Statement on JSS response to Ewell (August 6, 2020)

We, the executive board of the South Central Society for Music Theory, join the Society for Music Theory and others in condemning the violations of scholarly ethics and overt anti-Black statements in the most recent issue of the Journal of Schenkerian Studies.  We admire the courage of the graduate students and the faculty in the Music Theory, History, and Ethnomusicology areas at the University of North Texas who made respective statements in response to these regrettable events.

The South Central Society for Music Theory remains committed to carrying out the message so elegantly expressed by Dr. Phillip Ewell at the 2019 SMT meeting and in his subsequent article.  Many of us teach at institutions that did not permit Black students to enroll until the latter half of the last century, and we acknowledge the unique challenge they face in our region and across the country.  We will continue to work to dismantle the “white racial frame” (Ewell 2020) of our field in the pursuit of inclusion and social justice both inside and outside of the classroom.

“Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law.” –James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

New SCSMT Dues (September 24, 2019)

For the last three years, SCSMT has been running a deficit of approximately $400 per year to pay for our talented speakers and workshop leaders. To leave the Society in good financial standing while still keeping a high national profile, we would need to slightly increase our yearly revenue. Various options were discussed at the Baton Rouge Business Meeting in 2019. Given that our fees generally lag behind the other regional societies, a proposal was made to raise SCSMT dues to offset speaker and workshop leader costs. In the summer of 2019, we set the issue to a vote of SCSMT members. Based on the outcome of that vote (which covered a number of different options), the new fee structure for SCMST will be as follows:

  • Starting 2020, we will raise our yearly payments to $40 for faculty and $20 for students and part-time faculty (raising about $400/year).
  • Starting 2020, we will raise the late payment rate during the conference to $45 faculty/25 students (raising about $50/year.)

Looking Ahead: For the next three years, the Treasurer will report during the Business Meeting whether the rate increases have had the desired effect.

A Tribute to Stephen Peles (April 2018)

There aren’t many music theorists with the intellectual breadth to be able to connect what Stephen Jay Gould referred to as non-overlapping magisteria, but Stephen Peles was such a one. Long ago, when I gave one of my first papers that attempted to discuss the intersection of biological evolutionary theory and music theory, I was not in the least surprised that it was Stephen Peles who was able to give me notes on 19th century zoological theory that were helpful and relevant. His grasp of the intellectual history of the Western world was perhaps unparalleled in our field.

I’ve known him since 1984, but the truth is that Steve Peles was best known through his work and his conversation. And those were very good indeed.

He marched to the beat of a different drum; starting the composition program at Princeton University sometime in the late 1970s, he was still sitting, and thinking, when I left in 1990. His eventual dissertation, “Reconstructions: Order and Association in Schoenberg’s Twelve-Tone Music,” awarded in 2001, was a signal integration of analytical and historical perspectives. He had already begun to publish a series of articles on the thought of Schoenberg, Schenker, Babbitt, and our mutual teacher, Peter Westergaard, that are among the indispensable sources on those topics.

Hearing that he had moved to Alabama caused his acquaintances to react initially with skepticism-how could this urbane individual, such a fixture on the Princeton campus for so long, thrive in the deep South? His subsequent success as a classroom teacher proved us all wrong. He was a charismatic and popular instructor who conveyed a sense of the joy that he himself felt in making intellectual and aesthetic connections to students who had never met anyone like him.

A lover of fine cuisine and cats, Steve was otherwise a very private, solitary person. I like to think that the field of music scholarship was his family, SMT his home town. His work holds its value-and that is probably the thing that would give him the greatest satisfaction.

-Jeffrey Perry, Baton Rouge, LA