A colloquium of UW faculty, guest lecturers, and students of Theory, History, Ethnomusicology, Music Education
Featuring Neil Lerner, Davidson College
Out of Play: Failure Sounds in Early Video Game Soundscapes
I'm a musicologist who specializes in the history and analysis of music and screen media like film music, television music, and even video game music. I try to help students to see (if not to hear) the powerful connections between music and culture; sometimes the cultures in my classes are quite ancient, while other times they are contemporary and modern. I try to trace connections between the musical codes we have inherited back to their earlier origins. No matter the chronology or geography, I believe that exceptional thinking and writing about music comes from careful attention to the musical sounds and issues confronting performers, composers, and listeners, just as a careful consideration of the history and contexts of the music leads to remarkable compositions and performances. My own performance training was as a pianist, bassoonist, and harpsichordist, and I sometimes compose incidental music and create sound design for theater projects, though mostly now my involvement with music is as a listener and writer.
After studying music in documentary films for my dissertation, I went on to write about music in a wide variety of cinematic genres (including Westerns, science fiction, and horror) with my more recent work focusing on music for television, animation, and video games. I've delivered regional, national, and international presentations, including papers for the American Musicological Society, the Society for American Music, the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, the Royal Music Association, Domitor, Orphans, Visible Evidence, the Society for Disability Studies, and five of the conferences sponsored by Slayage and the Whedon Studies Association. My recent work has been divided between studying the music in early video games-I co-organized the first North American Conference on Video Games Music and Music in Video Games: Studying Play, which I co-edited, appeared-and studying the intersection between music and disability studies. The Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability Studies, which I co-edited with Stephanie Jensen-Moulton, Blake Howe, and Joseph Straus, will have new work on ways film music can represent blindness.
In addition to serving on the editorial board of the journal Music, Sound, and the Moving Image, and editing the book series "Music and Screen Media" with Routledge, I served from 2010-13 as Editor of the journal American Music. I currently serve as secretary for the Society for American Music, and I've also served on the National Council of the American Musicological Society and as president of the American Musicological Society-Southeast Chapter.
I'm also the faculty adviser for Davidson College's chapter of Hillel.