Review of the Postgraduate Study Day in Music,
Royal Holloway University of London, Saturday 23 February 2002
Traditionally, the second Study Day of the year at Royal Holloway coincides with the College Postgraduate Open Day, in order to put on a good show for prospective students, as well as to swell the size of the audience. Though just eleven weeks had elapsed since the last such event, we were nevertheless proud to be able to present a full programme of five speakers, including our Guest Speaker, Prof William Weber.
The Study Day opened with Geoff Hannan’s paper entitled ‘Soiling the Linen’, for reasons that became apparent as the presentation unfolded. Geoff, a doctoral student in composition, gave voice to a number of different lines of enquiry with which he is currently preoccupied, including ‘the anatomy of humour and musical theatre; music as a metaphor for the epistemology of new technology; and music as a critical force’. He illustrated the thesis of his talk with extracts from various recent pieces, including Rigmarole (1997), Centrifugal Bumblepuppy (1999), Joyrider (2000), and Bubblegum (2001). The latter piece was performed just a couple of weeks ago – complete with ‘sound-bites’ and helium-filled balloons – by the ensemble Nosferatu.
The next speaker was Wan-ching Tsui, who has previously delighted us at Royal Holloway with his papers ‘Refrains in the pastourelles avec des refrains in Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Ms. 5198’ (December 2000) and ‘A Comparative Study of the Use of Quotation in Cantopops and Trouvère Chansons’ (February 2001), not to mention his enchanting performance on voice and guitar at the Room 001 Postgraduate Concert organised by Danae Stefanou last Wednesday (20 February). Today he presented a new paper, ‘Problems in the Classification of Trouvère Chansons which Make Use of Refrains’, in which he explored issues in the model for categorization of refrained chansons proposed by the scholars Ulrich Mölk and Friedrich Wolfzettel.
After a short break came the paper ‘Form in Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 13’ by Matthew Mills, who is no stranger to the Study Days, having spoken at the last three (June 2001, December 2001, February 2002) in succession. Matt cogently argued that the Grave section of Beethoven’s Pathéthique sonata, Op. 13 should be considered an integral part of the exposition section (and thus repeated), rather than a mere introduction. He examined this hypothesis both from the point of view of the sonata movement itself and with reference to other of Beethoven’s works. Matt’s paper took the form of a lecture-recital and exemplified his talents not just as a musicologist but also as a pianist.
Then followed Maria McHale, a recently completed PhD student, who spoke on the subject of the dissemination and revival of Early Music in late nineteenth-century England. In her paper, entitled ‘“Awakening the hearts of every man, woman and child”: The Early English Musical Magazine and the national music cause’, Maria examined the short-lived periodical (which ran for just eight months in 1891) and its aim to distribute Early Music to the general public through biographical articles, music supplements and technical advice – thereby to promote nationalistic visions.
But undoubtedly, the jewel in the crown of the Study Day was Prof William Weber’s paper ‘The Ideological Division between Classical and Contemporary Music c. 1910’. William Weber, Professor of History at California State University, Long Beach and for this term (Spring 2002) Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the Royal College of Music, London, agreed in January to be our Guest Speaker, and the postgraduate community has been unbelievably excited ever since. Prof Weber gave us a foretaste of his current area of research on three interacting categories of music, each possessing their own history, present after around 1900: classical music, contemporary music, and the new music that resulted. Traditionally, Study Days are chaired by postgraduate students, but in this case, an exception was agreed, and Prof Weber’s paper was spectacularly overseen by Dr Katharine Ellis.
Overall, this Study Day was a resounding success. The standard of discussion was consistently high – with the frequency of excellent questions originating from students being especially notable – and an impressive turnout abundantly demonstrated that there exists no apathy within the postgraduate community at Royal Holloway. The Study Day was, as usual, a great opportunity for everybody to learn more about one another’s research and to engage in valuable academic discussion.