Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2014

Abstract

In the fall of 1981, I was the greenest, most naïve young music theorist you can possibly imagine. The ink on my doctoral diploma was still wet, and I had just started my first job, at the University of Wisconsin. It was a simpler, less demanding time for music theorists: I had never attended a conference, much less presented at one. But I found myself at the 1981 meeting of the newly formed Society for Music Theory in Los Angeles, giving my first-ever theory paper. I recognized Milton Babbitt, the keynote speaker for the conference, sitting right in front of me, in the first row. Seated next to him was an imposing, large man with a bushy, white beard (Bob Morris, as it turned out, but I didn’t know that at the time—I told you I was green). When my paper ended, the imposing, large man with the bushy, white beard asked me a question. I didn’t know much at that time, but I knew enough to know that I didn’t know exactly what I was being asked. When the question ended, Babbitt piped up, “Quite right, Bob!”—and I knew I was in big trouble. I muddled through an answer, as people who are out of their league often do, but that was the moment when I began to learn from Bob Morris, and that process has never stopped since. I don’t believe I’ve written a music theory article in the past twenty-five years that didn’t cite Bob and draw on his thinking in some significant way. For someone with intellectual hunger, Bob’s work has provided an endless feast.

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