August 29, 2011 — Music professor Judith Shatin and psychology professor Michael Kubovy of the University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences will present this week at the Seventh International Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology at the University of Glasgow.
On Tuesday, Shatin will see the debut a new piece of music, "Selah," which consists of four psalms sung in Hebrew. On Wednesday the pair will present "Musical Necklaces: The Art and Science of Temporal Organization," which touches on Kubovy's research on competing-organizations principles that govern the perceived downbeat in ambiguous metrical patterns and Shatin's use of such patterns in a series of her compositions.
"Selah" is a composition for female vocal quartet and harp commissioned by Scottish Voices, an ensemble directed by composer Graham Hair, which will perform it at the conference.
"I was asked to choose my texts from among the Hebrew psalms, and to set them in the original language," Shatin said. "One lucky aspect of working on this piece is that in addition to our collaboration in psychology and music, Michael is Israeli and is a native speaker, so he was called to action to help with my understanding of the Hebrew."
The work takes its title from a word found at the end of numerous verses, though Shatin said its exact meaning isn't clear.
"I was drawn to the idea that it means something like 'stop and listen,'" she said. "It is, in any case, a rhythmically strong stop to a line it follows."
Scottish Voices plans future performances of the piece beyond today's debut, and groups in Israel and Canada are also planning performances, Shatin said.
Kubovy and Shatin, who are married, will present Wednesday on ongoing collaborate work on the perception of ambiguous metrical or rhythmic patterns. Such patterns, called "necklaces" in mathematics, are central to the rhythmic organization of many types of music, Kubovy said. Shatin will discuss how those patterns play out in her own work.
Kubovy said he and Shatin have complementary scholarly interests that facilitate their interdisciplinary work together.
"In 2004, Judith wrote a piece called 'Clave,' which takes its name from rhythmic backbone of salsa," Kubovy said. "And I independently have been fascinated by the salsa and by Afro-Cuban rhythms, because I've always felt that they are even more driving than pop rhythms or jazz rhythms. They have something in them, a mysterious 'oomph' that makes you want to dance in a way that no other syncopated music, in my mind, does."