Doctoral Colloquium (Music): Kit Soden - Nina Penner


Elizabeth Wirth Music Building Room A832, 527 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 1E3, CA

The Doctoral Colloquium is open to all. 

Students for whom attendance is required must sign the attendance sheet at the colloquium.



Kit Soden – Nina Penner

The basic principles of orchestral combinations and their function in creating orchestrational transformations

Kit Soden

What are the building blocks of orchestrational structures? The art of orchestration embodies not only the choice of appropriate instrumentation and combinations of instruments, but also the creation of contrasts, of which there are two principle forms: “the contrast of instruments employed simultaneously [and] their contrast when employed in succession” (Prout, 1899, p. 115). How do these simultaneous and successive timbral combinations and contrasts impact the formal functions of an orchestration? Although in-depth research on the formal function of pitch has occupied music theorists for generations, research is lacking on the form-bearing and structural implications of orchestration choices across the duration of a work.

This paper explores the basic principles of orchestrational combinations (registral and timbral couplings) and how composers use the transformations of these elements to build the foundations of orchestration-based form.

Kit Soden is a composer, researcher, and music educator based in Montreal, QC, Canada. He is a PhD candidate in composition at McGill University, studying with John Rea and Stephen McAdam

Contemporary Opera Performance: Two Paradigms

Nina Penner

In this paper, I argue that prevailing accounts of performance in opera studies and the philosophy of music are inadequate to explain the increasing number of opera productions that depart significantly from the score or libretto. With reference to recent productions in Toronto, I argue that there are two paradigms of opera performance today. Some productions are productions of pre-existing works while others are better understood along the lines of James Hamilton’s ingredients model: the production is a work in its own right and pre-existing works or texts are merely optional ingredients. The ingredients model offers a more coherent explanation of productions that contain substantial revisions to the work’s score or libretto as well as those that use these texts to articulate a substantially different artistic statement from the one they were intended to convey. Understanding such productions under the ingredients model will make much needed distinctions between the aims of directors like Peter Sellars and those guiding more historically informed productions.

Nina Penner’s work lies at the intersection of musicology, analytic philosophy, and literary theory. She received her PhD in musicology from McGill in 2016. During a SSHRC-funded Postdoctoral Fellowship at Duke University, she finished her first book, Storytelling in Opera and Musical Theater, which is forthcoming from Indiana University Press in October of this year.