Visiting Scholar Series

Each semester the Department of Music presents visiting scholars who are leaders in their fields. All Visiting Scholar Lectures are free to the public. For more information call 412-624-4125 or e-mail concerts@pitt.edu.

2020–21 Visiting Scholars

Kunio Hara on “Music, Sound, and Nostalgia in My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies
Thursday, October 29, 4 p.m.
Livestreamed on the Music at Pitt YouTube site

In this presentation, Kunio Hara explores the essential role of sound and music in how we experience two classics of Japanese animation: Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro and Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies.

Although developed and released simultaneously as a double feature by Studio Ghibli in 1988, the worlds that the two films depict could not be more different. Similarly, Miyazaki and Takahata established differing working relationships with their musical collaborators. Miyazaki, on the one hand, turned to his trusted musical partner Joe Hisaishi early in the production. For the soundtrack of this project, Hisaishi suggested fashioning a collection of newly composed children’s songs as a starting point. On the other hand, Takahata took a more conventional path, using his keen directorial ear to interleave Michio Mamiya’s emotionally restrained underscoring with diegetic music that, at times, creates harrowing and devastating effects. 

Kunio Hara is Associate Professor of Music History at the University of South Carolina. His main area of research is 19th-century Italian opera, particularly the works of Giacomo Puccini. Kunio’s initial interest in Puccini’s musical representation of Japanese people and culture in Madama Butterfly developed into the exploration of the careers of Japanese opera singers, such as Tamaki Miura and Yoshie Fujiwara, who actively engaged with the opera. His article on Miura’s final performance of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in Japan under U.S. occupation appeared in the journal Music and Politics. Later this fall at the national meeting of the American Musicological Society, Kunio will present a paper on Fujiwara Opera Company’s U.S. tour in the 1950s.

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Sara Gulgas (PhD 2017) on "The Expression and Reception of Emerging Adulthood in Rock"
Thursday, October 1, 4 p.m.
Livestreamed on the Music at Pitt YouTube site

Since the 1960s, music critics have questioned artists’ incorporation of baroque musical elements into rock and have charged artists with either flaunting a newfound maturity in a self-serious manner or laying pretentious claims to cultural accreditation. Both interpretations are in direct contrast to rock music’s associations with adolescent entertainment. While artists sonically referenced baroque instrumentation and style in order to evoke associations with high society, respectability, the parental generation, and/or the all-encompassing past, they also used music from the distant past to accompany lyrical expressions of nostalgia for their relatively recent childhood.

Sara Gulgas is an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Arizona where she teaches courses on American popular music, the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and jazz history. Her research interests include popular music studies, film and media studies, memory studies, and the sociology of music. She is currently working on a scholarly monograph entitled Baroque Rock and the Memory Politics of Musically Representing the Past. 

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2019–20 Visiting Scholars

Shana Redmond on “Antiphonal Life: The Returns of Paul Robeson”
Wednesday, February 19, 6 p.m.
Frick Fine Arts Building, Auditorium, Free

In “Antiphonal Life: The Returns of Paul Robeson,” Redmond provides an experimental cartography of Paul Robeson’s afterlife. Tracing his sound and its materialization in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, she establishes the global scope of his musical practice as well as the imagination of those who call him back.

Shana L. Redmond is the author of Everything Man: The Form and Function of Paul Robeson (Duke UP, 2020) and Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora (NYU Press, 2014). A public facing scholar, her recent publications include critical profiles for NPR and Women Who Rock (2018), as well as the liner notes for the “Us” soundtrack (2019). She is Professor of Musicology and African American Studies at UCLA.

Robin James on “‘Bad Guy,’ ‘High Hopes,’ and Chill Moods:
post-probabilist resilience in today’s pop music”
Tuesday, November 19, 7 p.m.
Frick Fine Arts Building, Auditorium

Abstract: Building on my work in Resilience & Melancholy, I discuss how post-probabilist neoliberalisms—neoliberalisms that depart from the Gaussian, probabilist neoliberalisms I studied in the book—impact contemporary popular music in the US. Using Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” Panic! At the Disco’s “High Hopes,” and Spotify’s “chill” playlists as case studies, I’ll show how the pop music industry and pop aesthetics are adapting to neoliberalism’s transformation of market value into capacity or resilience. I will also show that, in this context, inequality becomes a measure not of abnormality, but of dis/orientation, and explain how this impacts both performances of gender, race, and sexuality, and the use of pop music to regulate and manage mood or orientation for maximum capacity-building. Find out more…

Tomei Hahn: When nothing makes sense in performance and research
Monday, October 7, 6 p.m.
Frick Fine Arts Auditorium

Tomie invites you to listen to surreal stories of performance and research. In this presentation she examines silence and the absence of sensory information. Noticing holes—or noticing “nothing”—is tricky. One needs to be culturally sensitive to inferences, pauses, as well as linkages that appear and then disappear. Awareness of transmission, masking, or entropic data transmission involves challenging multisensory consciousness—or even the boundaries of our perceptual bandwidth.
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