"I have always been fascinated by the simple question, 'How does music work?' My recent research has directed this question toward one simple building block of music, the scale. In my book, Pentatonicism From the Eighteenth Century to Debussy, I show how composers' decisions regarding scalar material and scalar practice can shed light on the inner workings of European music history. While my primary concern is with the craft of musical composition, the book also considers the rich meanings music has (and had) and where those meanings come from. Related research examines harmonic practice in the music of Debussy and his contemporaries, (Music Theory Spectrum 2009). (PDF)
In 2009-10 I began working on a new research interest, which arises out of my work on the pentatonic scale but actually involves something of a disciplinary and methodological shift: the commonalities of music and language. Both linguists and musicians have long been intrigued with what is sometimes called 'stylized intonation': the use of intoned syllables in spoken language, often purported to approximate the minor third (as in 'Yoo-hoo,' 'Bye-bye,' etc.). This phenomenon (and especially its apparent -- but largely undocumented-- universality) raises provocative questions about the relationship between music and language. (See my review of Patel's Music, Language, and the Brain, in the Journal of Music Theory [PDF].)
It is these questions that have inspired my project, 'Music, Language, and the Minor Third,' which has occupied me since visiting the University of Edinburgh as a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar. (A pilot-phase of this project involved a study of the knock-knock joke [PDF].) Meanwhile, I have reviewed Aniruddh Patel's Music, Language, and the Brain for the Journal of Music Theory (PDF)." My recent article in Music Perception details the results of this research with respect to English.
Years at Knox: 2004 to present
Ph.D., Musicology, 2002, Cornell University.
M.A., Musicology, 1997, Cornell University.
B.A., Music and Mathematics, 1993, Swarthmore College.
Music theory, music analysis, nineteenth-century music, music and language, music psychology.
Fulbright Distinguished Scholar, 2009-2010.
Philip Green Wright-Lombard College Award for Distinguished Teaching, Knox College, 2009.
Postdoctoral Fellowship in Music Theory. University of Chicago, 2004-2005.
Lilly Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities and Arts. Valparaiso University, Indiana, 2002-2004.
Donald J. Grout Memorial Prize. Music Department, Cornell University, 2002.
Guildford Dissertation Prize. English Department, Cornell University, 2002.
"Speech, Song, and the Minor Third: an Acoustic Study of the Stylized Interjection." Music Perception 30.5 (2013): 441-62.
Review of Patel, Music, Language, and the Brain in Journal of Music Theory (PDF) 54.2 (Fall 2010.)
"Debussy, Pentatonicism, and the Tonal Tradition." Music Theory Spectrum 31.2 (2009): 225-61.
Pentatonicism From the Eighteenth Century to Debussy. University of Rochester Press, 2007.
"The Rise of ^6 in the Nineteenth Century." Music Theory Spectrum 24 1 (2002): 35-67.
Articles in two music references, The New Grove Dictionary of Musicand Musicians, Second Edition, 2001, and The Reader's Guide to Music, 1999.
"'Motherese' and Universals of Musical Pitch." Society for Ethnomusicology, New Orleans, 2013.
"Music, Language, and the Minor Third: An Acoustic Description of 'Sung Speech'." Music Theory Midwest, Lincoln 2011.
"Beyond Verse and Chorus: A History of Form in Pop-Rock." National Meeting of the Society for American Music, Denver, 2009.
"The Minor Third in Human Culture and Human Development." Presented to the Music and Language
series at the Institute for Music in Human and Social Development, Edinburgh, 2009.
"Debussy and the Pentatonic Tradition." National Joint Meeting of the American Musicological Society and the Society for Music Theory, Nashville, Tennessee, 2006.
"Harps, Harpists, and the History of Harmony." National Meeting of the College Music Society, Quebec City, Canada, 2005.
"Pentatonicism in Nineteenth-Century Music." University of Chicago Colloquium Series, Chicago, 2005.
"A Brief History of ^6." National meeting of the Society For Music Theory, Atlanta, Georgia, 1999.
Campus & Community Involvement
Member, Society For Music Theory.
Member, American Musicological Society.
What Students Say
"Jeremy is an incredible musician, a terrific teacher, and a really nice guy. His class was challenging, but never frustrating, because he created an environment in which I never felt stupid for asking questions. His enthusiasm for music and teaching made it impossible to not care about music theory-every day, kids walked out of the classroom still discussing the material. Plus, he rocks at steel drums."
-Deana Rutherford, Anthropology & Sociology Major and Journalism Minor
"Each day Jeremy arrives in class bursting with contagious enthusiasm. Whether we are studying Bach or Ace of Bass he makes music fascinating and exciting. His music theory classes end the term with each student composing their own piece. Although many students enter his class merely wanting to learn more about music, his class prepares everyone to actually compose; its not a skill we brought into the class, but something he taught us all. He's around whenever you want to talk music, but he takes extra effort into helping everyone with their composition. What more can you ask for from a professor?"
-Daniel Hoffman, Political Science Major and Economics Minor
Knox's Team X-Ray places second among 15 liberal arts colleges that competed in an intense regional contest involving programming teams from colleges and universities in five states.
Finals and term projects can be more than tests and papers, as Knox College faculty make engaging assignments and exams -- including design your own superhero -- to evaluate student academic achievements.
A Knox College graduate and vice president of development at the Greater Peoria Business Alliance, Jim Lynch is among the young leaders recognized by InterBusiness Issues magazine.