January 29, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 38°F


Chamber music takes stage in book

Call him the Justin Timberlake of chamber music — professor Mark Radice is bringing it back.
Radice, professor of music theory, history and composition, recently became the author of “Chamber Music: An Essential History,” a modern analysis of chamber music that includes work from after the 1920s.

Anjali Patel/The IthacanMark Radice, professor of music theory, history and composition, stands in front of his class last Friday. Radice recently published his sixth book “Chamber Music: An Essential History.”

In his sixth book to date, Radice explores the composition and historical context of classic and lesser-known chamber music from modern and medieval times. The book includes a table of pieces organized by ensemble size and instrumentation, a new resource for practitioners and professors.
Radice said his book combines ethnomusicology, which is based in anthropology and sociology and historical musicology, to create a picture of how the music was actually created.
“Too often, in traditional music appreciation, we have this concept that the great genius like Beethoven or Bach or Brahms is struck with this bolt of inspiration and creates a masterpiece,” Radice said. “That’s usually not really the way it happens.”
Radice said he developed the book because he noticed a lack of modern analysis on the topic.  The best existing work, he said, is “Chamber Music” by Homer Ulrich, which does not incorporate music after the 1920s.
Radice said he tried to bring every piece of music to life for modern audiences, illustrating the real-life challenges of the composers.
“It’s not just a composer in an ivory tower sitting in isolation making random choices,” Radice said. “It’s a person saying, ‘Here’s how much time I need. Here’s how loud it has to be. Here’s how many people are involved. Here’s how much money, I have to pay the performers who are involved.”
Sophomore Drew Weinstein, a drama and classical guitar major taking one of Radice’s classes, said Radice’s passion for illustrating the historical moment around music emerges in his teaching as well as in his writing.
“We’re not listening so much to music from history, it’s more explaining why this was the music going on and what it is.” Weinstein said.
Molly O’Shea Polk, marketing communications manager for the School of Music, said Radice is one of many professors in the school to have published books about their areas of interest in the last several months.
“It’s another creative outlet for them to engage people interested in music or performance outside of actually performing or teaching,” O’Shea Polk said.
Radice said he wants readers to understand the effect of a society on its music.
“When we get into situations involving courts, religion, religious persecution, political oppression, censorship, anti-Semitism, the idea is to see how the music responded to those external conditions,” he said. “How it responded to some freedom that was permitted in a particular situation.”