Dr. Stephanie Probst

After studies in musicology and music theory in Vienna (Austria), Cremona (Italy), and Rochester, NY (USA), I completed my PhD at Harvard University in May 2018. My dissertation, Sounding Lines: New Approaches to Melody in 1920s Musical Thought, explores the emergence of a new concept of melody in the early twentieth century at the intersection of developments in music, psychology, philosophy, science, and the visual arts. In particular, it inquires the common metaphor of the melodic line­­–an analogy that captures melody as an autonomous, coherently perceived musical entity. I argue that this conception builds on new insights from studies in aural and visual cognition, Gestalt psychology, and phenomenology.

My new project considers diverse procedures, formats, and functions of notating music around 1900 and assesses the resulting artefacts as manifestations of aesthetic views and cognitive processes. For a first case study, I’ve been holding a fellowship from the Deutsches Museum in Munich in autumn 2018 to conduct research with their extensive collection of music rolls for mechanical piano players. Focusing on the graphical annotation of select rolls, I have been inquiring the ways in which these audio-visual media were repurposed for music pedagogy, to train both musicianship in performers and music appreciation in listeners.

From January 2019, I will join the research group on “Sound and Materialism in the 19thCentury” at the University of Cambridge. As Research Associate, I will interrogate the tension between manual and mechanical forms of inscription in the compositional process by considering the promises and shortcomings of devices for automatic transcription.

My studies have been supported by scholarships for academic excellence from the University of Vienna, an Erasmus fellowship for study-abroad in Italy, and a Fulbright student grant towards my Master’s in Music Theory at the Eastman School of Music. At Harvard, I was awarded three Certificates of Distinction in Teaching, the Oscar Straus Schaefer Teaching Fellowship (2016–17), and a Barbara Natterson and Zachary Horowitz Dissertation Completion Fellowship (2017–18). I have presented work at various conferences and participated in interdisciplinary workshops across North America and Europe. Since 2016, I co-edit the blog of the History of Music Theory Interest Group of the American Musicological Society and the Society for Music Theory.