Paper Session
Nov 12, 2021 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM(America/Chicago)
20211112T1100 20211112T1150 America/Chicago Engaging Environment AMS 2021
"Through Rocky Arroyos So Dark and So Deep, Down the Sides of the Mountains So Slippery and Steep": The Influence of Motion and Landscape on Early Cowboy Songs of the American West
Individual Paper 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/12 17:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/12 17:50:00 UTC

Drawing from both Theodore Levin's and R. Murray Schafer's concepts of musical soundscapes, this paper considers several early cowboy songs which illustrate motion and landscape throughout the American West, including N. Howard "Jack" Thorp's ballad "Chopo," as quoted above.  As a unique form of American vernacular music, early cowboy songs crystallized between approximately 1870 and 1900 and grew in part out of the demands of the cowboy lifestyle.  Lyrics describing both the landscapes and the soundscapes with which cowboys regularly interacted are prevalent in this repertoire, often referencing visual surroundings such as mountains, rivers, and plains, aural weather phenomena such as thunder, hailstorms, and wind, and sounds associated with livestock, including the rhythmic footfalls of horses and cattle moving across the range, the calling of cows to their calves, and the deafening cacophony of stampeding cattle herds.  

While scholars such as Douglas Green and Peter Stanfield have focused on later evolutions of the genre, including the Tin Pan Alley versions that achieved wide popularity in the early twentieth century, there has been little formal study of the development and significance of nineteenth-century cowboy repertoire and its relationship to landscape and soundscape.  As patterns of land use, boom-and-bust migration, and settlement of the American West evolved alongside dramatic urbanization in other parts of the country, cowboy poets and songwriters described the natural world in ways that reflected their deeply held values and interactions with the land, landscape, and animals.  These songs provide unique perspectives on the changing social, economic, and ecological environment of the West and the country as a whole.  This paper highlights the unique interplay of these elements as they influenced the development of early cowboy songs and depict the actions and motions of a cowboy's daily life among richly varied sonic and visual surroundings.

Joanna Zattiero
Independent Scholar
A Politics of Region and Environment at Glimmerglass and Santa Fe
Individual Paper 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/12 17:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/12 17:50:00 UTC

The classic European archetype of an opera house--monumental, urban, and luxurious--resulted from specific socio-historical phenomena, as Laura Protano-Biggs and others have shown. While many civic opera houses in the United States were built with that model in mind, this paper focuses on two twentieth-century opera houses, built for summer festivals at Santa Fe and Glimmerglass, whose architecture and geographical relationships complicate that dominant paradigm. This paper analyzes the dynamics of space and place at these two festivals, drawing on historical documents as well as fieldwork and interviews with artists, administrators, and patrons. I argue that both opera houses are characterized by a rhetoric of spatialized implausibility and the deliberate separation both from everyday life and from operagoing experiences in urban environments. Such rhetoric produces and celebrates these festivals' importance to regional identity, while seeking to evade derision as mere "regional" theaters.

As these noncanonical opera houses occupy the spaces that bestow implausibility upon them, an environmental politics emerges. The Santa Fe Opera, originally built in 1957 atop a mesa on a guest ranch, is today a modern architectural landmark. With an open-air design that exposes audiences (sometimes joyously) to thunderstorms, it is both vulnerable to the environment and, in its dominating grandeur, an emblem of settler colonialism directly bordering Pueblo land. Glimmerglass's Alice Busch Opera Theater was purpose-built in 1987 on a former turkey farm, and is at home there, with its architectural style evoking a barn, yet starkly out of place in how it comes into view along rural Route 80. Scholars such as Suzanne Aspden have become increasingly attuned to the spatial paratexts of operagoing, arguing that operatic practices and experiences are shaped not only by the architectural surroundings in which opera is heard and seen, but also by the spaces and environments through which one travels to get there. Whether in the strategic framing of "natural" landscapes in the Santa Fe desert or in narratives constructing agricultural nostalgia in upstate New York, these opera houses stage not only productions, but also a regionalist history and an environmental past and present.

Emily Pollock
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology
Amy Beach Among the Ornithologists
Individual Paper 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/12 17:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/12 17:50:00 UTC

Amy Beach was fascinated with birdsong. From a youthful trip to California, during which she transcribed numerous birdsongs, to her prominent use of the hermit thrush songs she heard at the MacDowell Colony into two late piano works, Beach approached birdsong with a clinical ear. Her transcriptions, in turn, shaped her reception, which has often cast her affinity for this natural source of song as evidence of innate musical talent. For instance, a 1911 article in _The Designer_ presented six of her birdsong transcriptions and noted the birds' "kinship with [Beach's] own melodic gift." Building on contemporary scholarship that contextualizes and refines these narratives (Block 1996, Von Glahn 2013), this paper analyzes Beach's "Hermit Thrush at Eve" and "Hermit Thrush at Morn" (1923) by reconstructing the developing practices of early-twentieth-century scientific birdsong transcription-an activity that became increasingly professionalized during Beach's lifetime.

As Beach was publishing her most famous transcriptions, members of the American Ornithological Society were refining their own methods for transcribing birdsong. Some contemporaneous studies (such as Henry Oldys's 1913 account of another hermit thrush), recorded arpeggiated birdsongs as block chords. Others complained of music notation's imprecision, and explored novel graphical means of representing birdsong: Aretas Saunders (1915), for instance, proposed a graph paper system designed for field transcription, while Albert Brand (1935), used new technologies of sound filmmaking to isolate and examine pitch contours visually. Compared with these methods, Beach's transcriptions are astonishingly detailed; in many ways, they offer clearer accounts of birdsong than those given by her ornithological contemporaries. Her music, effectively, was a more scientific discursive space than science itself. But scientific research since Beach's era can in turn shed light on the genesis of the "Hermit Thrush" pieces. While a lack of relevant sketches or notebooks makes it difficult to know the extent of Beach's transcriptions or how she selected certain birdcalls over others, recent population-based studies of hermit thrushes indicate that Beach's nine transcribed fragments likely constitute the full repertoire of songs that a New England hermit thrush would know, illustrating how artistic and scientific inquiry can inform one another.

William O'Hara
Gettysburg College
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Independent Scholar
Gettysburg College
 Megan Murph
Director, Budds Center for American Music Studies
University of Missouri
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