MTSMA Conference this Week

I’ll be presenting a paper at the Music Theory Society of the Middle Atlantic’s Annual Conference in Washington DC later this week (details here and abstract below). If any readers are attending, let me know: I’d be glad to catch up.

MTSMA 2011 Annual Conference

Friday, March 18 and Saturday, March 19

George Washington University

Saturday, 10:45-11:45 Pedagogy—Old and New
Mark Janello, Peabody Conservatory (of the Johns Hopkins University),

Abstract: Shapey’s Worksheet as a Pedagogical Resource

Christian Carey, Westminster Choir College of Rider University

From 1981 until his death in 2002, Ralph Shapey repeatedly employed serial procedures in his compositions. Rather than using a 12X12 matrix, Shapey employed a 6X12 array he called the Mother Lode Worksheet. Patrick Finley has pointed out the worksheet’s connection to common practice tonality; principally in its voice leading and in Shapey’s use of it to derive unorthodox non-tonal yet regularly articulated cadences. Joseph Straus accentuates the 12-tone aspects of its design, delineating its partitioning into tetrachords and the array’s near symmetry. Thus, the Mother Lode bears out Shapey’s own statements about his compositional practice combining both “radical” (12-tone) and “traditional” (tonal) elements.

After several decades of teaching at the University of Chicago, Shapey created a primer outlining his approach to composition pedagogy. The Basic Course in Music Composition doesn’t employ the Mother Lode Worksheet. But many of its approaches to manipulating both pitch and rhythm reflect the construction and deployment of the Mother Lode.

Given its flexibility, the worksheet can be a useful pedagogical resource in a variety of contexts. This paper explores three brief lesson ideas that employ the worksheet. It’s presented alongside exercises from the Basic Course in a composition class, in a theory lecture discussing serial transformations and post-tonal voice leading, and in an applied composition lesson as an example of a compositional space and an entry point for a student to learn to organize precompositional materials in a “worksheet” format.

Peter Jarvis visits Westminster Choir College Thursday

Babbitt and Jarvis at Milton's 90th birthday celebration at WPUNJ

On Thursday, November 18 at Westminster Choir College (11:30-12:30 in the Playhouse), Peter Jarvis will be giving a masterclass on writing for percussion instruments. His talk will focus on Milton Babbitt’s Homily for Snare Drum.

Jarvis is Director of the acclaimed New Jersey Percussion Ensemble. A virtuoso percussionist, he’s also active as a composer, conductor, and engraver. He’s on the faculties of WPUNJ, Connecticut College, and Westchester Community College.

The event is free and open to the public.

Shapey at MTSMA

This Friday and Saturday, I’ll be attending the Eighth Annual conference of the Music Theory Society of the Middle Atlantic at Penn State University. I’ll be presenting a paper on Ralph Shapey’s late music as part of the Saturday morning session on Postwar Composers. I’ve been a member of MTSMA since its first year of activity, and have attended a number of the society’s conferences. It’s very gratifying to be asked to present.

You can check out the conference schedule here and abstracts here. If any readers are attending the conference, please say hello!


Abstract: Shapey's worksheet as compositional space

Some happy news. I’ve been asked to present my paper on Ralph Shapey’s late music at the 2010 8th annual conference of the Music Theory Society of the Middle Atlantic. The conference is on March 26-27, 2010 at Penn State  University in University Park, Pennsylvania.

My paper is included in a session  titled “Composers at Work after 1945,” scheduled for 9:00-10:30 am on Saturday, March 27. It develops some of the concepts from my article on Shapey which appears in the next issue of Perspectives of New Music, focusing in particular onRobert Morris’ theory of compositional spaces.

I’ve included the abstract below. If any readers are attending the conference, I look forward to meeting you in March!


From 1981 until his death in 2002, Ralph Shapey repeatedly employed serial procedures in his works. Shapey’s Mother Lode worksheet contains precompositional elements found in nearly all of the works that date from this time period.  Although Shapey based the Mother Lode’s array on a twelve-tone row, he described the worksheet in hierarchical, harmonic terms, often with a quite traditional sense of voice-leading between verticals. Thus, it displays aspects of both tonal and post-tonal grammars.This paper evaluates the worksheet using Robert Morris’ theory of compositional spaces,  examining Mother Lode deployments found in several late works: String Quartets Nine and Ten, Piano Quintet (2002), and  Millennium Designs.