Bach Performance Practice in the Late French Romantic Organ School

My dissertation currently in progress at the University of Oxford focuses on performance practice of the organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach in France in the long nineteenth century. During this period, members of the French Romantic Organ School (Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens, Charles-Marie Widor, Alexandre Guilmant, et al.) developed and taught their students interpretative ideas that made special use of organbuilding technology that did not yet exist in eighteenth-century organs in Saxony and Thuringia. Eventually, these ideas were codified in theoretical writings, and later editions by Widor and Albert Schweitzer, Guilmant, and Camille Saint-Saëns. Yet in the early recordings by these masters and their students, some of these very editors do not follow the interpretive instructions in their own editions. The aim of this dissertation is to develop new methods of analysing these recordings — especially early organ rolls by the Welte company — to trace the development of French aesthetics of Bach performance practice during this pivotal era in organ history, giving performers new perspectives on ways to interpret these masterpieces today. This project is supervised by Robert Quinney.

Fostering a More Representative Study of Counterpoint and Music Theory

In most counterpoint and music theory textbooks, the vast majority of musical examples from the eighteenth century and earlier that are used to demonstrate various compositional techniques are almost all composed by white men. In my appointment as Graduate Teaching Assistant in Music at New College, University of Oxford, I have undertaken research to locate and present musical examples by women, nonbinary, and black, indigenous, and other composers of color alongside traditional teaching examples by Bach, Monteverdi, Handel, etc. My work has thus far produced new example and exercise booklets for courses in sixteenth-century counterpoint, eighteenth century fugue, and keyboard skills. Portions of these booklets are also in use at Christ Church College, University of Oxford.

South German Keyboard Music

My research at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland from 2017–2019 (funded by a grant from the Frank Huntington Beebe Fund), focused on performance practice and issues of ornamentation in South German keyboard tablatures. In my forthcoming paper in Keyboard Perspectives, I argue that keyboard music with sparse or no ornamentation in South German tablatures was intended to be performed with extensive ornamentation, based on comparative analysis of manuscripts by Swiss pupils of Paul Hofhaimer.

French Alternatim Practice in the Seventeenth through Early Nineteenth Centuries

Most French Classical organ music exists in versets — short pieces which would have been performed in alternation with some kind of vocal ensemble. In my paper in Early Music, I present a number of sources which demonstrate that plainchant versets were not sung in the fluid, speechlike way we often hear today, but similar to hymns or chorales — in a specific rhythm and even meter. Some of the most compelling evidence comes from treatises about the serpent, an instrument used to accompany sung plainchant. Performing the vocal versets this way results in the length of organ versus vocal versets becoming much closer to equal than modern plainchant practice.