Getting Your Analysis Muscle In-Shape With MMASS

Getting Your Analysis Muscle In-Shape With MMASS

Flex your brain muscle with a summer analysis workout. 

Getting Your Analysis Muscle In-Shape With MMASS

Flex your brain muscle with a summer analysis workout. 

We spoke with MMASS' Matthew Lorenzon to get the scoop on the upcoming Summer School in Melbourne. Read all about it, then get your ticket at the link below! 

For those who don’t already know, can you explain what MMASS is?

MMASS is a week-long party with an intensive lecture series on music analysis attached. People come from all around the world to drink coffee, eat croissants, and nut out musical structure in the neo-baroque surroundings of Benvenuta at Medley Hall. Most importantly, it is a celebration of thought. One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is that Australia is an intellectually unambitious country where active things like learning stand opposed to passive enjoyment. This affects our view of music, which is relegated to the realm of passive consumption. In reality, so many Australian know the pleasure of asking questions and finding answers. We know, as Carl Sagan put it, that “understanding is a kind of ecstasy.”

On a more serious note, we teach subjects that Universities might not have the budget or student numbers to teach. We want to expose performers to analytical tools that will enrich their understanding of the music they play, that young musicologists can use in their postgraduate studies, or that composers can use when creating new music.

For a music analysis newbie, some of the topics covered at MMASS, like general deformation and advanced techniques in post-tonal analysis, sound a little bit scary. Is MMASS accessible for beginners?

They’re exciting, not scary! All enthusiastic learners who can read music will enjoy the school. Each course covers both basic principles and sophisticated examples that get the whole room talking. Nobody will absorb everything, but you will leave with an idea of what is possible in music analysis. Courses in mathematics and the sciences do this all the time. It is understood that students won’t grasp everything, but they get to see fleshed-out applications of theories and can read up on them after the course.

How is the Summer School different to the Winter School, which took place earlier this year?

The summer school runs for a whole week and includes five long courses and a series of keynotes. It’s an absolute analysis-fest covering repertoire from the baroque period to today and participants have access to the entire program. The Winter School on the other hand is a very focussed event that looks at one particular work for one day.

What on the program are you most excited about?

Given the gender imbalance in the music analysis scene I am very excited about our female lecturers, Catherine Falk and Natalie Williams. Williams is an excellent composer and music analyst who has been working at Indiana University and who has returned to Australia as a lecturer at the ANU School of Music. She brings a wealth of expertise on contemporary music and I can’t wait to hear about her research specialty, twentieth-century counterpoint. 

Falk is one of Australia’s most distinguished ethnomusicologists. Given music analysis’ traditional focus on western art music, I think it’s great that so many people ask me to include lectures on non-western musics. This is of course a sensitive area and our first step in this direction is Falk’s keynote on responsible speech about musics of the world. We still have a long way to go to achieving gender parity at MMASS, but I am encouraged by the amount of excellent papers by women in the student symposium.

Richard Cohn is back as well from Yale and is following up his course on meter from last year with a full five-lecture course on chromatic harmony. Everyone’s thrilled to have him back! 

What sets MMASS apart?

In comparison with other academic events the stand-out feature of MMASS is the warmth and camaraderie among participants. The lecturers sit in on and contribute to each other’s courses and get into great debates with each other and the students. Even though it’s a lecture-based course, there is very little sense of “us and them.” This atmosphere spills over into the evenings where we have a reception, dinner, and student micro-symposium. The micro-symposium is after the final lecture on Thursday and last year I was amazed (should I have been?) to find that almost everyone stayed on after a long day of lectures to hear the student papers. It’s that kind of supportive environment that makes me want to do this every year!

Registrations for MMASS close on 31 October