Keynote Speaker Information

Gordon Sly

Gordon Sly — Michigan State University

Gordon Sly is Professor of Music Theory at Michigan State University. He teaches undergraduate courses in the music theory sequence and regularly-offered graduate courses in Schenker’s approach, music theory pedagogy, analytical process in “post-atonal tonal” music, and 16th-century counterpoint—as well as occasionally-offered seminars in the song cycle and in the music of Benjamin Britten. His recent research has focused on Britten’s music: book chapters on the Serenade for tenor, horn, and strings and The Holy Sonnets of John Donne; a volume on 20th- and 21st-century song cycle that he co-edited with colleague Michael Callahan for Routledge (2020); and the book Britten’s Donne, Hardy, and Blake Songs: Cyclic Design and Meaning (Boydell & Brewer, 2023). His current book project, Britten Grounded: The Role of Passacaglia in his Music, explores Britten’s works that feature passacaglias—nineteen in all, including seven of the operas, as well as several larger works, both texted and purely instrumental.

Presentation: Thoughts on Analysis for Upperclass Undergraduate and Non-Specialist Graduate Students

Abstract: In 2011 I published a paper in JMTP whose opening section sketched the evolution of a summer graduate analysis course that I had taught the previous dozen or so years. In its introduction I contended that analysis ought to be the one activity that all musicians, regardless of sub-discipline, care about, since an analysis—essentially an argument for performing/hearing/imagining a piece in a certain way—bears directly on what each of us does. Year after year, though, my first-day-of-class discussions with a new cohort of students reconfirmed what we all know to be true—that very few musicians are engaged in analysis.

Students initially pointed to a shortage of time as the reason for this, but with a little probing on my part, that explanation would expand into something else: they didn’t believe analysis to be worth the time it would require. A little more probing would invariably reveal what I increasingly came to believe to underlie this view: they overwhelmingly confused analysis with the application of analytical tools. Analyzing, say, tonal music, meant attaching a Roman numeral to all chords. No purpose lay beyond this; the labeling was the purpose. Quite naturally, then, however deft individual students may have been with the analytical tools that they had all learned, they shared one view uniformly: analysis—the analysis they had learned in their theory courses—had nothing to offer them as musicians.

Another dozen or so years have passed, the course is still going strong, and these same circumstances persist. I have continued to adjust the course design, my gaze ever fixed on combatting this pervasive misunderstanding. I can’t claim to have solved the problem entirely, but the most effective approach that I have evolved rests on two strict requirements: first, the principal aim of students’ analytical work is to develop, and express concisely, an analytical argument; second, they may employ analytical tools only in support of that argument. My talk will try to illustrate what this looks like.

Stacey Davis

Stacey Davis — University of Texas, San Antonio

Stacey Davis is Acting Director of the School of Music and Professor of Music Theory at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she teaches courses in music theory and music psychology and is a 2019 recipient of the University of Texas System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. She holds Ph.D. and M.M. degrees in music theory from Northwestern University and a B.M. in violin performance from Arizona State University. Her research is centered around making connections between the analysis of musical structure, empirical research in music cognition and perception, studies of expressive performance, and music theory pedagogy. Pedagogy-related articles appear in the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, The Routledge Companion to Music Theory Pedagogy, and BACH: Journal of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute. Additional published articles appear in Music Perception, Psychology of Music, Musicae Scientiae, Music Theory Online, and Understanding Bach.

Presentation: What’s your Musical Reason? Teaching Analysis and Performance Expressivity

In his seminal book on teaching music theory, Michael Rogers stated that “the purpose of all music training is to teach for musical understanding (to perceive, organize, and then conceptualize what you hear) and consequently to learn how to create musical expression and how to develop an aesthetic response to that expression.” This statement suggests direct connections between music theory, music performance, and music perception, with specific emphasis on the relationship between musical understanding and expressivity. In the spirit of making these pedagogical connections and applications, my talk will focus on how we can teach both analysis and performance expressivity in our music theory classes. Analysis will be viewed as a way of recognizing, describing, and drawing attention to certain aspects of a piece, thereby making the score, the listening experience, and various performer interpretations excellent starting points. Such analyses also reveal relationships between expressive intention and execution, expressive consistency and creativity, and aspects of expressivity created by both composers and performers. Throughout the presentation, possible pedagogical approaches and activities will be informed by the results of empirical research on music perception and expert expressive performance.

Elizabeth West Marvin

Elizabeth West Marvin — Eastman School of Music

Elizabeth West Marvin is Minehan Family Professor Emerita in the Department of Music Theory at the Eastman School of Music. She holds her Ph.D. and master’s degrees from the Eastman School. She is the 2013 recipient of the Gail Boyd de Stwolinski Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Music Theory Teaching and Scholarship. Dr. Marvin is a past president of the Society for Music Theory and the Music Theory Society of New York State, and past co-chair of the AP Music Theory Test Development Committee. Her recent research focuses on music cognition and music theory pedagogy. She is co-author (with Jane Piper Clendinning) of The Musician’s Guide to Theory and Analysis (textbook, workbook, and anthology, W. W. Norton, 4th edition 2021) and (with Joel Phillips and Clendinning) of The Musician’s Guide to Fundamentals (W. W. Norton, 3rd edition 2018, media update 2023).

Presentation: My Reflections on Music Theory Pedagogy.

Abstract: This talk reflects on my lived experience as a beginning music theory student who eventually became a music theory teacher, researcher, and author. Together we will explore what music theory pedagogy meant to learners then and now, including some ways that textbooks and research have shaped the field. Finally, I pose a few additional "pedagogical punchlines" to augment those of Marvin (2018, "What I Know Now").