Russell O'Rourke

Core Lecturer, Music Humanities

Russell O’Rourke is an incoming Core Lecturer in Music Humanities at Columbia University, where he earned his PhD in Historical Musicology in 2020. From May to August 2021, he holds a postdoctoral scholarship (Postdoc-Stipendium) with the Histories of Music, Mind, and Body research group at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany.

Broadly speaking, Russell researches the influence of the rhetorical tradition on sixteenth-century European musical discourse and leverages his findings to employ new methods for the analysis of sixteenth-century music. His dissertation, “Representation, Emotion, and the Madrigal in Sixteenth-Century Italy,” teases out this influence within the writings of the Venetian music theorist Gioseffo Zarlino, especially Zarlino’s account of music and emotional response in the Istitutioni harmoniche of 1558 and his theory of text expression in the Sopplimenti musicali of thirty years later. Putting the results in dialogue with madrigals by Giaches de Wert, Russell’s dissertation also reappraises the madrigal’s eponymous text-setting device, the madrigalism, on affective grounds. Russell’s current work expands his dissertation research to the writings on music of other Cinquecento literati, including the Roman scholar Girolamo Mei and the Florentine academician Tommaso del Nero.

As a graduate student, Russell founded and for two years ran the historical notation singing study group Ars Nota, and he was a proud recipient of a Preceptor Teaching Award for his work as a Music Humanities instructor. He also directed Columbia’s early music choir, Collegium Musicum, for two semesters (see concert programs here and here). Outside Columbia, Russell is on the faculty at Greenwood Music Camp in Cummington, MA, where he teaches viola and coaches chamber music to children ages 10–13 for two weeks each summer.

[Bio updated June 2021. Photo by Rebecca Rom-Frank.]

Columbia Degrees: 
MA, Historical Musicology
Degrees from Other Institutions: 
Princeton University