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Friday, March 20, 2015

Modernist master: Schoenberg conference honors retiring UNC Music Department professor

Posted by on Fri, Mar 20, 2015 at 8:27 AM

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When an eminent scholar retires, their department will often hold some kind of event—a conference, a panel discussion, so on—to celebrate their contribution to the field. And Severine Neff, the Eugene Falk Distinguished Professor of Music at UNC-Chapel Hill, is indeed a scholar worthy of celebration.

During the past 40 years, she has helped expand our understanding of Modernist music in general, Arnold Schoenberg’s music in particular. In addition to untangling the thicket of Schoenberg’s theoretical writings and shining light on the internal structures of his compositions, Neff has also worked to trace the influences on his music and his influence on composers who followed. She served as the first female editor of Music Theory Spectrum, one of the foremost music theory journals around, from 2009 to 2012. And I get the sense that her students love her, telling stories of her epic, day-long classes spent discussing various pieces of 20th century music or her leading a group to break in to one of Schoenberg’s apartments that was closed due to renovation.

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Music will host a conference on Schoenberg and modernism in her honor this Saturday. Titled “Contemplating the Musical Idea,” this event will bring together many of the top scholars in the field for a day of presentations, panel discussions and performances from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. in Hyde Hall. Some potential highlights: Columbia University’s Walter Frisch meditating on Schoenberg’s ultra-romantic First String Quartet; Sabine Feisst (Arizona State) tracing the effects of Schoenberg’s music around the globe; Joseph Auner (Tufts) dissecting the way that Schoenberg crafted sound; a recital of Schoenberg’s piano music by Clara Yang and Thomas Warburton (I hope they play his delightfully playful Opus 11 and 19, sets of freely atonal miniatures that sound like little else); and two group discussions from a wide range of scholars about the future of Modernist studies. It promises to be an enjoyable (and hopefully not too academic) day of celebration.

For more information and to view a complete schedule of events, check out the event page.

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