UMKC Conservatory Professors Partner on a Podcast

Andrew Granade, Professor of Musicology and Associate Dean of Academic and Faculty Affairs, and David Thurmaier, Associate Professor of Music Theory and Chair of the Music Studies Division, do more than just teach at the UMKC Conservatory! They find different and exciting ways to share their love of music not only with their students, but with everyone else as well! Let’s see what their most recent collaboration brings.

Andrew and David, we understand that you have collaborated a podcast. Tell us all about it.

Yes, it’s called “Hearing the Pulitzers,” and we will devote each episode to discussing and analyzing each music Pulitzer Prize award winner. The first one was given in 1943, and part of our focus will be to place each winning piece and its composer in its historical and musical context. As you can imagine, the circumstances around the award in 1943 and today are quite different. In the 76 years of the award’s existence, there has been a gradual broadening of its parameters and demographics. For instance, Ellen Taafe Zwilich was the first woman to win in 1983, Wynton Marsalis won the first prize for a jazz work in 1997, and of course, Kendrick Lamar won in 2018 for his album Damn, the first hip hop piece to win. We are also looking forward to discussing Zhou Long’s Madame White Snake, the 2011 winner, since he is our colleague in the Conservatory.

We began thinking about a podcast after we started team teaching together in 2017. We share a strong interest in American music and had so many great discussions about music in preparing that class that we wanted to share those discussions and, hopefully, inspire others to listen in new ways. We hope that listeners will hear our podcast, then seek out the recordings of the pieces to apply what they learn to the hearing of each piece.

So apart from the interesting musical and historical context surrounding each winner, we’re also excited to learn and discuss a bunch of new pieces!

Why did you choose your subject?

We were looking for a discrete body of music to help focus our discussion, and around that time Kendrick Lamar won the Pulitzer. His win prompted all sorts of think pieces questioning the purpose of the Pulitzer Prize in music, and we realized that the winning pieces brought up all sorts of fascinating questions around how American music fits into its society, especially American classical music. Plus, we had strong opinions about many of the works that have won, which will make for engaging discussions.

Andrew, you are a musicologist and David, a music theorist. What do each of your disciplines bring to the podcast?
David: As a theorist, my primary focus is on each work’s musical structure and organization. I am certainly interested in some of the socio-historical aspects of each piece, but I am most interested in how the pieces work as music. I can bring formal analysis of each work to our discussion, help explain how the music works stylistically, and consider how the pieces fit within a composer’s particular compositional output. Andrew and I often rib each other about our disciplines, so it’ll be fun to put our heads together by presenting perspectives from both theory and musicology angles (and clearly music theory will win).

Andrew: David wishes music theory will win, but people will probably end up skipping to the musicology sections because that’s where we’ll discuss how the music reflects and comments upon American society. Musicology studies music in its cultural context, so I’m curious about what it says that the Pulitzer committee chose to not give an award in 1965 rather than present it to Duke Ellington. And all kidding aside, our disciplines really inform each other and together help us deeply understand a given piece of music.

Where can we find your podcast?

We’ll start recording this summer and then create a website and post the podcasts to all major outlets. We plan on releasing podcasts starting this fall, 2019.

David, tell us about your Beatles podcast.

I started my Beatles podcast called “I’ve Got a Beatles Podcast” with my college friend Chris Bragg, who lives in Chicago. We just published our 135th episode and have been working together since 2012, when podcasts were in their infancy. Chris works in comedy and creative writing, so he balances my formal music training quite well. I have been a Beatlemaniac since I was 9 years old and find that this outlet is a great way to share my views and thoughts on this amazing and rich body of music. And of course, the Beatles are a fascinating cultural phenomenon, so we never run out of things to discuss. You can find our podcast on any subscription service (iTunes, Stitcher) as well as here: ivegotabeatlespodcast.podbean.com

What other partnerships do you have together?

Apart from team teaching together (which we hope to do again for a possible class on Wagner’s “Ring” cycle), we have given some presentations at area public libraries this semester discussing the Beatles’ first film, A Hard Day’s Night. Again, we bring complementary perspectives and approaches to the presentation. Andrew talked about the history of the film musical, as well as what was unique about the film from a technical perspective, while David presented background on what the Beatles were doing when they made the film and how it impacted the group’s career. It’s always fun to collaborate on these types of projects.

–Jessica Riggins

About The Author: Contributing Writer

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