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February 17, 2015

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‘For those who make and love music’: the Eastman Studies in Music series

Ralph Kirkpatrick book cover
Not Russian Enough? book cover
Music and Musical Composition at the American Academy in Rome  book cover
Mendelssohn, the Organ and the Mujsic of hte Past book cover
Harry Partch, Hobo Composter book cover
Anton Heiller book cover

“Music can be a problematic topic for a book,” writes Ralph Locke, professor of musicology at the Eastman School, at the Musicology Now blog of the American Musicological Society. “Unlike novels or poems, plays or paintings, musical works cannot easily be represented in words or visual images. Furthermore, musical notation and detailed technical description can feel opaque to many music lovers. The net result has been a looming gap, for centuries now, between music as it is understood by musicians and the often superficial ways in which it has tended to be written about in books, magazines, and newspapers.”

The Eastman Studies in Music, edited by Locke and published by the University of Rochester Press, is helping to fill that gap with dozens of scholarly books on such topics as music publishing in 16th-century Venice, fugal theory in the Baroque era, the suites of Johann Sebastian Bach, and “the pleasure of modernist music.” For example, the 100th title in the series, published last year, is The French Symphony at the Fin de Siècle: Style, Culture, and the Symphonic Tradition. The monograph by Andrew Deruchie, lecturer in Music at Otago University in New Zealand, focuses on the special challenges that composers in France faced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when composing in a genre previously dominated by German-speaking composers.

Some of the books in the series were written or edited by Eastman School professors or notable alumni. The Howard Hanson Institute for American Music, which is administered at the Eastman School, has provided support to certain Eastman Studies books about music and musical life in America. And hot off the press this year is Mendelssohn, the Organ, and the Music of the Past: Constructing Historical Legacies, derived in large part from papers presented at the 2009 festival of EROI (the Eastman-Rochester Organ Initiative) and edited by Jürgen Thym, professor emeritus of musicology. Works discussed in the book can be listened to at the Eastman School’s website in performances by Eastman organ professor David Higgs, former Eastman organ professor Hans Davidsson, and professor emeritus of organ William Porter.

“By casting its net wide,” writes Locke, “the Eastman Studies in Music series provides a wide range of critical and nuanced perspectives on musical composition and performance, on close analysis of music’s formal and expressive qualities, on musical performance across the centuries and around the world, and on the many historical and cultural contexts that have shaped music and its meanings for those who make it and love it.”

Moreover, at a time when funding for arts and humanities projects is under great strain, the University of Rochester Press and its sister firm in the UK, Boydell & Brewer, “are committed … to providing a forum for scholarly debate and research,” demonstrating that “serious research on music can still be published and at least break even for the publisher, even in the tight economic situation of the early 21st century.”

Visit Locke’s blog post at http://musicologynow.ams-net.org/2014/11/the-eastman-studies.html to learn more about the history of the Eastman Studies in Music series.

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