Sunday, April 19, 2009

a new direction

It's been brewing for awhile, but the decision was made fairly recently to shoot for entrance into a PhD program (musicology, methinks) after Peabody rather than additional performance degrees or just going on the market as a vocalist.

The reasons are severalfold:

  1. I'm good at academics -- more importantly, I think about a lot of things related to music beyond "what's necessary" for a performer. Investigating this would be of interest to me anyway. The model of conductors like Jane Glover and Christopher Hogwood balancing performance and producing scholarly work is appealing, though I'd be approaching it from the other side.

  2. Because of #1, it's much more likely that I'd be better funded than if I got an MM and then a DMA.

  3. Most importantly, I wouldn't give up pursuit of performance -- but entering this line of scholarship would be beneficial along all sorts of lines. A performance background becomes useful; an academic background is useful in performance; and it's useful to be marketable beyond performance given the vagaries of profession and getting started

I've had quite a bit of support from classmates and professors in pursuing this plan, including the incarnation of moving forward without graduating from Peabody.

And since the application process for programs would begin in earnest in 1.5 years, this would be an interesting time to document it -- not unlike the reason this blog was started in the first place (documenting application to performance programs).

Based on preliminary investigation, programs at Eastman and Berkeley would be very interesting. Eastman was actually put on the map by my ear-training professor -- who is Eastman-trained, thinks I have a shot at the program, and never failing to impress, is a founding member of Alarm Will Sound (a fact which always catches up with me at the most inopportune moments in class).

In terms of setting up research interests, I started thinking back to things I've been interested in/obsessed with. One of the more interesting things is sparked off of comments like this:

I have never found that [Fiery Angel] "works" as an opera.
Indeed, my usual reaction to Prokofiev's operas is that the orchestra seems
to be playing in another room from the voices, or might as well be for all
that either of them seems to have to do with the other.
I find Flaming Angel a very successful tone poem or orchestral suite. But
they should can the singers and the staging, which don't interact with it at

This is even truer of Love for Three Oranges and War & Peace.

Hans Lich
John Yohalem

Not this specific post, certainly, but I've been registering my utter frustration with an aesthetic assumption of "gesamtkunstwerk" or even just underlying cultural expectations of what constitutes "drama," particularly since I grew up watching all sorts of things in a culture which has very different concepts of drama and synergy. Check out this Taiwanese variety show -- its post-processing happiness is readily apparent, though it lays off the visual popups.


A bit more seriously, although Chinese culture still has a tradition of classical music drama (which is fused inextricably with dance) however different the valuations of "drama," concision and brevity not considered virtues, Japan has an even different configuration. One of its classical dance forms, Kabuki, separates the vocalism from the actors, and the actors themselves inhabit an uneasy intersection of dance and drama when viewed along Western lines.

So, an area of interest of me would be music drama from traditions that do not fall under the purview of Aristotelian ideas of drama but interact with such a tradition. The biggie would probably be Russian opera, followed by Eastern European opera. And then investigating South Asian and East Asian traditions of drama.

I have a lot of reading to do.

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