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Zachary Thomas Wallmark
Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX 75205)
Timbre and Musical Meaning

Preparation of a book-length study about timbre (or tone color), music perception, and musical meaning.

Timbre (or “tone color”) is the most poorly understood attribute of music, despite its importance in the generation of musical affect and meaning. Combining methods from musicology and the cognitive sciences, this project explores how timbre shapes emotional responses to music by focusing on situations of listening that complicate the perceptual boundary between “musical” timbre and “noise.” My book-in-progress contributes three novel perspectives to music scholarship and the public humanities: it (1) advances a dynamic, transdisciplinary model for understanding the material and affective dimensions of sound; (2) investigates issues of timbre interpretation in three historical-cultural case studies (free jazz, Japanese music, and heavy metal); and (3) examines the social and ethical stakes of music listening and performance. The book will add to debates about musical meaning, embodiment, and emotion. An NEH Fellowship will support six months of full-time research and writing.

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Project fields:
History, Criticism, and Theory of the Arts; Interdisciplinary Studies, General; Psychology

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$25,200 (approved)
$25,200 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2017 – 12/31/2017