Conferences and Guest Talks

Conference Presentations

“On the Bildungsroman in George Lewis’s Afterword.” Presentation at the American Musicological Society Annual Conference, Rochester, NY, November 2017. (Upcoming)

“Afterlives of 1968 in the Centennial Year of Wagner’s Ring Cycle: Two Case Studies from Both Sides of the Berlin Wall.” Presentation at the German Studies Association Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA, October 2017. (Upcoming)

“Visions of Wagner and Memories of May 1968 in the Bayreuth Centennial Ring Cycle.” Presentation at the MLA Annual Conference, Philadelphia, PA, January 2017.[Link to MLA program][Read abstract here]

“Ruth Berghaus’s Vision of Wagner in the Frankfurt Ring Cycle (1985-1987).” Presentation at the AMS-GNY Winter 2016 Chapter Meeting (“Women and Music”), Columbia University, New York, NY, February 13, 2016. [Link to AMS-GNY announcement]

Abstract: Ruth Berghaus was one of the greatest female directors of opera and spoken theater in the second half of the twentieth century. Trained as a choreographer under Gret Palucca at the Palucca School in Dresden, she later became famous for her choreographies and stagings at the Berliner Ensemble, where she served as artistic director between 1971 and 1977. Berghaus came to the attention of the opera world with her stagings of her husband Paul Dessau’s operas Die Verurteilung des Lukullus (1960), Puntila(1966), Lanzelot (1969), Einstein (1974), and Leonce und Lena (1979). Today, she is primarily remembered for her groundbreaking productions at the Oper Frankfurt with artistic director and conductor Michael Gielen, in particular Wagner’s Parsifal (1982), Berlioz’s Les Troyens (1983), and Wagner’s Ring cycle (1985-1987). This paper examines Berghaus’s staging of the Ring, which was her final production in Frankfurt. In the Ring, Berghaus presents a vision of Wagner that highlights larger historical processes and moments of extreme social conflict. Although Berghaus’s conception of history is rooted in the ideology of her homeland, the German Democratic Republic, she is critical of the idea of historical progress and antifascism. She realizes this vision of Wagner by means of a gestural language of signs and metaphors that is independent of the vocal text. I also discuss Berghaus’s depiction of the female characters in the Frankfurt Ring, in particular Brünnhilde. I argue that Berghaus’s staging is an example of feminism in the GDR. In the conclusion, I examine the relationship between Berghaus’s treatment of the female characters and her broader vision of Wagner.

“Improvisieren, Interaktivität und ‘The Will to Adorn’: Die Musik und Philosophie von George E. Lewis.” Presentation at the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Music Conference, Berlin, Germany, April 2012.

Abstract: This paper, which I gave at a DAAD conference in Berlin in 2012, discusses three themes that are central for understanding the music and philosophy of George E. Lewis: improvisation, interactivity, and the “will to adorn” (a concept from Zora Neale Hurston’s 1934 essay “Characteristics of Negro Expression”). Special attention is given to the following compositions: Artificial Life(2007), Voyager (2000), and The Will to Adorn (2011).

[See the English version of the PowerPoint here]
[See the original German version of the PowerPoint here]

Respondent to Austin Clarkson, “Busoni, Varèse, Wolpe and the Dialectical Mind.” Presentation at the Columbia University Music Department Colloquium, New York, NY, October 2007.

“The Thirty-Years-War in Twentieth-Century Opera and Literature.” Presentation at the Northwestern University Undergraduate Research Symposium, Evanston, IL, May 2006.

Guest Talks and Invited Lectures

“Revisiting Chéreau’s Bayreuth Centennial Ring Cycle Forty Years Later.” Invited Lecture at the Wagner Society of New York, New York, NY, December 4, 2016. [Link to Wagner Society of New York announcement]

Abstract: When the Bayreuth centennial Ring cycle, now a classic, first appeared in 1976, audience members and demonstrators were outraged. On the 40th anniversary of this legendary staging, it is imperative to return to the controversial aspects that make it so meaningful today. While Chéreau depicts the modern state as a totalitarian-like force, Boulez focuses instead on the artistic innovations of the music. Both artists approach the theme of Wagner the revolutionary to comment on their own involvement in the May 1968 protests in France.

[Link to press release by the German Consulate]

“Myth, Revolution, and Nationalism in Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle.” Invited Lecture at Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint Peter, MN, March 17, 2016. [Link to Gustavus announcement]

Abstract: In addition to discussing current Wagner singers and conductors, this lecture examines three themes that are central for understanding Wagner’s Ring cycle: myth, revolution, and nationalism. Along with considering Wagner’s different source materials (Norse and German mythology and ancient Greek tragedy), I look at how Wagner uses these materials to comment on nineteenth-century sociopolitical realities. After drawing attention to the contradictory aspects of Wagner’s revolutionary thinking, I elaborate on how this thinking shaped his conception of the Ring cycle and opera in general. Finally, I discuss how Wagner’s expression of nationalistic ideas was initially bound up with his revolutionary hopes but that these ideas later led him to support Kaiser Wilhelm I and the new German Reich. I will focus on the Prelude of Rheingold and excerpts from Die Walküre. All are welcome, and no prior music experience is required.