DH Seminar: Mates vs. Cavell Redux; Or, When Do You Need a (Musical) Corpus?


Event details

Date 14.12.2022
Hour 14:0015:00
Speaker Prof. Nathan MARTIN, University of Michigan
Category Conferences - Seminars
Event Language English
Recent debates in music theory around empirical and corpus-based methods (Gjerdingen 1991, Neuwirth and Rohrmeier 2016, London 2022) replay, perhaps unwittingly, disputes that unfolded some fifty years ago in linguistics and the philosophy of language. I illustrate by revisiting an exchange between Benson Mates (1964) and Stanley Cavell (1969) over the evidentiary standards relevant to “ordinary language” philosophy, and to figures such as Gilbert Ryle and J. L. Austin in particular. This earlier debate proves instructive in considering the position of corpus studies in current music theory. In particular, I ask: what kinds of music-theoretical claims require corpus-based support, whether there are claims that do not require such support, and if so what kinds of evidence should be adduced in their favor. Ultimately, the question will arise of whether music theory is a single, unified discipline or a broad tent of possibly interrelated but not necessarily unanimous inquiries.

Speaker Bio
Nathan Martin joined the University of Michigan in 2015, having previously held postdoctoral fellowships and teaching positions at Columbia, Harvard, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg, and Yale. He received his PhD from McGill University’s Schulich School of Music in 2009.

Martin’s primary research interests are in the history of music theory and the analysis of musical form. To date, his published work on the history of music theory has concentrated on the theoretical writings of Jean-Philippe Rameau and their early French reception, particularly among such philosophes as Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In general, Martin approaches the history of music theory both as a branch of intellectual history (Geschichte der Musiktheorie) and through more practical engagements with historically informed analysis, style-bound improvisation, and model composition (historische Satzlehre). He is interested in bringing both etic and emic perspectives to bear on historical theories—in probing, on the one hand, the relationships that bind music-theoretical systems to their intellectual, institutional, and cultural contexts and, on the other, in thinking imaginatively both with and through the conceptual resources that they offer.