Presentations and Panels

I have presented on music in different settings and for diverse audiences. I have given formal paper presentations at conferences and festivals, including two recent meetings of the American Musicological Society South-Central Chapter, the Music by Women Festival, and University of Tennessee Contemporary Music Festival. On other occasions I have introduced classical music to high school students and sat on panels directed to other, general audiences. Explore the list below for a brief summary of my activities speaking on music. Abstracts and PowerPoint slides are provided for several papers. Read more about my scholarly activities at the MusicCentral blog.

Titles and Selected Abstracts

"Intersections of Timbre, Harmony, and Melody in the Liminal Compositions of Kaija Saariaho for Flute and Cello," with live music performed by Zendra White and Paul Christopher, Music by Women Festival, Mississippi University for Women, Columbus, MS, Mar. 5, 2020. View PowerPoint

Abstract: Kaija Saariaho is one of the major composers of our era. Her music, though connected to the French spectral school, stands apart from theirs, and, indeed, she has questioned their foundational insistence on the continuity of sound properties and their translation into music. Instead, for her musical parameters like timbre, harmony, and melody intersect at critical junctures, the exact locations of which remain her prerogative as composer to determine and manipulate. This paper outlines her approach to composition as well as her aesthetic vision with relation to this liminal stance. It examines the philosophical and scientific considerations which brought her aesthetic into fruition in the late 1980s and 1990s. It gives particular attention to her formative article "Timbre and Harmony: Interpolations of Timbral Structures" which appeared in Contemporary Music Review in 1987. It then draws musical examples from works Saariaho has composed for flute and cello—two of her favorite instruments to write for thanks to her friendships with flutist Camilla Hoitenga and cellist Anssi Karttunen. Finally, it considers how extended techniques on these two instruments function within her innovative sound grammar.

"Liminal Aesthetics: How Tristan Murail’s 'Gondwana' Subverts Harmony and Timbre," American Musicological Society South-Central Chapter Meeting, The University of the South, Sewanee, TN, Mar. 9, 2019. View PowerPoint, Download Handout

Abstract: If Paris in the 1970s can be viewed as the birthplace of spectral music, then Darmstadt in the early 1980s represents this movement’s opening up to the larger world of contemporary music. Tristan Murail, one of the founding French spectralists, lectured at the Darmstadt summer courses in both 1980 and 1982. In his two lectures, provocatively titled, "The Revolution of Complex Sounds" and "Spectra and Sprites," he sets forth a bold aesthetic vision for the emerging movement. As envisioned by Murail, spectral music considers sound as a whole, effectively eschewing the parametrization favored by serialism. Instead, Murail proposes what I have termed a liminal aesthetic in which the traditional boundaries between harmony, timbre, and other musical dimensions become ambiguous if not altogether meaningless. Murail, furthermore, positions spectral music as a post-electronic music, one which prizes sonic masses, models form after studio processes, and builds harmony-timbres from sound spectra analysis. Metaphorically, he also equates the spectral composer to a sculptor chiseling away at sound. My paper examines these two lectures, formulating Murail’s liminal aesthetic from them, and then considers his contemporaneous orchestral composition Gondwana within this aesthetic context. Ultimately, I demonstrate how Murail, in the absence of a meaningful distinction between harmony and timbre, generates direction and continuity within his musical aesthetic without compromising a Modernist idiom.

"Timbre and Melody in the Cello Concerti of Kaija Saariaho," University of Tennessee Contemporary Music Festival, Knoxville, TN, Oct. 24, 2018.

"Timbre and Melody in the Cello Concerti of Kaija Saariaho," American Musicological Society South-Central Chapter Meeting, Warren Wilson College, Asheville, NC, Mar. 24, 2018.

PowerPoint Saariaho Intersections of Tim
PowerPoint Murail Liminal Aesthetics Gon

In-Class Presentation: "Old World or New? Framing the Cultural Context of Two Polychoral, Concerted Mass Settings by Ignacio Jerusalem y Stella," University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, Nov. 30, 2016. View PowerPoint

Abstract: A forgotten master of eighteenth-century music, Ignacio Jerusalem y Stella (1707-1769) was one of the most significant figures in Mexican music in the colonial age. As maestro de capilla of the Mexico City Cathedral from 1750 to 1769, Jerusalem exerted a tremendous influence over the sacred music of New Spain. This paper examines two polychoral settings of the Mass Ordinary in the keys of G major and D major composed by Ignacio Jerusalem during his tenure as maestro de capilla. In the process, the paper asks if his American surroundings encouraged any shifts in his musical language which might meaningfully be considered exotic in comparison to Mass settings by composers active in Europe at approximately this same time. In particular, the polychoral Mass in G major by José de Nebra—assistant maestro at the Royal Chapel in Madrid—shall also be considered. Ultimately, through their display of galant characteristics and multiple similarities with the Nebra setting, the polychoral Mass settings by Ignacio Jerusalem shall be shown to diverge little from the European mainstream, and instead become representative of a composer whose intent was to transplant this tradition in Mexico rather than incorporate influences from his American surroundings.

Panel Discussion: "Composing Today," with Al Benner and Samuel Stokes, Sugarmill Music Festival, Alexandria, LA, May 14, 2016.

Panel Discussion: "What is Classical Music?" with Paul Christopher and Matt Petty, Sugarmill Music Festival, Alexandria, LA, May 14, 2016.

"Musical Ghosts: References and Associations in the Works of Luciano Berio and Alfred Schnittke; and an Original Composition," 29th Annual Research Day,  Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, LA, Apr. 21, 2016. View PowerPoint

Abstract: Since the waning of the Modernist adventure in music beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, references to pre-existing music have become a prominent feature in many new compositions. The current presentation considers three representative works, including the Third Movement of Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia constructed entirely from references as diverse as Beethoven, Mahler, Schoenberg, and Boulez; the haunted waltz from Alfred Schnittke’s Piano Quintet; and the First Movement of my own Organ Symphony generated from a Gregorian Kyrie eleison chant. The project uncovers the structural logic behind why these composers make use of their references.

"Musical Ghosts: References and Associations in the Works of Luciano Berio and Alfred Schnittke; and an Original Composition," University of Louisiana System Academic Summit, Nicholls State University, Thibodeaux, LA, Apr. 15, 2016.

PowerPoint Jerusalem Old World or
PowerPoint Musical Ghosts.png

Cultural Engagement: "What Is 'Classical Music' and Why Does It Matter?," BrainSurge, Alexandria, LA, Nov. 18, 2015.

"An Overview of My Compositions: Concepts in Classical Music from the Composer's Perspective," Menard High School, Alexandria, LA, Sep. 9, 2015.

"Seven Great Classical Composers: An Introduction to Classical Music," Menard High School," Alexandria, LA, Sep. 23, 2014.

Public Thesis Defense: "Learning from the Past: The Influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the Soviet Composers," Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, LA, Apr. 10, 2013. View PowerPoint

Abstract: Expected to adhere to the strict dictates of Socialist Realism, many Soviet composers found refuge and salvation in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, incorporating its influence into their own compositions in a variety of ways. Composers key to this movement include Dmitri Shostakovich, Arvo Pärt, Alfred Schnittke, and Sofia Gubaidulina. In his fight against Stalin, Shostakovich invoked Bach’s aid by employing the forms, genres, and conventions of his Baroque predecessor. Later, Pärt and Schnittke would represent Bach as the only possible victor in the ideological battle between the Soviet Union’s official policy of conservatism and the encroaching avant-garde. More recently, Gubaidulina has attempted to parallel the balance she perceives in Bach’s music between its intellectual and intuitive aspects. Ultimately, for many composers forced to work under the totalitarianism of Socialist Realism, the legacy of Bach proved to be both an invaluable refuge from oppression and a vital source for new inspiration.

"Learning from the Past: The Influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the Soviet Composers," 26th Annual Research Day, Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, LA, Feb. 21, 2013.

© 2015-2020 by Jackson Harmeyer