Current Projects

Symphonic Spectacles: Form, Identity, and Hybridity in the Early Twentieth Century

Symphonic music of the early twentieth century reflects the complex, cosmopolitan world it inhabited. In a time of waning empire, rising nationalism, and heightened sexual politics, composers in Germany, Britain, and America drew upon the compositional resources of tradition to create intensely personal symphonic spectacles. The hybrid symphonic works that flourished in this period mixed musical forms and genres freely, adapting compositional procedures for their rhetorical potential. Symphonic Spectacles investigates large-scale formal mixture in six case studies that juxtapose works of the Austro-German symphonic canon with lesser-studied pieces by a diverse array of composers. Sam Reenan proposes a creative analytical framework rooted in the analogy between formal hybridity and intersectional identity, which affords new interpretive possibilities that integrate formal analysis with critical consideration of compositional design, reception history, and subjectivity.

Considering influential scholarship from the new Formenlehre, literary genre studies, and theories of race, gender, and sexuality, Reenan’s analytical approach favors playfully creating new stories over gatekeeping bygone ones. This study combines manuscript evidence, composer commentary, historical and biographical details, and published music criticism, all factors which contribute to comprehensive formal interpretations. Symphonic Spectacles represents not only a collection of studies in hybrid symphonic form, but also a model for countercanonic means of knowledge production in the field of music analysis.

Areas of Interest

• Form, genre, and counterpoint in the hybrid symphonic works of the 20th century

• Centering place-based research in the analysis of contemporary music

• Transformational and post-tonal analysis, literature, resonance, and memory in the music of Henri Dutilleux

• Deconstructing assumptions of hierarchy and standard in theories of musical form

• Pedagogical approaches to musical form and teacher training

• Analysis of commercial uses of music, advertisement jingles, and borrowed music

Peer-Reviewed Publications

“Contrapuntal Parody and Transsymphonic Narrative in Mahler’s ‘Rondo-Burleske'”

Music Theory Spectrum volume 46, issue 2 (September 2024)

This article deconstructs the intersections of counterpoint, form, and narrative that contribute to parody in the third movement “Rondo-Burleske” of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. Motivic counterpoint problematizes the movement’s main rondo theme, placing initial cracks in the movement’s rondo façade. Through thematic and formal counterpoint, the rondo genre itself destabilizes as signifiers of sonata-form rhetoric intrude. To interpret how counterpoint and generic mixture contribute to the burlesque character of the movement, I consider theoretical accounts of parody and the burlesque, and I adapt, as a generative metaphor, Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of the carnivalesque. In the context of the Ninth Symphony’s transsymphonic narrative, the Rondo-Burleske performs a carnival parody of the symphonic finale genre, functioning as a brazen, iconoclastic, but in the end failed counterpoint to the first movement.

“Integration, Urbanity, and Multi-Dimensionality in Schoenberg’s First Quartet”

Music Theory Online 28.1 (2022)

This article addresses the network of forms and genres at play in Schoenberg’s First String Quartet, op. 7, proposing a conception of the work as a representation of urban life in fin-de-siècle Vienna. I offer a summary of the emotionally volatile program and prior analyses, highlighting the central points of contention between analysts. Most especially, these include the relationship between an overall sonata form and a set of intervening cyclic movements. I then problematize Steven Vande Moortele’s notion of “two-dimensional sonata form,” drawing from theoretical investigations into narrative levels and embedded forms in literary theory. The bulk of the article revolves around a thoroughgoing analysis of the large-scale form of the Quartet, presenting a novel reading that situates the work within a complex web of interacting forms and genres. The Quartet begins as a large-scale sonata form, which is interrupted by a juxtaposed cycle of interpolated movements. Upon the arrival of the rondo finale, the sonata is complete. I demonstrate that the rondo finale may be construed as a mirror to a large-scale overarching rondo that can explain the multiple dimensions of the entire work.

“Graduate Instructor Peer Observation in Music Theory Pedagogy”

Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 34 (2020) co-authored with Dr. Alyssa Barna

Peer observation involves instructors attending each other’s classes for the primary purposes of reflection and growth. Among faculty, observation is often limited to the context of tenure and promotion. The experience of observation is even more rare between graduate instructors, who very often do not engage with their peers in a community-focused manner. This article presents a three-phase study that gathers both quantitative and qualitative data on peer observation in the field of music theory. We collected data from both faculty and graduate instructors, and a peer observation system for graduate instructors was implemented concurrently. The article concludes with results and suggestions for development and implementation of a peer observation program at your institution, highlighting the reciprocal benefits of the observational experience for music theory instructors.

“Types and Applications of P3,0 Seventh-Chord Transformations in Late Nineteenth-Century Music”

Music Theory Online 22.2 (June 2016) co-authored with Dr. Richard Bass

This co-authored article examines one class of parsimonious voice-leading transformations between tetrachords in which one of the chord members is held in common while each of the other three moves by half step. We focus on aspects of these “P3,0” transformations to examine 1) their place in the broader context of neo-Riemannian voice-leading transformations; 2)…
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In the first decades of the twentieth century, a flurry of composers in the German-speaking world were engaged in an arms race of sorts, creating musical monuments of extreme size and overt philosophical circumstance. As a discipline, music theory has struggled to address the large-scale formal dimension of these “maximalist” works, despite the persistent attention paid to formal theory in recent years…
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Book Reviews

Review of “Taken by the Devil”: The Censorship of Frank Wedekind and Alban Berg’s Lulu. By Margaret Notley

Upcoming Conference Presentations

Queering Mahler’s Orchestration

2024 Gustav Mahler’s Sound conference

Spoken Paper Presentation | Dobbiaco, Italy

Schönberg’s Reorchestrations as Public/Anti-Public Musicology

2024 Music Since 1900 Conference

Spoken Paper Presentation | Leuven, Belgium

Past Conference Presentations

Autobiography, Grief, and Mortality in Mahler’s Symphonic “Farewell Finales”

2023 Society for Music Analysis Annual Conference

Spoken Paper Presentation | Oxford, England

Blending Genres, Mixing Forms: Ellington’s Symphonism in Black, Brown, and Beige

2022 Society for Music Theory 45th Annual Conference

Spoken Paper Presentation | New Orleans, LA

Listening to form in/through contemporary musics

2022 Pedagogy into Practice Conference

Poster Presentation | East Lansing, MI | 3 June

This presentation proposes parallel and intersecting avenues for listening to musical form in introductory aural skills. Contemporary musics offer opportunities for inclusive formal thinking centered on a sensitivity to gesturelocation, and texture. Each of these parameters allows for imaginative metaphorical listening—gestures as agents, location as movement through space, texture as group membership and sonic identity.

Form: Deconstructing Hierarchy and Standard

2021 Society for Music Theory 44th Annual Conference

Lightning Talk | 4–7 November

This presentation deconstructs contemporary notions of musical form by reexamining two commonly held music-theoretical paradigms: that musical form is necessarily hierarchical, and that formal procedures abide by historically inscribed standards of normativity.

Generic Hybridity in Gustav Mahler’s Late Symphonies

2021 International Conference on Musical Form

Virtual Conference | 21–23 June 2021

In this paper, I present a corpus analysis of rondo- and sonata-like movements in Gustav Mahler’s symphonic works. Clear form-functional tendencies in his earlier symphonies differentiate sonata formal functions from related events in his rondo forms. I summarize these differences and demonstrate their mediation in the late symphonic repertoire: Das Lied von der Erde, and the Ninth and Tenth Symphonies. The second half of the presentation examines the third movement of his Ninth Symphony, the “Rondo-Burleske.” I balance formal function and Sonata Theory, while foregrounding genre and the theories of Mikhail Bakhtin in an account of the movement as a unique formal hybrid distinct from standard sonata-rondo prototypes.

Eine Alpensinfonie—Tone Poem as Music Drama

2021 Music Theory Society of New York State

Virtual Conference | 15 June–15 September 2021

In this paper, I interpret the Alpensinfonie as an unstaged music drama, involving a dramatis personae and, following Hatten (2018), a virtual narrative conflict between nature and the hiker. After an overarching examination of the large-scale structure, I isolate three moments of interest to the dramatic arc of the movement: the arrival at the summit, the initiation of the descent, and the sonata recapitulation in the epilogue.

Resonances of Messiaen in Dutilleux’s Protospectral Music

2021 Music Theory Midwest 32nd Annual Conference

Virtual Conference | 10–13 June 2021

In this paper, I chart a lineage from Messiaen (and Debussy) to Grisey by way of Dutilleux, demonstrating how the latter theorized harmonic resonance and sonic materiality and offering a novel linkage between the antithetical French schools of music represented by Messiaen and the spectralists.

The “Rondo” and the “Burleske” in Mahler’s Rondo-Burleske

2020 Society for Music Theory 43rd Annual Conference

Virtual Conference | November 2020

2020 Music Theory Southeast 29th Annual Conference

Virtual Conference | August/September 2020

Winner: Irna Priore Prize for Graduate Research

Titles speak volumes. For Eric Drott (2013, 4), titles serve “a ‘rhetorical’ or communicative function, in addition to a taxonomic one.” Gustav Mahler’s label for the third movement of his Ninth Symphony, “Rondo-Burleske,” establishes the work’s semantic and interpretive context, prompting the analyst to evaluate whether the movement is a rondo at all. Its title summons generic and formal expectations; yet, Mahler’s Rondo-Burleske is unlike any rondo before it…
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Jingle Function in Contemporary Commercial Advertisement

2020 Society for American Music 46th Annual Conference

Virtual | 18 July 2020 | 3:45pm Central Time Session title: “Popular Music and Commercial Recording” | Session Chair: Paula Bishop

A functional, multimedia approach to commercial jingles must account for many intersecting parameters. Roland Barthes provides a useful perspective for such analysis in “Rhetoric of the Image” (1964)—a complementary relationship between text and image…
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Graduate Instructor Peer Observation in Music Theory Pedagogy

2019 Pedagogy into Practice

Co-Presented with Alyssa Barna
Santa-Barbara, California | 25 May 2019 | 1:30pm Session title: “Expanding our Approach” | Session Chair: Crystal Peebles

Peer observation is a valuable mechanism for faculty development. It helps teachers to be more self-reflective (Peel 2005) and can serve the purposes of both professional development and judgment regarding advancement. Additionally, reciprocal observation is effective for observer and instructor alike (Cosh 1998) and helps “foster colleagueship and community” among peers (Edgerton 1996, 17). Our review of the field finds that scholarship is available at the faculty level but virtually nonexistent for graduate instructors…
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The Transgressive Modernism of Berg’s String Quartet—as Told by Adorno

2019 Music Theory Midwest

Cincinnati, Ohio | 10 May 2019 | 9:30am Session title: “Historical Readings” | Session Chair: Jonathan Guez

Many of Theodor Adorno’s essays on music constitute a blend of criticism and analysis; in truth, the author links them as forms immanent to the artwork itself. In this paper, Adorno’s analytical vignette for the first movement of…
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The Hybrid Forms of Mahler’s Late Symphonies

2018 Society for Music Theory 41st Annual Conference

San Antonio, Texas | 4 November 2018 |9:00am Session title: “Wagner and Mahler” | Session Chair: Matthew Bribitzer-Stull

The problematic status of sonata form in Mahler’s late symphonies has been well documented. Monahan (2015) argues that neither the opening movements of the Ninth nor the Tenth “feels much like a sonata” (29). All six outer movements of the late symphonies project varying degrees of dialogue with sonata form, and they do so by…
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Memory in Music Analysis: Referential Appeals to Proustian Memory in Dutilleux’s Ainsi la Nuit

2017 European Music Analysis Conference (EuroMAC IX)

Strasbourg, France | 28 June 2017 |2:00pm Session title: “Leading Figures of Modernity (I): Messiaen, Dutilleux, and Kurtág” | Session Chair: Yves Balmer

The Connective Role of the Parentheses in Dutilleux’s Ainsi la Nuit

2017 Music Theory Society of New York State 46th Annual Meeting

Geneva, New York | 1 April 2017 | 1:30pm Session title: “Collections and Recollections” | Session Chair: Deborah Rifkin

In conversation with Roger Nichols, Henri Dutilleux described the method of composition that produced his lone string quartet, Ainsi la nuit: ‘There are small cells which develop bit by bit. This may perhaps show the influence of literature, of Proust and his notions about memory’ (Nichols 1994, 89)…
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