Robert Fink

When the Music Stutters:  Notes Toward a Symptomatology


In a world saturated with cyclic musical repetition, how much repetition is “too much”? Is it possible to identify any repetitive musical gesture which resists normalization, which intrinsically signifies a culturally significant “excess” of repetition? Even in the most slowly evolving, cyclically repetitive musical environments, one finds arresting moments when the groove’s ongoing orbital progression through time gets audibly “stuck,” enacting what producers and listeners call a “stutter edit” – or, simply, “a stutter.” When we hear music like this as metaphorically “stuttering,” whether or not the moment actually involves the slicing and rearranging of vocal samples, we invoke a particular, highly-charged instance of communicative neurodiversity – disfluent speech rhythm – precisely as a sign of excessive repetition. The repetitive structures of music have often been prescribed as an antidote to disfluencies of speech. But when repetitive music itself stutters, it becomes analogous in that moment to the overload of repetitions and blockages in poetic speech that triggers the transcendent breakthrough into pure intensity of affect that Gilles Deleuze, perhaps the most consequential philosopher of excessive repetition, called making “language as such stutter.”

This paper will present, following Deleuze, a symptomatology of the musical stutter. Drawing on the rich clinical literature on people who stutter, I will construct a phenomenological taxonomy of musical stutter effects, 1970-2010, using examples from the repetitive avant-garde (Lucier, Reich, Johnson) and repetitive popular (hip-hop, EDM) repertoires.


Robert Fink is Professor of Musicology in the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. His research focuses on music after 1965, with special interests in musical minimalism, popular music, post-modernism and the musical canon, and the intersection of cultural and music-analytical theory. He has published widely in musicological journals, and is the author of Repeating Ourselves (2005), a book-length study of the minimal music of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and others as a cultural reflection of American consumer society in the mass-media age. He is co-editing a volume of essays on tone and timbre in popular music, and his next book, on the politics of classical music in a post-classical world, is tentatively titled Declassified

Professor Fink is a Recipient of the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award and the Graduate Mentorship Award (both 2014). He lectures on a wide variety of popular and classical music topics. His course on “The History and Practice of Electronic Dance Music,” which typically enrolls almost 400 students, was the first of its kind at a major university; it was named the “Best College Pop Music Class” by Spin Magazine in 2002. Professor Fink is the Chair of UCLA’s minor program in Music Industry, and a co-founder of the new Center for Music Innovation, where UCLA professors and thought leaders in music, technology, and entrepreneurship can come together to understand and influence the future of music as an art and business.

Jelena Novak

Opera on the Horizon of Postminimalism


In his essay “A Forest from the Seeds of Minimalism”, Kyle Gann discusses developments of postminimal techniques in various musical poetics that came after the era of strict minimalist procedures. Similarly to Gann, my aim is to consider ‘what came after’ minimalist music, although my discussions extends also to the visual arts. I will zoom in on what is happening to postminimalism in recent opera productions that further redefine the world of opera. This includes works by less central figures than those whose works had a major impact on postminimalist operatic aesthetics, such as Glass, Andriessen, Reich and Adams. Some of the postoperas I would like to discuss are: operatic installations by Marguerite Humeau, Claudia Molitor, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller; ‘television operas after TV’ where opera and television reinvent each other (minute operas by Michel van der Aa and the reality opera The News by Jacob ter Veldhuis (Jacob TV), Invisible Cities an opera for headphones by Yuval Sharon and Christopher Cerrone, and the opera Two Boys by Nico Muhly. The status of postminimalism in each of these works will be examined in order to see how and why its functions in opera change.


Jelena Novak works in the area of musicology, opera studies, performance studies, dramaturgy and criticism. She is a postdoctoral research fellow at CESEM, New University of Lisbon with the project "Opera beyond Drama". She was a founding Committee member of the Society for Minimalist Music and a founding member of the editorial collective TkH [Walking Theory]. In 2013 she won the Thurnau Award for Music-Theatre Studies. She is author of the book Postopera: Reinventing the Voice-Body (Ashgate, 2015), and is currently co-editing (with John Richardson) the book Einstein on the Beach: Opera beyond Drama for the Ashgate Interdiscplinary Studies in Opera series.

Kyle Gann

sat26.9. 19:30  FOCUS KYLE GANN

Black Box, Helsinki Music Centre
Kyle Gann -evening
Performers:  Emil Holmström, Veli Kujala, Eija Kankaanranta, Sibelius-Akatemian lyömäsoitinyhtye, sound designers and -technicians of Sibelius-Academy department of music technology 

Kyle Gann interviewed by Matthew Whittall

Juhani Nuorvala: Concertino for electric kantele and soundtrack (7', 2000/2014)
Tom Johnson: Tango,  arrangement for 5-string kantele and accordion  (4’, 1984)
Kyle Gann: Reticent Behemoth for quarter-tone accordion (6', 2015)
Kyle Gann: Unquiet Night (Mechanical Piano Study No. 10) (16’, 2004)
Kyle Gann: The Unnameable for keyboard sampler and soundfile (12’, 2012)
Kyle Gann: Snake Dance No. 2 for percussion quartet (12’, 1995)


Kyle Gann, born 1955 in Dallas, Texas, is a composer and was new-music critic for the Village Voice from 1986 to 2005. Since 1997 he has taught at Bard College. He is the author of The Music of Conlon Nancarrow, American Music in the 20th Century, Music Downtown: Writings from the Village Voice, No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage's 4'33", Robert Ashley, and the introduction to the 50th-anniversary edition of Cage's Silence. Gann studied composition with Ben Johnston, Morton Feldman, and Peter Gena. Of his hundred-plus works to date, about a fourth are microtonal, using up to 37 pitches per octave. He's received commissions from the Orkest de Volharding, the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, the Dessoff Choir, the Relache Ensemble, pianist Sarah Cahill, and many others. His music is available on the New Albion, New World, Cold Blue, Lovely Music, Mode, Meyer Media, Brilliant Classics, New Tone, and Monroe Street labels. In 2003, the American Music Center awarded Gann its Letter of Distinction.


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