Doctoral Colloquium (Music) | Linda Pearse & Zachary Milliman

Wednesday, October 25, 2023 16:30to18:00
Elizabeth Wirth Music Building A-832, 527 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 1E3, CA
Free Admission

The Doctoral Colloquium is open to all.

Doctoral Colloquium: Linda Pearse and Zachary Milliman

Title: Austrian Habsburg’s Sonic Responses to the Ottoman Other: 1593-1606 | Linda Pearse

Abstract: In the sixteenth century, the Ottoman Empire was a powerful, multicultural society that elicited a profound sonic response from a confessionally fractured Europe. Descriptions of battles, celebrations, prayers, and music point to Europe’s sense of vulnerability on the global stage as both Europeans and Ottomans alike sought to control trade routes in the Mediterranean and central Europe and assert religious identity. In central Europe, at risk of land incursions, songs report news and sacred music reveals the political motivations of the Habsburg courts. Polyphonic music, such as motets, are part of communication networks that extend far beyond the walls of the church.

I consider music and ritualistic practices—bell ringing, prayers, litanies, and hymns—mandated by Rudolf II (1552–1612) during the Long War (1593–1606) to elaborate a soundscape that both voiced fears and allayed anxieties. Mandates prescribing special practices in response to Habsburg defeats reveal a pattern that dates back to the years following the first Siege of Vienna (1529). Dancing, street music, ice skating, parties, and other entertainments were banned; people were admonished to conduct themselves morally to please God, to improve Austrian fortunes on the battlefield.

By revealing the embedded context of these anti-Ottoman materials, a reflection on their communicative power and possible circumstances of performance exposes new directions for scholarship. Viewing these works as responses to Habsburg–Ottoman encounters moves away from a binary framework (i.e., as either Catholic, Protestant, or both) to account for global interactions, and invites a reconsideration of other music composed in response to the Ottomans.

Biography: D. Linda Pearse is Canada Research Chair in Music, Contact, and Conflict, Associate Professor of Music at Mount Allison University. With her extensive experience as a performer and instructor of early European art music, Pearse draws on combined musicological and performance methodologies informed by studies in musicology (McGill University) and performance (Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, Indiana University Bloomington). Her doctoral work, supported by SSHRC, is guided by Julie E. Cumming (Musicology) and Aslihan Gürbüzel (Institute of Islamic Studies).


Title: Bartók, Communist Propaganda, and the Ban on Musical Works under Rákosi | Zachary Millman

Abstract: The regime of Mátyás Rákosi, who served as the head of the Hungarian Communist Party from 1945 to 1956, has drawn scrutiny and ultimately denunciation from nearly all sectors of academic research. In music, the ban on works viewed by the Communist Party as socially, politically, or morally transgressive has been taken as incontrovertible historical fact and an indictment of the party’s politico-aesthetic program. The most egregious example cited of this practice was the case of The Miraculous Mandarin by Hungary’s preeminent musical ambassador Béla Bartók. Historians point to Géza Losonczy’s 1950 article “The Opera House Belongs to the People!” published in the party’s paper Szabad Nép––in which the author criticized The Miraculous Mandarin for its sexual depravity––as launching a campaign against Bartók and signaling the freeze of Hungary’s music culture, one that would take a revolution to thaw.

But closer examination complicates this account as well as the accepted notions of unbridled political terror and authoritarian artistic suppression during the early years of Hungarian state socialism. In this paper, I examine the limitations of the totalitarian narrative built up around the era’s musical politics through analysis of Losonczy’s article and the artistic policies it advances. I also draw from and contribute to the substantial literature on Bartók’s pantomime to argue that there was some validity to the Communists’ objections to the work. Doing so, however, requires delving beyond superficial communist propaganda to critically interrogate how race and gender structure the work and its violent denouement. This study thus advocates for a nuanced historical inquiry that problematizes some of the calcified Cold War conceptions that have erected (often artificial) binaries—such as art/propaganda, freeze/thaw, freedom/oppression, sanctioned/banned—that serve to delimit and police the discursive field of this charged period in Hungary’s history.

Biography: Zachary Milliman is a PhD candidate in musicology. His dissertation “Opera and Goulash Communism” focuses on the operatic culture under Hungarian state socialism. He has presented his research at many international conferences including the annual meetings of the American Musicological Society and the Society for American Music and has published in the Journal of the International Alliance of Women in Music. Zachary holds a bachelors and masters degree in vocal performance, and in 2015-2016 conducted research at the Hungarian Musicological Institute as a Fulbright scholarship recipient. He currently resides in Anchorage, Alaska with his husband, artist Matt Klinn, and is a professor with the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Alaska Native Studies Program.


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