Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Interdisciplinary Lecture Series


Come hear fascinating lectures by Penn State faculty and invited guest presenters.

Each lecture, free and open to the public, lasts about seventy-five minutes.

1Project Events

Music and Diplomacy in the Age of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven

Mark Ferraguto, assistant professor of musicology at Penn State

3:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 23
Palmer Museum of Art’s Palmer Lipcon Auditorium

By 1803, Vienna hosted almost fifty embassies, more than any other European city. Firsthand accounts show that those embassies were major hubs of musical activity. From the hosting of entertainments, to the patronage of musicians, to the promotion of native or adopted music, foreign ambassadors displayed “soft power” while helping to shape the music of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and their contemporaries. Exploring the Turkish delegation's influential janissary bands, the musical machinations of the diplomat Gottfried van Swieten, and the cross-cultural collaboration between Beethoven and Russian ambassador Andrey Razumovsky (resulting in Beethoven’s groundbreaking Opus 59 quartets with Russian themes), this talk illustrates how the music of the Classical style served as valuable cultural capital for diplomats and nations alike.

A photo of Mark Ferraguto sitting at an organ.   Mark Ferraguto Biography

Stravinksy and the End of Musical Time: Messiaen’s Analysis of The Rite of Spring and Its Impact on Twentieth-Century Music

Vincent Benitez, associate professor of music theory at Penn State

2:30 p.m. Tuesday, November 5
Palmer Museum of Art’s Palmer Lipcon Auditorium

Through The Rite of Spring (1913), Stravinsky ushered in the end of musical time, as we know it. The work’s expansion and contraction of rhythmic cells, irregular accents, rhythmic ostinatos, layering of rhythmic patterns, and asymmetrical groupings contributed to rhythm being an equal partner with harmony in the structuring of music. Struck by the originality of its rhythmic practices, Messiaen analyzed The Rite of Spring in 1930. This interest in The Rite of Spring was to have a profound impact on the history of music. Through his work as both a composer and a teacher at the Paris Conservatoire, Messiaen became an important disseminator of Stravinsky’s rhythmic ideas in the twentieth century. This lecture examines Messiaen’s historic analysis of The Rite of Spring as found in his Treatise on Rhythm. It shows how his interpretations of Stravinsky’s music furthered the Russian composer’s legacy through their impact on composers who reached maturity after 1945.

A photo of Vincent Benitez smiling.    Vincent Benitez Biography

Schubert's Freedom of Song, if not Speech

Kristina Muxfeldt, associate professor of musicology at Indiana University

3:30 p.m. Monday, November 11
Palmer Museum of Art’s Palmer Lipcon Auditorium

A Titian picture that circulated in prints; a poem about the death of Actaeon; a patriot’s lyre. This talk considers songs of Franz Schubert against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars and the strict censorship imposed after the Congress of Vienna. Even as the restoration government sought to destroy those "phantoms of the mind" — constitutions, citizenry, and nationhood — that the French Revolution and the wars of liberation wakened, oppositional nationalists worked to keep alive such visions in songs and collections of poetry. The lecture explores how an unconventional telling of a familiar Greek myth could become a vehicle of political expression.

A photo of Kristina Muxfeldt.    Kristina Muxfeldt Biography

The Spectacular Orchestra

Emily Dolan, associate professor of musicology at the University of Pennsylvania

3:30 p.m. Wednesday, December 11
Palmer Museum of Art’s Palmer Lipcon Auditorium

The late-eighteenth century witnessed the birth of modern orchestration — that is, the art of assigning melodies and harmonies to the instruments in an orchestra. The implications for European musical culture were so profound that early-nineteenth-century authors could look back on what they called an “orchestral revolution.” The orchestra’s ability to combine explosions of sound with subtle, delicate, and colorful nuance delighted many listeners, who heard in the orchestra a new kind of musical power. Some critics bemoaned what they felt amounted to sonic abuse: dazzling orchestration often led to sheer noise and cacophony. Delving into the music of Gluck, Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, this talk explores what orchestration is and what it meant to composers and listeners in the early Romantic period.

A photo of Emily Dolan wearing a scarf.    Emily Dolan Biography

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