david metzer

Research and Publications: Rossini, 'Repeated Borrowing,' and RRC residencies

Balinese composer Dewa Alit

Balinese composer Dewa Alit

The Rhythm Research Cluster (RRC) closed its initial funded period with two exciting residences that brought innovative Balinese composer Dewa Alit, and the popular music scholar Anne Danielsen, director of the RITMO Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhythm, Time and Motion (Norwegian Centre of Excellence, Oslo) to the School of Music. Organized by Prof. Michael Tenzer, Alit’s residence culminated with a public performance at Western Front by School of Music students and alumni of works by Alit and others — including the world premiere of Alit’s RRC-commissioned work, “Simalakama.” During Danielsen’s residence, graduate students and faculty participated in a workshop on micro-rhythmic analysis; the residence closed with a Music Colloquium Series lecture on the impact of digitization on rhythm and groove in African-American popular music. 


Prof. David Metzer published “Repeated Borrowing: The Case of ‘Es ist genug’” in the Journal of the American Musicological Society. The article explores “a group of songs that musicians have frequently taken up in creating new works, from the chanson ‘L’homme armé’ in Renaissance masses to ‘Apache’ in hip hop tracks… and provide[s] the first study of repeated borrowing and trace[s] it across centuries and genres.”

Prof. John Roeder published “Lines in Harmony: Types of Cooperation in Four Recent Chinese Compositions” (“和声中的声部线条:近期中国四部音乐作品中的声部协作类型” translated by Zheng Yan) in Music Research, the leading peer-reviewed academic journal of music theory in China. And, picking up on an item from the last issue of High Notes, Prof. Roeder’s keynote address to the Meter Symposium 3 in Sydney, Australia is now available to watch here. 

Dr. Brandon Konoval published a new article, "From Sexuality to Governmentality: The Oedipus Complex of Michel Foucault," in Modern Intellectual History. The article looks at how “Foucault's attention to classical texts—in particular the Oedipus Tyrannos of Sophocles and the Republic of Plato—thereby helped to clear a critical pathway through the conventional Marxism embraced by the “repressive hypothesis,” and to arrive at a Nietzschean genealogy of sexuality and power.”



Dr. Claudio Vellutini published a new essay, "Rossini's Operas in Vienna and the Politics of Translation, 1816-1822," in Gioachino Rossini 1868-2018, a new volume celebrating the 150th anniversary of Rossini's death (Pesaro, Italy: Fondazione Rossini, 2019). Dr. Vellutini also presented a paper on the composer, "Rossini's German Singers (Vienna, ca. 1817-1825)," at the international conference Beethoven und Rossini in ihrer Epoche organized by the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn and the University for Music and Dance in Cologne. 


New research and publications


Professor Alexander Fisher contributed a chapter entitled "'Mit singen und klingen': Urban Processional Culture and the Soundscapes of Post-Reformation Germany" to In Listening to Early Modern Catholicism, edited by Daniele V. Filippi and Michael Noone, 187-203. Leiden: Brill, 2017.

Prof. Fisher also presented a number of talks: "Bells and Apotropaic Magic in Reformation Germany" at the Early Modern Research Cluster, University of British Columbia, in December; "Shattering the Lightning: Bells and Magic in Reformation Germany" as part of the series Worlds of Wonder at Green College, UBC in February; and “Musicalische Friedens-Freud: The Westphalian Peace and Music in Protestant Nuremberg" at Rethinking Europe: War and Peace in the Early Modern German Lands, the triennial meeting of Frühe Neuzeit Interdiziplinär in St. Louis this March.

Professor John Roeder gave a keynote address, entitled “Comparing Musical Cycles Across the World,” at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Music Scholars Conference in Tucson, Arizona. He gave two talks at the Society for Music Theory’s annual conference: “Interactions of Folk Melody and Transformational (Dis)continuities in Chen Yi’s Ba Ban” and “How to create meter and why.” Prof. Roeder also guest lectured at the Eastman Theory Colloquium at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

Assistant Professor Ève Poudrier presented a talk entitled “The Influence of Grouping and Tempo on Subjective Metricization” at the recent Auditory Perception, Cognition and Action Meeting in Vancouver this past November. 

Professor David Metzer presented a new talk, “Ballads: A History of Emotions in Popular Culture,” at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas this March. Adapted from his latest book, The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé, the talk explored how feelings are understood and experienced in popular culture at particular moments through the lens of soul and power ballads.

The School of Music’s Rhythm Research Cluster held two symposia this term. The first, “Modeling Rhythmic Complexity, explored intersecting tools and methodologies from the fields of music information retrieval, computational analysis, and experimental psychology, for application to the study of complex rhythmic structures. The second, “Microtiming and Musical Motion,” explored some of the “kinetic aspects of microtiming—including groove and flow in popular music—as well as some new methods and compositional applications of microtiming analysis.”


Assistant Professor Claudio Vellutini received a UBC Hampton Endowment Research Fund New Faculty Award for his book project, “Entangled Histories: Opera and Cultural Networks between Vienna and the Italian States, 1815–1848.” He also published an essay, "Opera and Monuments: Verdi's Ernani in Vienna and the Construction of Dynastic Memory,” in the Cambridge Opera Journal.

Dr. Brandon Konoval presented his paper “The Disenchanted Flute? Music, Max Weber, and Early Modern Science" at the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science in Toronto last May. His article "Pythagorean Pipe Dreams? Vincenzo Galilei, Marin Mersenne, and the Pneumatic Mysteries of the Pipe Organ" appeared in the February 2018 issue of Perspectives on Science.

New research and publications


Dr. Hedy Law’s essay on the female “citoyenne” in 18th-century French opera — including Sapho (1795) by librettist Constance-Marie de Salm and composer Jean-Paul-Gilles Martini — was published this spring in The Opera Quarterly.

This November, Dr. Ève Poudrier presented a talk entitled “The influence of grouping and tempo on subjective metricization” at the Auditory Perception, Cognition, and Action Meeting (APCAM) in Vancouver, British Columbia. The presentation slides are available here.

Dr. David Metzer’s new book, The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé, was published by Cambridge University Press.  It is the first history of the ballad in recent popular music. Prof. Metzer chronicles a musical history of the ballad, looking at how such celebrated singers as Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, and Whitney Houston have shaped the genre. He also offers a history of emotions in popular culture, showing how ballads capture the changing ways in which feelings have been understood and experienced. You can listen to Prof. Metzer talk about his book on the School of Music podcast.

Music theorists and editors Dr. Laurel Parsons (MA ’91, Ph.D ’03) and Dr. Brenda Ravenscroft (Ph.D ’93) won the Society for Music Theory’s 2018 award for the Outstanding Multi-Authored Publication for Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers: Concert Music, 1960-2000 (Oxford University Press, 2016). It is the first of a four-volume series.

Dr. John Roeder gave the keynote address at a conference in London about the operas of Thomas Adès. At the Society for Music Theory annual meeting in November, he also presented papers on music of Chen Yi, and on teaching musical meter.

P’ungmul: South Korean Drumming and Dance

P’ungmul: South Korean Drumming and Dance

Dr. Nathan Hesselink gave three talks in the past year: "The Backbeat as Expressive Device in Popular Music," presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Music Theory in Vancouver; "Korean Drumming and Cosmology: Music Reflecting and Shaping Local Culture," presented at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon; and "Radiohead’s OK Computer," presented as part of Rain City Chronicles “The Record Club” Series, Macmillan Space Centre, Vancouver. The Korean translation of his first book on Korean folk drumming, P’ungmul: South Korean Drumming and Dance (University of Chicago), was published by the Academy of Korean Studies.

The School of Music’s Rhythm Research Cluster hosted its first symposium, "Entrainment and the Human-Technology Interface," in September. UBC faculty, students, and guest lecturers together explored the history and nature of interactions between live human agents (performers and composers) and an externalizing and regulating entraining agent (both metronomes and click tracks). The next symposium, titled "Modeling Rhythmic Complexity," will focus on the cognition and production of complex rhythmic structures (such as polyrhythm and syncopation) using tools and methods from fields as diverse as linguistics, music information retrieval, behavioural psychology and neuroscience. It is scheduled for January 2018.

Elizabeth Volpé Bligh published a new article in the November issue of Harp Column

During his first year at UBC, Dr. Claudio Vellutini was invited to present at the conference London Voices, 1820-1840 hosted by King's College London and at the Rossini 2017 Conference organized by the Rossini Foundation in Pesaro, Italy. He also gave a paper at the Second Transnational Opera Studies Conference in Bern, Switzerland. His article "Opera and Monuments: Verdi's Ernani in Vienna and the Construction of Dynastic Memory" has been accepted for publication and is forthcoming in the Cambridge Opera Journal. In Vancouver, he was a guest of the radio programme Place à l'opéra on Radio Canada), and gave pre-concert talks on Verdi's Macbeth and Otello at the Italian Cultural Institute and at the Vancouver Opera Festival.

Prof. Stephen Chatman published four new books of sheet music: Shine! shine! shine! from A Song of Joys, Dawn of Night, Forever, Remember Me, and O Clap Your Hands. All are available via Morningstar Music

In May, Dr. Brandon Konoval presented a conference paper for the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science: "The Disenchanted Flute? Music, Max Weber, and Early Modern Science." He also published an article in Modern Intellectual History: "Between Aristotle and Lucretius: Discourses of Nature and Rousseau's Discours sur l'inégalité."

How does music work? Introducing the new School of Music podcast

Graphic by Dina MacDougall/UBC School of Music

Graphic by Dina MacDougall/UBC School of Music

How does music work? Why do we respond to a particular piece of music in a particular way? What can music tell us about ourselves and the world?

These are some of the big questions that our new School of Music podcast grapples with. Launching today, On That Note is a monthly deep-dive into the music you love — and music you may have never heard of. Join host Graham MacDonald and musicians and scholars from the UBC School of Music as they investigate everything from Beyoncé to Bach to Balinese Gamelan.

Up first: What is a ballad? In our debut episode, Graham talks to UBC professor and music historian David Metzer about his new book, The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé. They discuss how we define ballads, how they change with the times, and why they continue to grab us. Musicians discussed include Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston, Sam Cooke, Tori Amos, Cat Power, Otis Redding, Bing Crosby and more. 

Subscribe on iTunes or play the episode below:

Playlist: What is a ballad?

This month, Cambridge University Press will publish Prof. David Metzer's new book, The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé, a wide-ranging investigation of one of contemporary music's most popular artforms. The High Notes team asked David to share some of the songs that inspired the book. He happily obliged. 


By Dr. David Metzer

As the first history of the ballad, The Ballad in American Popular Music gave me a lot of scholarly work to do. A crucial task was to answer the question: what is a ballad?  It is not so simple, as you might conclude after trying it yourself.  So where better to begin the book than with that question? 

My nutshell definition is that a ballad is a song set to a slow tempo that deals with themes of love and loss.  That only takes you so far, though.  “Ballad” has meant many things over decades, actually millennia. Our idea of a love song was only established as recently as the 1940s.  Besides lexical housekeeping, I discuss what makes a ballad a song in terms of music, vocals, and lyrics. 

To that end, I have enlisted songs from over seventy years to back up my points. You can find the songs in the playlist below (for those who don't use Spotify, I've included a few YouTube videos at the bottom of this post).  They not only stretch across decades but also genres, giving us pop, rock, country, and R&B ballads. I use the songs to illustrate particular points, like long versus short melodies (“Goodbye to Love” and “Please, Please, Please”).  Other songs make us ask how slow is slow for a ballad (“Wrecking Ball,” “Sometimes,” and “Try). 

Some capture different types of rhythms in ballads from the heavy four beats in a bar (“Wrecking Ball”) to more sexy grooves (“Let’s Get it On”).  Accompaniments can range from as sparse as a solo piano (“Stay”) to lush (“A House is Not a Home” and “Love is a Many Splendored Thing”). 

For more about the other songs on the playlist and ballads in general, check out my book.

The Carpenters — "Goodbye to Love"

James Brown & The Famous Flames — "Please, Please, Please"

Miley Cyrus — "Wrecking Ball"

Marvin Gaye: "Let's Get It On"

Rihanne ft. Mikky Ekko — "Stay"

Dionne Warwick — "A House Is Not a Home" 


David Metzer is a professor and Distinguished University Scholar at the University of British Columbia. He is spending the fall of 2017 in New York City.