Editor’s Message

Dear readers!

[1] Welcome, dear readers, to Music Theory Online Vol. 28, no. 1! Associate Editors Brent Auerbach, Inessa Bazayev, Jenine Brown, and Brad Osborn and I bring you twelve items to impress your friends, intrigue your partners, and encourage your students.

[2] Popular music features in two articles in this issue. First, Zachary Cairns identifies instances of backbeat manipulation in the “long” 1980s (and I understand they were long), showing how such manipulations can intensify brief metric changes or signal new phrases. Second, Calder Hannan continues MTO’s unplanned but quite welcomed emphasis on metal music in the past five years, following the work of Olivia Lucas, Jose Garza, and Stephen Hudson. Hannan’s article introduces a spectrum of structural density and structural clarity, a measure of complexity in performance and perception, and plots a trajectory along that spectrum in “Ohmnivalent,” a 2011 track by technical death metal band Anomalous.

[3] We also publish a number of articles addressing composed music of the twentieth century. Sam Reenan’s article on Arnold Schoenberg’s First Quartet examines the familiar sonata form concept through the notions of urbanization in fin-de-siècle Vienna. Matthew Zeller addresses Anton Webern’s works prior to World War I through the prism of Klangfarbenmelodie, uncovering timbral trajectories that clarify pitch constructs. Bruno Alcalde defines strategies of hybridity—the “combination of musical identities”—in late-twentieth-century compositions of Rochberg, Gubaidulina, Davies, and especially Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso no. 1. Scott Murphy brings neo-Riemannian and topographical approaches to the main title of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo composed by Bernard Herrmann, highlighting a number of correspondences between the visuals and the music.

[4] Addressing nineteenth-century repertoire, Alexander Martin highlights a compositional technique, an apparent breach of harmonic syntax in the progression V→II→V, termed the “sunken II,” employed by Robert Schumann in his Lieder to “underscore moments of inwardness, introspection, or heightened subjectivity in the poetry.” I have similarly placed this description of the article in the middle of my editor’s message, and I now invite you to have your own moment of heightened subjectivity. Think of it as a wellness practice in the music-theory context.

[5] Philip Ewell’s essay on “Music Theory and the White Racial Frame,” published in MTO, has initiated discipline-wide discussions in short time since its publication in 2020. In this issue, we publish a response to Ewell’s essay from Justin London. Building on Ewell’s claims that “music theory,” which one might think means “a theory about music” is usually “a theory about White music,” London demonstrates that the body of music generally treated in the discipline isn’t even representative of the so called “common practice period.” Along the way, London touches on a number of statistical concepts that can highlight various biases.

[6] Finally, Jay Rahn poses a question for us: “Was Mesopotamian Tuning Diatonic?” Drawing on Mesopotamian documents rather than European concepts, Rahn answers his question. How? Read on! We also bring two other items to readers. Alyssa Barna reviews Drew Nobile’s recent book Form as Harmony in Rock Music, noting its pedagogical opportunities in particular. And Benjamin Duinker files a report from the 2021 symposium “Dialogues: Analysis and Performance” at the University of Toronto. Of especial note are his many insights on organizing and hosting a hybrid conference in the ongoing global pandemic.

[7] In this issue, we are pleased (and relieved!) to welcome an all-star cohort of seven new members to the Editorial Board: Richard Beaudoin, Christine Boone, Diego Cubero, Catrina Kim, Olga Sánchez-Kisielewska, Nancy Murphy, and Loretta Terrigno. I’m grateful to each of them, along with literally dozens of other people whose efforts sustain this model for peer-reviewed scholarship, free for authors and readers alike.

Best wishes for rest of the academic term,


Mitch Ohriner, Editor-in-Chief
University of Denver