Editor’s Message

Dear readers!

[1] Welcome, dear readers, to Music Theory Online Vol. 28, no. 2!

[2] As the days are at their longest, it’s time to brush off the lawn chair, pour yourself a beverage, gather the neighborhood children, and read a new issue of Music Theory Online aloud to the youth! Associate Editors Brent Auerbach, Inessa Bazayev, Jenine Brown, and Brad Osborn and I bring you twelve items to delight, entertain, and edify.

[3] Several of this issue’s articles address the human voice, bringing music theory into close contact with the discipline of sound studies. Zachary Wallmark examines nearly 700 instances of the rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s use the [æ] vowel (like the vowel in cat) in connection with theories of gender, sexuality, and branding. Next, Krystal Spreadborough presents a method for mapping vocal quality onto emotive content.

[4] We also share several items that treat musical form. Ji Yeon Lee further develops the “rotational principle” that animates sonata form analysis by tracing it in the teleology of the “Annunciation of Death” scene in Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre. David Hier’s analysis of Wolfgang Rihm’s Fifth String Quartet also focuses on romanticism and formal process, albeit a century removed from Wagner. Considering formal endings of another kind, Cara Stroud categorizes the types of postchoruses in Top 40 pop from the first half of the last decade. (When I asked readers to share this issue with the youth, I wasn’t kidding: many of the tracks she discusses appear on Kidz Bop volumes 20–30 and recruiting future authors to the journal is important work.) Finally, Kyle Hutchinson and Matthew Poon bring a new perspective to Caplinian formal function theory by prioritizing patterning in the upper voice rather than patterning in harmony.

[5] But don’t worry, music theorists are still interested in harmony! Andrew Aziz examines modal mixture, and its attendant ambiguities, in several songs of Billy Joel, a pop-rock songwriter steeped in the harmonic procedures of 19th-century European notated music. Alex Stephenson also considers harmonic ambiguity, the ambiguities that arise through the interaction of equal temperament, the harmonic series, and just intonation in the works of Julian Anderson and Rand Steiger, an ambiguity Stephenson compellingly connects to contemporary political life. S. Alexander Reed returns our attention again to “melodic-harmonic divorce” in pop-rock music, focusing on a single scenario in which the melodic intervals of the melody and the root of the harmonic layer create a specific stratified dissonance.

[6] And now I must get a bit meta: writing these messages begins by trying to place 10 articles, each with their own topics and disciplinary commitments, into groupings of 3 or 4 that form the basis of paragraphs. Often, it’s a stretch for one of the articles, and this time that article is José Besada’s consideration of Xenakis and serialism. While the composer sternly criticized a serial approach, he also developed his “sieve theory’ in the 1960s, a theory that represented a more deterministic strategy for composing, and perhaps even a more serial one, than his views on serialism would suggest. I empathize with Prof. Besada—I once presented at an SMT session entitled “Theoretical and Metatheoretical Concerns,” which could just have easily been titled “We of the Program Committee Quit.” In this issue, Besada’s work is one-of-a-kind!

[7] Finally, Robin Attas shares an essay that encourages all music analysts to consider the ways their work reinforces White, colonialist, Eurocentric modes of thought and action. Along the way, Attas shares a wealth of ideas for how music analysis can de-colonize.

[8] But wait, there’s more! Finally, finally, we also share a review by David Keep of Joel Lester’s latest monograph, Brahms’s Violin Sonatas: Style, Structure, Performance. Like so many reviews published at MTO, this one includes a number of analytical contributions in its own right.

[9] Each issue of Music Theory Online is the product of a community of scholars, from our dozens of anonymous (and increasingly not anonymous!) expert reviewers, to our editorial board, to the members of the SMT’s Publication Committee who oversee our work, to the Managing Editor’s team who format the journal for the Web. At a time when years of pandemic weigh on everyone and the media talks of “the Great Resignation,” I am humbled and grateful for the work of so many to ensure that top-flight, peer-reviewed music scholarship thrives in our free-to-publish, free-to-read, volunteer-produced journal. It’s a rare thing.

Best wishes for summer,


Mitch Ohriner, Editor-in-Chief
University of Denver