the public, curated by members of Professor Anne Shreffler's Fall 2012 graduate seminar on the Fromm Foundation.

The Fromm Music Foundation forged patronage networks that supported some of the most significant compositions, journals, performing ensembles, and recordings in the landscape of contemporary American music in the second half of the twentieth century.
The Foundation's voluminous archival holdings in Harvard libraries (115 boxes) offer a treasure trove of unexplored information about contemporary concert music in America.

The exhibit highlights the Fromm Foundation's activities by focusing on four themes: "Patronage Networks," "Homage to Fromm" (his 70th, 75th, and 80th birthday celebrations), "Making a Modern Canon," and "The Princeton Seminars in Advanced Musical Studies." The exhibition features musical scores, correspondence, recordings, programs, photographs, recordings, and other documents by figures including John Adams, Luciano Berio, Elliott Carter, Lou Harrison, Barbara Kolb, Gunther Schuller, and Roger Sessions, and includes gems such as the unique photo of a Fromm-hosted social gathering, below. 

On couch: Earle Brown, Matthias Kriesberg, Ingram Marshall, Ben Johnston, Bernard Rands, Jacob Druckman, Joan Tower, Morton Subotnik, Paul Fromm. Floor: Alvin Lucier. Standing: James Tenny, Luciano Berio











Harvard University Department of Music


Celebrating Paine!

The Harvard University Department of Music celebrates the renovation and reopening of Paine Hall, classrooms, and sate-of-the-art practice rooms with a concert featuring the composition of its founder, John Knowles Paine.

Feburary 24, 2012 at 5:00 pm in John Knowles Paine Concert Hall
Pre-concert mini-talks by Dr. Evan MacCarthy and Professor Anne Shreffler on the music and legacy of Paine

January, 2012: Renovation of the music building this past year has resulted in new, state-of-the-art practice rooms, upgraded classrooms, and modernized heating and cooling of John Knowles Paine Concert Hall.

In celebration, the Music Department is hosting a performance of a recently-premiered work by its founder and Portland, Maine native, John Knowles Paine. The manuscript score of Paine's String Quartet in D Major, Op. 5 (1855), was made available to the Portland String Quartet by Houghton Library, and was premiered by the quartet in 2011. Also on the program is Quartet No.1 by Harvard composer and former Music Department chair, Walter Piston.

"We are convinced that this work should become recognized as an important part of America's music history,"writes Julia Adams, violist of the Portland String Quartet. "For complex part writing, beautiful melodic content and a mastery of classical forms, this work demonstrates why a young lad of 16 from Portland, Maine, was to become through his dedicated career at Harvard 'the dean of American music."'

Paine Hall was the subject of a recent booklet by the late Professor Reinhold Brinkmann [read or download the booklet here], and was named for Harvard's first music professor, who chaired the new department from1871 when music was established as an academic study through his death in 1906. The concert hall has a long and storied history, but has never seen the performance of a work by its namesake until now.

The public is invited to the concert and to a reception immediately afterwards in the Taft Lounge.

About the Portland String Quartet
Coming together from musical training at Curtis, Eastman, Indiana, Juilliard and Oberlin, the Portland String Quartet has played an important role in the artistic renaissance of the City of Portland and the State of Maine, championing Maine and American composers both nationally and internationally. Their recordings span the repertoire from Bach to living composers. Of particular note are the complete string quartets and piano quintets of George Whitefield Chadwick, Ernest Bloch and Walter Piston for which they have received “Best Recording of the Year” commendations from The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

Concert tours throughout Europe, Latin America and Japan, in addition to music river cruises to Europe’s major cultural destinations are international highlights of their career. Annual String Quartet Workshops for professionally aspiring young students and adult amateur players attract students from all over Maine and New England and as far away as Russia, Japan, Israel, and many countries in Latin America. Since l976 the Portland String Quartet has worked extensively with two generations of musicians from Venezuela’s internationally renowned Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra.

About John Knowles Paine
Besides receiving a solid training in music theory and musicianship in his native Portland, Maine, Paine had become a formidable organ virtuoso. His performances of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach were held in especially high regard; more and more, the professional critics recognized Paine’s extraordinary musicianship. In 1861, immediately after his return from the obligatory studies in Europe (in the mid-nineteenth century still primarily in Germany) Paine accepted the prestigious position as the organist at Boston’s Old West Church; the job included teaching organ, piano, and music theory (composition). Harvard reacted promptly and offered Paine the position of “teacher of sacred music.” Once he was associated with Harvard as an instructor in 1862, Paine’s goal was to establish the study of music as a full-fledged University department. This did not happen without opposition among the faculty, the loudest from Professor Francis Parkman, a well-known historian who, in meetings of the Corporation, used to proclaim: “musica delenda est” (music must be destroyed).

Against all adverse circumstances, Paine succeeded, establishing a music curriculum, courses for credit, and advocating for the position of music within the University, as well as a constant need for space. John Knowles Paine was not able to experience the fulfilment of his professional dreams: the Music Building, which would have been the capstone of his work at and for Harvard, was finally realized in 1914, eight years after his death in 1906. Paine had discussed the project with the inner circle of the Department so intensely and in such detail that it is safe to say the 1914 building in fact still realized his ideas.



Harvard University Department of Music

Transmission/Transformation: Sounding China in Enlightenment Europe

All eyes are turned towards China, as it continuously grows in global importance. This phenomenon may have a contemporary ring to it, but the eighteenth century was equally enthralled by the Middle Kingdom. Everything about the distant empire was fascinating to the western world, including its music. Fanny Peabody Professor of Music Alexander Rehding, in conjunction with graduate students Peter McMurray and Meredith Schweig and the students in Music 220, “History of Music Theory,” have developed a library exhibit that retraces the voyage of this music from Qing-dynasty China to the urban salons, drawing rooms, and coffee houses of Enlightenment Europe. The exhibit, Transmission/Transformation: Sounding China in Enlightenment Europe, opens in the Loeb Music Library February 1, 2012.

Much of the knowledge the eighteenth century had about Chinese culture was owed to Jesuit missionaries in the Far East, who wrote extensively about their encounter with this foreign world, and whose reports were eagerly studied by European Enlightenment philosophers and music scholars mesmerized by anything Chinese. To some, China represented an opportunity for critical reflection on Western society, and to others China represented a radically different societal order. Scholars incorporated missionary accounts—often in highly imaginative variants—into their own published works on musical evolution and knowledge, while Enlightenment composers began transcribing melodies and harmonizing them to make them “more palatable” to the European ear. The eighteenth-century public’s curiosity about China ensured that many bourgeois homes would own such musical arrangements. The operatic stage, too, eagerly took up the idea of China as a colorful backdrop for exotic extravaganzas.

“The whole idea for the course grew out of a score [Acting Loeb Librarian] Sarah Adams showed me a couple of years ago,” says Rehding. “It was a English arrangement from 1796 of a song transcribed in China. It became clear to me that this apparently insignificant piece of music encapsulated the whole story of the transmission of Chinese music into Europe: from the— faulty— transcription of a popular Chinese tune to its setting in a manner that could be easily sung in a bourgeois parlor. In many ways, these simple arrangements were the precursor of the radio and the CD player: they provided simple musical entertainment at home, but in this case with an additional educational and exotic flavor.”

The class gathered material for the exhibition throughout the fall semester. In addition to the usual seminar settings, they visited many of the ongoing exhibitions at Harvard and spoke to numerous curators and experts.

“This course covers such a vast terrain,” says Rehding, “that it is quite impossible to be expert in all areas. We have made great use of Harvard’s extraordinary resources and its amazing library and museum staff.”

Schweig adds, “We’ve reached out to musicians, scholars and instrument makers from Taipei and Shanghai as well, which has helped make this a very transnational experience.”

To enhance the visual experience of the exhibit the class worked on digital augmentation—audio files of music, documentation, film files—for some of the pieces.

“The trouble with musical exhibitions,” says Schweig, “is that you really want to hear the music. In an exhibition setting this is not an easy task to accomplish. So we had to think about alternatives.”

“The Loeb library was eager to help,” adds McMurray. “They bought a number of ipads that visitors will be able to use to access the digital augmentation.”
McMurray and Schweig, two advanced graduate students in ethnomusicology, have been instrumental in developing this innovative course as part of the expanded PITF (Presidential Information Technology Fellowship) program, that now also includes Museum (MITF) and Library (LITF) variants—precisely the kinds of expertise needed for this project. In the course of planning the class and the exhibition that is its final product, the digital component of the exhibition took on an increasingly weighty part. Schweig has a background in Asian Studies and museology, and McMurray is an old hand in digital media.

“These two are the perfect collaborators,” enthuses Rehding. “I would not have been able to launch this ambitious project without them.”

Everybody involved agrees that the project has been a huge learning experience. “One thought that is always at the back of my mind,” says Rehding, “is how relevant some of these ideas are. Sure, the details have changed—sometimes drastically so—but China still occupies the central place in western imagination that it’s held since the Enlightenment.”

Exhibit open through April 30, 2012. Supported by the Provostial Fund for the Arts and Humanities, the Department of Music, and the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Harvard University.



Harvard University Department of Music

First Nights Premieres Aucoin's Piece

Aucoin conducting Dudley Opera. Harvard Gazette photo by Jon Chase.

It was Matt Aucoin’s day even though it wasn’t planned that way. The 2011 First Nights premiere was commissioned from Michael Einziger, composer and lead guitarist of the platinum-selling band Incubus. But Einziger was hospitalized during an Incubus European tour and couldn’t get back to Harvard. The premiere performance date was around the corner, and Professor Kelly suddenly found himself with nothing to premiere. Aucoin, already booked to conduct the Einziger piece, stepped in. He had some sketches for an extended string quartet, he told Kelly, and he thought that if he stayed up all night, he could finish it. He did.

“This is the most authentic First Nights experience we’ve ever had,” Professor Kelly announced to the class. “The tasks of composing, preparing parts, recruiting personnel, conducting rehearsals, and producing a first performance—and working against a deadline—are challenges that we know from other composers’ experiences in First Nights. Now we have the privilege of watching some of our contemporaries trying to accomplish the same thing. It will be a near thing, but I think it will work.”

Aucoin’s 11th-hour commission is also a happy piece of serendipity: when Matt was ten he’d skip elementary school to come to Sanders to listen to Kelly’s First Nights class. The first classical concert he ever heard was at Sanders as well—Beethoven’s Ninth.

A First Reading

At the rehearsal staged two days before the premiere, Kelly’s First Nights students packed Sanders Theatre to hear a cold reading of the Aucoin piece.

“This is the first time anyone’s going to hear this, including me,” Aucoin told the audience. Then, turning to the group of a dozen of Harvard’s student string players: “Let’s tune.”

Aucoin, conducting with a pen (he’d forgotten his baton) led the musicians through a rehearsal: “Keep the crescendo absolutely steady. Try not to back off. These notes trail off like efforts that have failed.”

The themes in Aucoin’s new work, he told the crowd, came from an opera he’s writing based on the story of Hart Crane, an openly gay poet who lived in New York in the 1920s, and died young. “Some themes have a sadness to them,” explains Aucoin. “There’s a striving, then toppling off before a successful peak.”

Music for Mike

On the morning of the premiere, Professor Kelly introduces the piece; it’s now titled “Music for Mike.” The players have had a rehearsal or two, and the audience has swelled. Aucoin strides out from the wings, lifts his baton, and the ensemble of 13 plays a strikingly beautiful, seemingly flawless twelve minutes of music. After the last note, the audience cheers.

As Aucoin slips off the stage, Kelly addresses his First Nights 2011 class for the final time.

“I am always amazed by my First Nights students,” he confides. “I know that many of you out there are not going to become musicians. You may become doctors, or go get an MBA, or try to become president. I am always impressed that you would use your valuable time to take a course on music, to answer the question, ‘Would my life be better with art in it?’

“We are all here today to celebrate live performance. Here’s something that didn’t exist a few days ago. It began, it was practiced, and it happened. If you weren’t here you didn’t hear it. It belongs to us. We audience members can take some credit for bringing a new piece of art into the world. That is a good thing.”





Harvard University Department of Music

Professor Thomas Forrest Kelly Elected 2011 American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow

CLICK HERE TO READ American Academy Press Release

Some of the world’s most accomplished leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities, and the arts have been elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The list this spring includes Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music Thomas F. Kelly, who joins one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies and a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to Academy studies of science and technology policy, global security, social policy and American institutions, the humanities, and education.

Among the 2011 class of scholars, scientists, writers, artists, civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders are winners of the Nobel, Pulitzer, and Pritzker Prizes; the Turing Award; MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships; and Kennedy Center Honors, Grammy, Golden Globe, and Academy awards. Kelly will be welcomed to the Academy in a ceremony later this year.

Scientists among the newly elected Fellows include: astronomer Paul Butler, discoverer of over 330 planets and cancer researcher Clara Bloomfield, who proved that adult acute leukemia can be cured; Anthony Bryk, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; Roberta Ramo, the first woman to serve as president of the American Bar Association; and jazz icon Dave Brubeck; singer/songwriters Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, and Bob Dylan; documentary filmmaker Ken Burns; actor Daniel Day-Lewis; ethnographic historian James Clifford; playwright John Guare; conceptual artist Jenny Holzer; Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro; and actor Sam Waterston.

Harvard University Department of Music

Professor Kelly,his wife Peggy Badenhausen, and Consul General Christophe Guilhou at the ceremony October 27.

October 27, 2010
Thomas F. Kelly Decorated as Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters

Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music THOMAS FORREST KELLY was decorated as “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) of the French Republic during a reception at the Boston residence of the Consul Général of France in a ceremony on October 27, 2010. The rank of Chevalier is the highest awarded.

The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres is a recognition of significant contribution to arts and literature. Established by Charles de Gaulle in 1957, the Order recognizes eminent artists and writers, and people who have significantly contributed to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. Before the creation of this Order, artists and writers could be officially recognized only through the Legion of Honor (and that in very restricted numbers), or the Order of Academic Palms, if they were connected with the field of education.

Recipients are nominated by France’s Minister of Culture. Previous awardees include David Bowie, Uma Thurman, and Joachim Pissarro, as well as French men and women of letters. Recent American recipients of this award include Paul Auster, Ornette Coleman, Marilyn Horne, Richard Meier, Robert Paxton, Robert Redford, and Meryl Streep.




c 2015 President and Fellows of Harvard College