Editor’s Message

Dear readers!

[1] Welcome to Music Theory Online Volume 28, no. 3! This issue features three pairs of articles that converge towards improvisation, gesture, and form. For those interested in improvisation, Andrew Goldman reconsiders the practice, moving away from the common theoretical continuum of “determination” versus “novelty” and instead proposing a typological distinction between embodied improvisation and propositional improvisation. Vilde Aaslid analyzes “In What Language,” a collaboration between pianist Vijay Iyer and hip-hop artist Mike Ladd through a “sociable musicopoetics,” emphasizing the interactivity between music and word.

[2] Two other articles in this issue address embodiment as a site for analysis. Samuel Gardner and Nicholas J. Shea show how physical gestures at the guitar fretboard aid audiences’ musical understanding in performances by Macy Gray, Alex Lifeson of Rush, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Mark Micchelli considers the rarely analyzed music of Cecil Taylor, arguing that his music is best understood as the formal organization of physical movements rather than relationships between pitches. (The analyses are derived from two new transcriptions published alongside the article as appendices.)

[3] Another pair of articles address musical form. Jack Boss explores how composer George Walker reimagined traditional musical forms across his tonal, atonal, and serial styles. Drew Nobile paints a broad historical sweep of the verse-prechorus-chorus form in popular music, showing how it came to dominance in the second half of the twentieth century and how it has been recently reconfigured.

[4] And demonstrating the continued span of Music Theory Online, there are three articles I cannot figure out how to group with the others! Megan Kaes Long furthers our understanding of the plagal cadence in the sixteenth century, a cadence that heretofore has lacked characteristic melodic formulas and an explicit history. Stephen McAdams, Meghan Goodchild, and Kit Soden present a taxonomy of orchestration techniques that stem from auditory grouping principles. Finally, William O’Hara examines the interaction of theory and practice in a constellation of YouTube solo pop covers, including one for carved sweet potato.

[5] Music Theory Online only exists through (mostly) volunteer efforts, and I suspect new readers would be surprised by just how many people give generously of their time and expertise. They include our cheerful and dedicated associate editors, Brad Osborn, Jenine Brown, Brent Auerbach, and Inessa Bazayev, as well as our Reviews Editors Jeffrey Swinkin and Bryan Parkhurst. Our editorial board includes Richard Ashley, Richard Beaudoin, Christine E. Boone, Matthew Boyle, Deborah Burton, Diego Cubero, Sarah Ellis, Alexandra Kieffer, Catrina Kim, Olga Sanchez Kisielewska, Benjamin Levy, Maryam Moshaver, Nancy Murphy, Drew Nobile, Steven Reale, Nicholas Reyland, Janna Saslaw, Peter Schubert, Jim Sobaskie, Chris Stover, and Loretta Terrigno. These scholars take on more than their fair share of peer reviewing and also proofread the issues. An additional thirteen scholars reviewed items published in this issue anonymously. Andrew Eason, Fred Hosken, Lauren Irschick, Chris Misa, Dorian Mueller, and Sam Reenan are hired as editorial assistants and convert the Microsoft Word files our authors submit into the online-ready format you're reading. They're overseen by Managing Editor Brent Yorgason and Senior Editorial Assistant Michael McClimon. That’s forty-six people with a shared goal of sustaining our free-to-read, free-to-publish fount of contemporary music-theory scholarship. At a time when one reads of “The Great Resignation,” “quiet quitting,” and the weakening of civic and professional institutions, I am continually humbled by the spirit of our discipline embodied by these scholars.

Best wishes for the new academic term,


Mitch Ohriner, Editor-in-Chief
University of Denver