2020 Call for Papers

The 2020 meeting of the South-Central Society for Music Theory will be held at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, from February 28th–March 1st. We will meet jointly with CMS-South. (You may find their CFP here.) The theme of this year’s conference is “Improvisation: Science, Practice and Pedagogy.” Note that this will be a three-day conference (Friday–Sunday), unlike most regional conference meetings.

The Program Committee invites proposals on any topic in the field of music theory, though proposals related to this year’s theme of the science, practice, or pedagogy of improvisation are particularly encouraged. Proposals will be considered for three presentation formats: 20-minute papers, 10-minute lightning talks, or posters. The Program Committee will determine the format of all accepted papers, though applicants are welcome to specify if they wish to submit a proposal for a poster specifically.

The conference will feature two workshops that are open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Note that these workshops are open to everyone, not just to graduate students. By early December 2019, a reading list for each workshop will be available online. At the conference, the public is invited to participate in on-site workshop events.

The first workshop will be “The Neuroscience of Improvisation: Theories, Methods, and Philosophical Critiques” led by Andrew Goldman, Postdoctoral Associate in the Music, Brain, Cognition, and the Brain Initiative at the University of Western Ontario. The second will be “The Rule of the Octave: Strategies for Teaching Improvisation in the Classroom” led by Dariusz Terefenko, Associate Professor of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media at the Eastman School of Music. The prospectus of each workshop is given below.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Sunday, December 1, 2019 at 11:59pm CST. Confirmation of proposals received will be made electronically upon their receipt. Authors will be notified electronically of the Program Committee’s decision by early January, 2020.

SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS: Submissions should comprise a single document in .doc(x) or .pdf format. Proposals should be no longer than 500 words, including all footnotes and/or endnotes. Up to four pages of supplemental examples and materials (e.g., musical examples, diagrams, selected bibliography) may be submitted exclusive to the 500-word limit. Proposals should articulate the paper’s premise and its relation to existing music theoretical research and provide some illustration of applications. Since proposals will be evaluated anonymously, they should exclude the author’s name and any other signal of authorship. References to the author’s own work must occur in the third person.

Email the proposal as an attachment to: jorosz@memphis.edu. Please put both your name and “SCSMT 2020 Proposal” in the email subject heading. In the body of the email, please provide the following information:

  • Author’s name and city of residence or institutional affiliation and rank
  • Title of proposal
  • Preferred presentation format (poster or read paper)
  • A list of technical or audio-visual requirements
  • If you wish to participate in a workshop, indicate which one. (If you are interested in both, indicate your order of preference.)
  • For students only: Please indicate whether you wish to be considered for the SCSMT Best Student Paper Award. Candidates must submit a copy of the full paper to the program chair (jorosz@memphis.edu) by Friday, February 7th, 2019 at 11:59pm CST.

*Please note that no author may appear in more than one proposal.

**Previously published papers or papers given at national or international conferences will not be considered.


Workshop 1:
“The neuroscience of improvisation:
Theories, Methods, and Philosophical Critiques” (Andrew Goldman)

Conducting research on the neuroscience of improvisation highlights fundamental challenges of systematic musicology: how can one devise natural explanations for historically and culturally contingent constructs? How could science ever explain improvisation, a practice sometimes defined by its very avoidance of systematization? By examining this work, one learns not only about improvisation, but also about more general problems in trying to combine natural and cultural explanations. To this end, focusing on improvisation as a case study, we will discuss the general difficulties of operationalizing complex musical behaviors and of attributing neuroscientific data to music theories, as well as the contributions of neuroscience to these broader discourses. We will also discuss more technical topics—including the different kinds of technologies researchers use and the inferential statistics at the core of experimental logic—as a means of thoroughly examining the meaning of scientific claims.

Workshop 2:
“The Rule of the Octave: Strategies for Teaching Improvisation in the Classroom” (Dariusz Terefenko)

The Rule of the Octave (RO) is a versatile teaching device in core theory classes. Theory faculty throughout the USA are often using it to teach common-practice harmony and counterpoint yet disengaged from historical sources. As an effective pedagogical tool, the RO can be implemented as a springboard for pre-improvisation warmups and more formal improvisations. It can also be used as a vehicle to teach about: (1) melodic diminutions, (2) melodic/harmonic sequences, (3) preludizing, (4) melody harmonization, (5) invertible counterpoint, (6) modulations, (7) chromaticism, (8) stylized harmony (Chopin, Fauré, Reger, Messiaen), (9) analysis, and (10) jazz harmony. The RO is most effective pedagogically when it is supplemented with historical references. This workshop will take place in a keyboard classroom, with participants encouraged to practice and discuss improvisational activities.

SCSMT 2020 Program Committee:
Jeremy Orosz, Chair (University of Memphis)
Karen Bottge (University of Kentucky)
Wesley Bradford (University of Louisiana-Lafayette)
Adam Hudlow (Northwestern State University- Louisiana)
John Lawrence (University of Chicago)