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MP5: Historical Keyboarding


Drawing on the holdings of Corridor institutions, this Working Group explores the cultural, political, ecological, and aesthetic potential of keyboard instruments ranging from the clavichord and organ to the carillon and the Moog synthesizer.

Open to New People

Active since: 2019

  • Syracuse University
  • University of Rochester
  • Cornell University

Collaborative Goals

Comprising scholars of music and sound along the Corridor, our team aims to reconceive our objects of study by scrutinizing their material components (such as ivory, ebony, timber, leather, hair, shellac, electricity, plastic, and code) alongside the musical techniques and practices that animate them. In the process, we investigate concepts of valuation, waste, sustainability, technology, and nature while thinking about what it means to create, distribute, and consume music and sound responsibly.

Group Organizers

Anne Laver

Assistant Professor of Applied Music and Performance; University Organist, Syracuse University

Annette Richards

Given Foundation Professor in the Humanities and University Organist, Cornell University

Holly Watkins

Chair and Associate Professor, Musicology, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

Roger Moseley

Associate Professor, Music, Cornell University

Group Members

  • Alexander Meszler, Lecturer in Music (Keyboard), Hamilton College
  • Theodora Serbanescu-Martin, Graduate Student, Cornell University
  • Anna Steppler, Graduate Student, Cornell University
  • Morton Wan, Graduate Student, Cornell University
  • Amanda Eubanks Winkler, Professor and Chair, Department of Art and Music Histories, Syracuse University
  • David Yearsley, Herbert Gussman Professor of Music, Cornell University

Group Outcomes

There were several noteworthy impacts from our activities:

  • The first being the expansion of our collaborative network across several Corridor institutions. Although some of the faculty had already known each other, it was exciting to introduce these colleagues to graduate student peers interested in similar areas of research. Relatedly, some of these graduate students plan to develop their investigations into publishable essays, new media projects, or mini-workshops/conferences in future semesters.
  • Three projects stand out among those who presented in our final meeting: an eco-critical study of organ-building in the Philippines (with a focus on the history of bamboo harvest and extraction involved in this process); a consideration of the Dactylion as disciplinary technology, artifact of waste, and sign of overproduction in nineteenth-century Europe; and instrument-making excursions undertaken between China and our homebase of Cornell University during the early twentieth century.
  • We also engaged in enlightening discussions about the relationship between cultural sustainability (especially the restoration, curation, and conservatorship of historical keyboards) and environmental sustainability, thus generating insights that, we believe, may enhance our digital presence and community engagement efforts down the line.
  • More broadly, our research methods have been influenced significantly by this reading group, enabling a greater sensitivity toward the materials, resources, logics, ideologies, and infrastructures that pervade keyboard-music history.