Doctoral Colloquium (Music): Bryan Allen Martin, PhD Candidate and Laurence Willis, PhD Candidate


Strathcona Music Building Room C-201, 555 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 1E3, CA

Doctoral students (Music) for whom attendance is required must sign the attendance sheet at the colloquium.


This week at the colloquium, we will have two presentations by PhD candidates : Laurence Willis and Bryan Martin. All are welcome


Laurence Willis, PhD candidate

Schulich School of Music, McGill University


When Materials Collide: Formal Interplay in Late Nineteenth Century Ternary Piano Works


Many of the short piano compositions written in the last decades of the nineteenth century are constructed as ternary forms (ABA¢). This paper accounts for processes of transfer and balance among ternary sections, such as when B materials infiltrate A′ sections or when A¢ sections ‘solve’ a musical ‘problem’ shared by both A and B materials. Using analytical vignettes drawn from Brahms and Reger among others, I illustrate the tension between unity of expression and contrast in the relationships between different sections, building on the research of McClellend 2009, Cai 200, and Scott 1995. To do this, I develop two paradigms of balance in the final sections of short ternary pieces: unifying returns and compensatory returns. Unifying returns integrate A and B materials within the A¢ section. For example, in Brahms op. 119/1, the differing harmonic and melodic behavior of A and B (cycle-of-fifths and chromatic passing tones, respectively) are synthesized in A¢. Compensatory returns do not feature such unification of materials, but rather some other effect of balance is made in the A¢ section. For example, in op. 117/1 the absence or presence of the subdominant harmony plays an important role in all three ternary sections leading to a dramatic replacement of the tonic in the final measures of the piece. The paradigms of return I develop through analysis offer a language for describing the way sectional materials interact in late-romantic ternary piano works, and also in compositions of other composers and genres.


Laurence Willis is a Music Theory PhD candidate at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. His research ranges from form in romantic piano music, to just intonation, to music mixing electronic and acoustic forces. He has recently held a research position within the Performing Experiencing and Theorizing Augmented Listening project at the Kunstuniversität Graz where he investigated performance approaches cyclic piano works in 20th Century recordings. His article “Comprehensibility and Ben Johnston’s Ninth String Quartet” will be published in MTO in March and several German to English translation projects are forthcoming over the next two years. Laurence has presented at a variety of international conferences such as SMT 2016 (just intonation), EuroMac9 (Fauré and tonality), GMTH (fugue and Schumann), and SurreyMac (mixed music). He won the outstanding graduate teaching award in 2016 and plays electric guitar and piano.



Bryan Martin, PhD candidate

Schulich School of Music, McGill University


The Vertical Aural Image in Recorded Music: One Step Closer to Reality



3D, Immersive and Spatialized are the current ‘hot’ jargon in the audio industry. These terms are batted interchangeably about with little clarity as to their exact meaning. While there are defined standards for immersive playback systems, there is still a lack of understanding of effective production methodologies that reliably convey realistic, three-dimensional immersive content.

This presentation discusses the requirements for the creation of a three-dimensional audio image and the accompanying acoustic environment in music recording and production. The focus of this discussion is on new methodologies for the capture of three-dimensional images of individual instruments in music recording. The techniques are designed for playback in environments equipped with surround loudspeaker arrays that include loudspeakers located above and below the listener. These techniques are aimed at creating natural sounding representations of individual instruments in multi-channel recording and mixing of classical music, pop and jazz, but could also be used for any instance where the 3D capture of audio is desired.


Bryan Martin spends too much time playing steel guitar and designing vacuum tube audio equipment. The completion of his PhD studies was delayed because after winning the McGill Dobson Cup in 2016 (Are you guys physicists? No ma’am, we’re musicians.) he launched a technology start-up creating 3D audio software. After finishing his Master’s degree in Sound Recording at McGill in the early 80s, he spent far too much time in lightless studios producing and recording anything that made a noise, some interesting artists—David Byrne, Max Roach, Run DMC, Richard Hell, the Pretender, writing music and traveling the world—all the while cultivating bad habits and an unhealthy complexion.

He has lectured at McGill and other educational institutions, presented at various Audio Engineering Society conventions and conferences, keeps designing guitar amplifiers (How many amplifiers—or guitars—does a person need? One more.) and continues to answer the question:

What is the purpose of sound recording?

The pursuit of beauty.