Faculty News: Scott Murphy
In a series of recent analytical essays, professor of music theory Scott Murphy proposes and employs a generalized conceptual framework and labeling system for chord progression. This system subsumes multiple different approaches used in music theory: tonally-grounded roman numerals from the eighteenth century, Hugo Riemann’s tonally-agnostic labels from the nineteenth, Murphy’s own method devised for twentieth-century film-music associations, and others. Two of these essays appeared this winter. The first, called “Abundant Novelty of Antitonic Harmony in the Music of Nikolay Myaskovsky,” appears in the volume Analytical Approaches to 20th-Century Russian Music, published by Routledge. It provides to date the most comprehensive study of harmonic progression in works by the “Father of the Russian Symphony,” but its scope extends well beyond Myaskovsky, incorporating a corpus of over 900 unconventional harmonic progressions from Schubert to Shostakovich.
The second, called “S as a Latter-Day H: Mortally Liminal SLIDEs in Recent Popular Film and Television,” appears in the latest issue of the journal Theory and Practice. The article focuses on a triadic adjacency that has become both widespread in mainstream multimedia and particularly associated with precarious distinctions between life and death. It not only provides over thirty twenty-first-century examples of this association and speculates about why this association came into use, but it also digresses to analyze a recent example: the appropriation of some music from an opera by Philip Glass by the producers of the hit Netflix series Stranger Things.