Eli Marshall



My interests align the creative aspects of listening to, analyzing, and making music. In recent years, this has meant embarking on research into acoustic-derived analysis of musical sound (similar to linguistic phonology and phonetics). Such an approach offers fresh perspective on the creative process; but also a material, non-notated basis for inquiry, potentially contributing to the active field-wide conversation about formulating a new theory pedagogy capable of addressing multiple genres of music in multiple ways.

Before arriving at Cornell, many of my professional activities – composition, music organizing, curation, and occasional research and teaching – were centered in first Beijing and later Hong Kong. I was a member of a collection of colleagues in Beijing in the early 2000’s which pursued a vision of a concert music emphasizing new, small-scale, and local relevance; this experience remains valuable to me, in critical hindsight, in revealing classical music as a modern genre, oddly both trans-national and nationalist, deriving both claims to legitimacy and market power from an unusual combination of sources.

I have written music for a number of ensembles, including orchestras based in greater China (Beijing, Hong Kong, Macao, Shanghai), Hamburg (Germany), Jonkiping (Sweden), Dublin, Lviv (Ukraine), London (UK), and New York (USA). I have also worked as composer and consultant to film directors (particularly Ann Hui and Wong Kar-wai), arising in part from my years in Hong Kong (2011-14). I have collaborated with Hong Kong-based playwright Candace Chong on an hourlong dramatic work for opera singers.

I studied toward professional degrees at conservatories (Curtis Institute Dipl.Mus, Hamburg Hochschule M.Mus) and at a large university (Chinese University of Hong Kong D.Mus), but as a teacher of music composition and theory I find it most useful to return to pedagogy rooted in liberal arts (B.A., Bard College at Simon’s Rock), bringing together scientific discovery, social context, and artistic inquiry, as well as a healthy dose of critique.

Previous to Cornell, I was involved with research as Fulbright Fellow at the China Music Research Institute, as Visiting Lecturer at the Central Conservatory of Music (Beijing), and teaching at the Witten/Herdecke University (Germany) and as Visiting Scholar at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Hong Kong).

My current research in theory, informed by my collaborator affiliations with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Music Media and Technology in Montreal (CIRMMT), as well as McGill University’s Analysis Creation and Teaching of Orchestration (ACTOR), involves developing approaches toward segmentation of sung vocal recordings and measurement of parameters such as timbre and tuning. My active pedagogical research includes identifying ways in which music theory assumptions can lead to poor science and biased pedagogy, and how they may be transformed.

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