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Department News

On October 2–4, 2014, the conference and festival “Sensation and Sensibility at the Keyboard in the Late Eighteenth Century: Celebrating the Tercentenary of C. P. E. Bach” kicks off a new $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies at Cornell.

In concerts and talks over three days, guest performers and scholars, as well as Cornell faculty and graduate students, will explore late eighteenth-century theories of sentiment and feeling in Europe and America, focusing on the music of C. P. E. Bach and the holdings in Cornell’s collection of historic keyboard instruments (fortepiano, organ, harpsichord and clavichord).

Participants will include seven distinguished Department of Music alumni: Tom Beghin DMA ’97 (McGill University), Geoffrey Burgess PhD ’98 (Eastman School of Music), Emily Dolan PhD ’06 (Harvard University), Nick Mathew PhD ’06 (University of California, Berkeley), Pierpaolo Polzonetti PhD ’03(Notre Dame), Andrew Willis DMA ’94 (University of North Carolina at Greensboro), and Steven Zohn PhD ’95 (Temple University). A highlight of the event will be the Atkinson Forum concert, “America in Sentimental Europe,” featuring the celebrated and strange glass harmonica, and given by the award-winning period instrument ensemble Ars Lyrica Houston.

The event is organized by Cornell University Organist and Professor of Music Annette Richards. Richards’s talk, “Sensibility Triumphant: C. P. E. Bach and the Art of Feeling,” will also be featured as a keynote speech next November at the University of Oxford as part of a conference on “C. P. E. Bach and Eighteenth-Century Keyboard Culture.”


The Cornell music department became home to the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies in 2011 thanks to two initial grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation totaling $470,000.The new grant from the Mellon Foundation funds activities on and off campus, including the upcoming festivals “Environs Messiaen: Nature Rendered at the Keyboard” on March 5-8, 2015 and “Forte/Piano: A Festival Celebrating Pianos in History” on August 5-9, 2015, as well as “Technologies of the Keyboard,” a joint multi-year initiative exploring the keyboard arts across the centuries. For more information, see


James Spinazzola, DMA, will serve as Interim Director of Cornell University Winds for the 2014-2015 academic year.

James has extensive conducting experience; he was formerly Associate Professor of Music and Director of Instrumental Activities at the University of Indianapolis, where his duties included the direction of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra, and the instruction of courses in conducting and woodwind techniques. He also served as Conductor of the New World Youth Philharmonic, and, as a guest conductor, he has worked with numerous regional, all-state, and collegiate bands, orchestras, and jazz ensembles.

As part of a postdoctoral fellowship, James has worked over the past two years under outgoing Director of CU Winds Cindi Johnston Turner, who has accepted a position at University of Georgia, Athens, and Director of Orchestras Chris Younghoon Kim. An accomplished saxophonist, he has also coached combos in Cornell’s Jazz Ensembles program and has provided individual instruction to saxophone students.

shepherd_sean_ Alumnus Sean Shepherd’s Songs will be premiered by the NY PHIL on June 18th as part the Beethoven Piano Concertos Festival.  Commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Shepard’s Songs will be performed between Beethoven’s Piano Concertos No. 2 and No. 3. Additional performances will be given June 19-21 as part of the month-long festival.  Shepherd earned his DMA in composition in May 2014 and has a Faculty Residency at the Tanglewood Music Center this summer. Congratulations Sean!

julia-webAlumna Julia Adolphe’s Dark Sand, Sifting Light received its world premiere on June 5th by the New York Philharmonic as part of the inaugural NY PHIL BIENNIAL.  The piece was one of three works chosen, out of a field of over 400, as part of American Composers Orchestra’s EarShot: the National Orchestra Composition Discovery Network. Earshot gives emerging composers the opportunity to have their work realized by professional orchestras.  As an undergraduate, Adolphe studied composition with Steven Stucky and voice with Judith Kellock. She is now pursuing her DMA at USC’s Thornton School of Music. For more information about the premiere, read Anthony Tommasini’s article in the NY Times.

Orchestra and Solosti

Cornell Orchestras earned 2nd place in the collegiate orchestras category for the 2013-2014 ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming.  Announced at the League of American Orchestras National Conference in Seattle, WA on June 5th, the awards are presented each year to orchestras of all sizes for programs that challenge the audience, build the repertoire, and increase interest in music of our time.  Since 2008, Cornell Orchestras have garnered one of the top three prizes six times due to their strong commitment to new works and living composers. Composers featured this year include: Roberto Sierra, Joseph Phibbs, Niccolo D. Athens, Lou Harrison, Ian Doyle, Ray Li and Soundspace Team, James Spinazzola, and Tania Leon. Congratulations to Cornell Orchestras!



tomorrow is the questionTomorrow is the Question
New Directions in Experimental Music Studies

In recent decades, experimental music has flourished outside of European and American concert halls. The principles of indeterminacy, improvisation, nonmusical sound, and noise, pioneered in concert and on paper by the likes of Henry Cowell, John Cage, and Ornette Coleman, can now be found in all kinds of new places: activist films, rock recordings, and public radio broadcasts, not to mention in avant-garde movements around the world.

The contributors to Tomorrow Is the Question (edited by Benjamin Piekut) explore these previously unexamined corners of experimental music history, considering topics such as Sonic Youth, Julius Eastman, the Downtown New York pop avant-garde of the 1970s, Fluxus composer Benjamin Patterson, Tokyo’s Music group (aka Group Ongaku), the Balinese avant-garde, the Leicester school of British experimentalists, Cuba’s Grupo de Experimentación Sonora del ICAIC, Pauline Oliveros’s score for the feminist documentary Maquilapolis, NPR’s 1980s RadioVisions, and the philosophy of experimental musical aesthetics.

Taken together, this menagerie of people, places, and things makes up an actually existing experimentalism that is always partial, compromised, and invented in its local and particular formations-in other words, these individual cases suggest that experimentalism has been a far more variegated set of practices and discourses than previously recognized. Asking new questions leads to researching new materials, new individuals, and new contexts and, eventually, to the new critical paradigms that are necessary to interpret these materials. Gathering contributions from historical musicology, enthnomusicology, history, philosophy, and cultural studies, Tomorrow Is the Question generates future research directions in experimental music studies by way of a productive inquiry that sustains and elaborates critical conversations.

“Tomorrow Is the Question brings together eleven essays with a pithy and thorough introduction that beg new questions for experimental music studies from a global perspective. This book will set scholars on new paths waiting to be trod.”
-Pauline Oliveros

“This book explodes the traditional map of experimental music. Rather than drawing a new one, the authors invite us on a journey of global exploration, where we encounter a creative landscape of astounding richness and diversity.”
-Anne C. Shreffler, Harvard University

“Tomorrow Is the Question provides a welcome break from conventional approaches to the study of experimental music.  The result is a stimulating collection of essays that highlight the rich and irreducible variety of experimentalist practices. By opening up these new avenues, this book will have a decisive impact on future research in this field.”
-Bernard Gendron, author of Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club

On April 23, 2014, the music webzine The Drone hosted the internet premiere of Domestic Infelicity’s animation for “Under Awnings,” a song from lecturer Annie Lewandowski’s 2013 recording Do You Burn?. Watch the animation here:


Cornell Alumna Fang Man has been awarded a Discovery Grant from Opera America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers. She is part of the first round of eight recipients, chosen from 112 applicants, to receive this new award. Each recipient will be given $12,500 to support the development of their work.  The work that she is being honored for is the Golden Lily, an opera in three acts, based on the late sixteenth-century Chinese anonymous novel Jin Ping Mei.  The opera focuses on the novel’s female protagonist Golden Lily, who is one of the most (in)famous femme fatales in Chinese literature.

Fang is currently a Research Assistant Professor of Composition in the University of South Carolina’s School of Music. Congratulations Mandy!

First year musicology student, Matt Hall, won the Irene Alm Memorial prize by the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music for the best paper given by a graduate student at the Society’s annual spring conference. His paper,  entitled “Concerts Royaux, 1670-1700: Genre, Style, Performance Practice,” generated a particularly lively discussion among the attendees at this year’s conference, held in San Antonio, Texas.  Congratulations, Matt!

g27-CD-coverTwo pieces by Norbert Palej (DMA, 2008), The War and the Poet and Rorate Coeli, were included on the program for Centaur Records that was nominated for a JUNO Award on February 4th, 2014.  The recording was nominated for Classical Album Of The Year Vocal/Choral and features soprano Shannon Mercer and Toronto’s group of twenty-seven (g27) chamber orchestra, with Eric Paetkau conducting.  The program also features Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’été. The awards will be handed out at ceremonies on March 29 & 30 in Winnipeg. Congratulations Norbert!