University of Rochester

Eastman School Aura Surrounds This Fall's Bridging Fellows

July 5, 2006

The mystery and complexity of how music and language meet are drawing three University of Rochester professors to pursue Bridging Fellowships, a one-of-a-kind University program to promote interdisciplinary study.

Jazz pianist Harold Danko and musicologist Patrick Macey of the Eastman School of Music faculty, and Joan Shelley Rubin, a cultural historian who will do research at Eastman, have been selected by Provost Charles E. Phelps. They will take academic leaves from their home departments and delve into new research and collaborate with new colleagues without leaving the University.

"I have often called myself a linguistics buff," said Danko, professor of jazz piano and chair of the Department of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media. "I am fascinated with the rhythms and cadence of conversational speech, and the sounds made by the human speaking voice, without regard to any specific language." So when he met a linguist with a deep interest in jazz, Danko thought he could best study the expressive function of rhythm in language and music at the University's own Department of Linguistics on the River Campus.

He and Joyce McDonough, associate professor and chair of the Department of Linguistics, will analyze jazz improvisation and intonational prosody in conversation on their way to increased understanding of the role of rhythm in relationship between language and music. Danko will spend part time during the fall and spring semesters on this project, capping it off with a performance work he'll create for students of linguistics and jazz in April 2007.

The program of study described by Macey, professor of musicology, will extend his knowledge of 19th-century German politics and culture with coursework in the Department of History on the River Campus in fall 2006. "I will be able to enhance the quality of the courses that I teach on German and Austrian instrumental music and expand my scholarly research into the ordering and function of musical culture in Germany during that period," Macey said. Celia Applegate, professor of history who has published on the topic of German culture and music, will act as Macey's primary contact. She was a Bridging Fellow at the Eastman School in spring 2005 for a project on nationalism and Germany.

Joan Shelley Rubin's proposal as a fall 2005 Bridging Fellow grew out of her recently completed book, a history of American readers and the uses of poetry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. That research kindled her interest in musical settings and performances of poetic texts, especially the contributions of composers to the ways in which audiences understand particular poems. She also hopes to teach more music history in her courses on American culture.

Her previous writings and expertise in literary and culture history attracted Rubin to a semester of study and research at Eastman, as well as her personal background in amateur vocal performance. Rubin, professor in the Department of History, will be working with various members of the musicology faculty, including Melina Esse and Ralph P. Locke, and interviewing composers such as David Liptak.

Bridging Fellowships have been awarded at the University of Rochester since 1980 to give faculty the opportunity to take time off from their school or department and try new academic ventures.

Note to editors: Color images of Professors Danko, Macey and Rubin are available by e-mail. Call (585) 275-4128 or e-mail