Editor’s Message

Music theorists do many things; one thing that they are particularly fond of is adapting old tools to new uses. We are, indeed, compulsive misusers of tools, and (figuratively speaking) people who tend to void manufacturers’ warranties. If we don’t find the methodology we need for a given task, we’ll adapt something meant for another use, bending it to our purposes. Our field is full of epic tool misusers, from Pythagoras at the blacksmith shop onwards. While music theory has always valued elegant, beautifully formulated tools and methods, it has also been the realm of the hybrid, the makeshift, the kludge. Sometimes, an elegant insight is seen to stand behind such a creative overstep; perhaps this keeps us a united discipline.

We may be in an era of stylistic and methodological heterodoxy. When the history of musical discourse in the early 21st century is written, perhaps it will report that the most characteristic forms of the day are the collage, the mashup, the mix tape. There may no longer be a musical mainstream (Requiescat in pace, Donald Francis Tovey), and the polarities of genre, aesthetic, and method that seemed to define the SMT at its founding (Schenker and sets, ex-musicologists vs. ex-composers) seem to have receded into the distance. This issue of Music Theory Online celebrates analytical heterodoxy, while searching for connection and coherence within it.

The centerpiece of MTO 24.1 is the three-part plenary of the 40th annual meeting of the Society for Music Theory, delivered on November 4, 2017 in Arlington, VA, and offered here as transcripts of those live presentations. Gretchen Horlacher explores connections between works of Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky and the dance they elicited from one of the twentieth century’s preeminent choreographers; Michael Tenzer presents the work of contemporary Indonesian composer Dewa Alit as a case study for how influence can operate within and between styles and idioms; and Steven Rings explores salient features that distinguish our discipline from other branches of the humanities, using a Wilco song as an illustration. Together, the three plenary talks explore connectedness of various kinds—between composition and choreography, between traditional and art music, between music production/technology and finished work, and more.

In addition, Inessa Bazayev and Nathan Pell employ approaches often associated with other repertoires to examine the music of Scriabin and Bruckner, respectively. Peter Schubert digs deep into contemporary 16th-century sources to examine one of the most astounding compositional feats of that era, namely Tallis’s 40-part Spem in alium. And speaking of mashups, Christine Boone examines the interaction of gender and interpersonal power dynamics in mashups, and in so doing places Edward T. Cone, Judith Butler, Susan McClary, Andy Griffith, Eminem, Beyoncé, and others in startling and unprecedented dialogue.

Our three book reviews, by Don Traut, Trevor DeClercq, and Michael Baker, similarly cover divergent ground: a collection of essays edited by Severine Neff, Maureen Carr, and Gretchen Horlacher examine The Rite of Spring at 100; Christopher Doll’s Hearing Harmony: Toward a Tonal Theory for Rock seeks a Harmonielehre for the rock repertoire; and Eric Wen examines and applies Schenker’s concept of das Meisterwerk in Structurally Sound: Seven Musical Masterworks Deconstructed.

This issue also welcomes our second associate editor, René Rusch. Dr. Rusch is one of the first junior faculty members to assume such a role for MTO, and joins us at a crucial time. We are becoming too big for our current means of managing submissions and editorial flow to function efficiently; with the help of managing editor Brent Yorgason and his team, we will be developing an online submission, review, and editing environment over the course of the next year or so. This should make the process of writing for MTO, and of producing new issues of the journal, smoother and more reliable.

As always, we encourage submissions in formats both tried and true and new and creative. Although we are especially well suited for the publication of articles that incorporate recordings, videos, and other media, we also welcome text submissions in a variety of formats, including full-length articles, shorter essays and commentaries, conference reports, and entire special volumes. Commentaries in response to this issue’s articles, as well as announcements for our job listings and dissertation index, may be submitted to the Editor for publication in the next issue. Please refer to our submission guidelines.

All MTO volumes dating back to our first issue in 1993 can be accessed from the contents page at http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/issues.html. Thank you, as always, for your support of MTO—a Journal of the Society for Music Theory.

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