Michigan State University’s College of Music is hosting its brand-new Song Cycles Conference this weekend. The conference is titled “20th and 21st Century Song Cycles for Voice and Piano,” and will explore 15 complex compositions.

Scholars and performers will come together to explore these 15 pieces. The three day conference will consist of five sessions hosted by two MSU associate professors of music theory, Gordon Sly and Michael Callahan.

“The conference is designed to bring together both professional musicologists and theorists, as well as performers. It’s an extremely unusual conference,” said Sly.

The presentation cycle includes a 30-minute lecture on a piece, immediately followed by a performance of that same composition. After the performance, the audience can participate in a 15-minute follow-up disucssion.

According to Sly, Song Cycles is one of a kind. He said it blends the academic nature of a collegiate conference with the energy of a live music concert.

“The idea for the conference emerged in a conversation we had about 18 months ago. We were talking about music genres that are so closely associated with an earlier century that we tend to overlook their contribution to the 20th century,” Sly said, “What we really decided was that so few people would’ve heard of most of them that it would be wonderful if we can put a conference together with scholarly presentations and have the pieces performed live.”

Sly and Callahan put out a call for proposals and the response was overwhelming. "We’ve got many, many people who are interested in giving presentations at the conference,” Sly said. “We had many more proposals than we accepted, we were only able to take 15 song cycles.”

The presentations are being delivered by music professors from around the country. Sly said since the presenters are aware that the audience will not be limited to scholars and musicians, but will include people who simply interested into music, the presentations will be accessible to a broad audience.

Presenters and performers are coming from all over the place Sly said. “We’ve got a music theorist from McGill University in Montreal coming and we’ve got performers from all around the United States.”

Sly said it’s possible to host future conferences like this one as well. “It seems there is enough interest to do another one of these and maybe we will in a couple of years,” Sly said. “We want to see if we can make this one the best we can.”


April 20-22, 2.pm. Cook Recital Hall 333 W. Circle Dr., East Lansing www.music.msu.edu/song-cyclesconference