Alexander John Fisher
Relevant Degree Programs
Graduate Student Supervision
Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2021)
No abstract available.
The seventeenth century was an age of absolutist ideology during which many European princes took upon themselves trappings of both religious and secular authority. Composers in the service of absolutist patrons were compelled to provide music that could move easily between sacred and secular venues and represent both facets of the prince’s power. Contemporary conceptions of musical classification exhibit this porous threshold between religious and profane genres and performance spaces. In this dissertation, I show how a flexible conception of musical genre—one in which traditionally sacred and secular idioms were blended in diverse ways—illustrated the dual nature of the authority of Salzburg’s absolutist Prince Archbishop. The diverse oeuvre of Salzburg’s composers calls into question the very definition of musical genre in the period. While a modern conception of fixed musical genres is manifest in theoretical treatises of the time, musical evidence suggests that well-defined genre classifications did not practically exist in the seventeenth century. Rather, composers took a malleable approach to genre, often blending different texts, musical forms, and styles to craft musical compositions latent with meanings that encompass several genres. In the first chapter, I consider genre as described in contemporary treatises and argue that modern literary genre theory provides a useful lens for the study of genre in the period. Chapter 2 turns to the sacred repertoire of Salzburg, which in its variety of centonized texts, timbres, and instrumentations deviates from the stylistic norms of liturgical genres. In Chapter 3 I explore the representational capabilities of the large-scale works performed during spectacles that were symbolic of the power and piety of Salzburg’s Prince Archbishop. Salzburg’s instrumental ensemble sonatas, explored in Chapter 4, reveal two particular uses for the term “sonata” and point to the genre as a site of both representation and innovation. The final chapter considers the solo sonata as a devotional aid in the context of cyclic spiritual exercises in Salzburg, where music transcended the limitations of genre to move between notionally sacred and secular performance spaces to represent the piety and power of the Prince Archbishop.
During the bombardment of Britain in World War II, the British government adopted a policy of mass internment of foreign nationals originating from ''enemy'' states (namely Germany, Austria and Italy). Using the experiences of interned composer Hans Gál and the genesis of his Huyton Suite trio and the camp revue What a Life! as a case study, this paper explores the musical culture that developed in the civilian internment camps of Huyton and Central Promenade. Though diverse, the internee population of these camps was disproportionately composed of leading German and Austrian intellectuals, such as sociologist Norbert Elias, musicologist Otto Erich Deutsch and composer Hans Gál. Classical music had typically been a prominent feature of this generation’s pre-war lives, and internment culture similarly reflected this importance. At least three original musical compositions were written, as well as premiered, during this internment period: Gál’s aforementioned Huyton Suite and What a Life!, and Franz Reizenstein’s finale movement to his Ballet Suite for Small Chamber Orchestra. Despite growing interest in this internment period there still remain many areas that are under-researched. This document discusses the hitherto unexamined experiences of Gál and some of the musicians who were interned along with Gál, including flutist Walter Bergmann, cellist Fritz Ball, composer Franz Reizenstein and flutist Nicolo Draber. The genesis of both the Huyton Suite and the revue What a Life! are also discussed. Through examination of historical documents and related diaries and memoirs, this thesis offers a vivid portrayal of musical life in these camps as it existed during the summer of 1940.
Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2020)
Carnival songs form a genre of music that flowered during the Renaissance era in Florence. Stimulated by elite patronage, these popular tunes served to enhance festivities and street celebrations during the Carnival season. Due to the popular contexts within which these songs were performed, they were accessible by all class levels, and thereby served to communicate changing social and political values through the vernacular Italian poetic texts. Perhaps the most prominent feature of this secular genre is that the melodies of the carnival songs were borrowed by poets in the employ of the religious institutions in Florence, both churches and confraternities, as a method of memorizing hymns. Throughout the sixteenth century, the application of this method, defined as contrafacture, grew to become a tool to communicate spiritual and political beliefs, where connections can be drawn between the moral teachings of both the carnival and lauda poems. It is the purpose of this thesis to detail the process by which contrafacture is applied to Carnival songs from the late fifteenth century to the end of the sixteenth century. Different approaches to musical borrowing are discussed to demonstrate how Carnival songs were recycled through the process of contrafacture to reflect a variety of popular mindsets and values held by the citizens of Renaissance Florence.