PhD candidate Russell O'Rourke (Historical Musicology, 2013) is at work on his dissertation, a study of the language that music theorists and other writers in sixteenth-century Italy used to characterize the elusive relationship between music, words, and emotions. Through its close attention to writers' terminological choices and their (as often as not) connections to ancient sources, his dissertation offers a broad reassessment of such foundational categories of late Renaissance music historiography as word-painting, imitation (as in imitazione delle parole), and representation (rappresentazione). With an emphasis on the madrigals of Giaches de Wert, it also explores the implications of this overhaul for music analysis. (For an abstract from a recent research presentation, see this link.)
As an instructor, Russell has taught Music Humanities in Columbia's Core Curriculum for five semesters (2015-17), for which he received a Preceptor Teaching Award in 2017. Teaching without a textbook, he prepared original materials for almost all of his class meetings, including regular written introductions to pieces, concepts, and primary source readings; multimedia resources like this fugue visualization; and listening guides. In the 2018-19 academic year, he served as a TA in the undergraduate music theory sequence (Music Theory I and II), running a weekly lab that covered topics including species counterpoint, voice leading, harmony, and model composition (textbook: The Complete Musician by Steven G. Laitz). In 2019-20, he is director of Collegium Musicum, the Department of Music's chamber choir.
Russell has maintained an active extracurricular presence in the Department of Music. In 2017, he founded Ars Nota, a historical music notation study group that meets regularly on Columbia's campus to sing medieval and Renaissance music from facsimiles of its original sources. In 2018-19, Ars Nota received financial support from the Department's Serwer Fund and was the subject of a short documentary made by Rebecca Rom-Frank ("Ars Nota: Singing from the Source"). That year, the group met 22 times and welcomed 53 unique visitors. In 2018, Russell also participated in Susan Boynton's FAB-Musiconis exchange with students at Sorbonne University in Paris, helping to index a bilingual database of medieval music iconography.
Outside of Columbia, he serves since 2017 on the faculty at Greenwood Music Camp (Junior Division) in Cummington, Massachusetts, where he teaches violin and viola and coaches chamber music to children ages 10-13 for two weeks each summer.
[Bio updated August, 2019. Photo credit: Rebecca Rom Frank.]