CWRU researchers take home American Musicological Society honors

Research papers by Case Western Reserve University scholars—one on the melodic chirps of insects, another on the similarities of 16th century Roman secular and religious music—have earned prestigious honors from the American Musicological Society.

Francesca Brittan, assistant professor of musicology, received the Alfred Einstein Award for the best article by a scholar in his or her early career. Brittan’s investigation of the intersection of science and music in fairy compositions appeared in the Journal of the American Musicological Society under the title “On Microscopic Hearing: Fairy Magic, Natural Science, and the Scherzo Fantastique.”

In her award-winning article, Brittan examines the intersection of music and science in the 19th century and how that influenced new ways of listening and composing, encouraging musicians to combine natural and aesthetic soundworlds in their works.

David Rothenberg, associate professor of music, won an Einstein in 2007.

“For a society of 3,600 members and only one award given each year, it’s a tremendous distinction for a department to have any (Einstein) winner at all, but for us to have two in the last few years is nothing short of stupendous,” said Ross Duffin, Fynette H. Kulas Professor and interim music department chair.

And Case Western Reserve doctoral student Barbara Swanson received the Paul A. Pisk Prize at the recent AMS meeting for her paper, “Old Chant, New Songs: Plainchant and Monody in Early Modern Rome.” The work was based on her dissertation in progress.

Swanson, a Canadian graduate student in her sixth year of doctoral studies, has immersed herself in 400-year-old Italian music documents at the Vatican library, Biblioteca Nazionale and Biblioteca Vallicelliana (and several major libraries and collections in the United States) to learn more about plainchant in early modern Rome and its relationship to expressive styles of solo singing that emerged around the year 1600.

Previous Pisk Prize winners have represented the University of Chicago, Harvard, Berkeley, Cornell and Yale, among others.

“Our young faculty and our students are fantastic, and we are pleased to have the recognition for them through these awards,” Duffin said. “It’s nice to see us taking our place in that group of traditionally outstanding schools.”

For more information on their research, and the awards, go online.