by Dr. Joel Overall, special to the CLASS Seminars Blog
On Thursday, September 28th, Dr. Joel Overall from the Department of English began his Seminar titled “Sound and Persuasion” by describing the chaos involved at the Paris premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, a ballet that sparked controversy among audience members for its discordant opening notes, audacious costumes, and unorthodox dancing. Some audience members at the 1913 ballet responded “with a storm of hissing” while others “began to hit each other over the head with fists, canes, or whatever came to hand.” With this historical scene set, Dr. Overall asked Scholars to ponder the question “How does music persuade?”
Throughout the evening, Scholars had opportunities to investigate their own experiences with music, keeping this question in mind. As Dr. Overall introduced several analytical terms from the field of rhetoric such as “rhetorical form,” “identification,” and “the graded series” to serve as a lens for analysis of these experiences, he expanded into examples from modernist musicians using the twelve-tone technique to a German musician composing a symphony for the Nazi music organization Reichsmusikkammer. As a result, Scholars examined their own music listening (and in some cases, composing) practices critically.