Miss Rebecca Day

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Educational background

BMus (Hons) - Royal Holloway, University of London, 2010-2013

MMus Musicology (Distinction)- Royal Holloway, University of London, 2013-2014

Personal profile

Rebecca is an AHRC TECHNE Associate and is in the third year of a funded PhD, supervised by Professor J.P.E. Harper-Scott. Her thesis focuses on philosophical, analytical, and psychoanalytic conceptions of subjectivity in Mahler's musical modernism. She has wider research interests in critical theory, music theory and analysis (specifically Schenkerian analysis, Sonata Theory and Neo-Riemannian theory), and fin-de-siécle musical modernism. Rebecca maintains an independent blog here

Research interests

Mahler's Modern Subjects: Towards an analysis of symphonic self-reflexivity (Thesis working title)

Mahler's music is habitually referred to within the discourse of the subject; it is either seen to articulate a biographical, musical, or narrative subject, it communicates 'subjectively' through notions of voice, irony, or humour, or it simply is 'subjective' in some quasi-existentialist sense. Yet who, or what, does this subjectivity represent? Within analysis, the subject remains an ontological presentation of composer intention and/or listener interpretation as a result of fixation with the musical object. This is then inextricably tied to issues of organicism that manifest in Mahler scholarship as an unacknowledged split between 'the man' and 'the music'. Identity is therefore recognised through forms of unity and goal-directed narratives of progress, yet Mahler's music often challenges these through inherent formal, tonal, and structural contradictions from within existing boundaries of coherence. His music, then, is perpetually 'caught between'; between Romanticism and Modernism, between analysis and aesthetics, and between different presentations of subjectivity—biographical, narrative, and musical—and as such, a convincing method of analyzing these 'aesthetic' elements does not currently exist.

This thesis aims to theorize the resultant gap of such perpetual 'in-betweenness'—of this 'split between two things'—as the space in which a thoroughly 'modern' self-conscious, musical analytic subject emerges. Using the intersections between Lacanian and Hegelian theory to establish the symbolic boundaries of this subjectivity, it constructs an analytic method that is then solidified through a consideration of Adorno's thoughts on music analysis, in order to enable the inherent contradictions of Mahler's symphonic forms to speak for the identity of a subject beyond ontological notions of the object. The thesis is therefore structured in two broad parts—theory and analysis—where the task of the first is to establish the theoretical and historical context through a critique of interdisciplinarity (here another example of the 'split between two things') and an account of the necessary self-conscious aspects of musical modernism, before the methodology is then put into practice in the second part through three analytical case studies. Existing analytical methods—primarily Sonata Theory, principles of rotational analysis, and adapted methods of Schenkerian voice leading—are then put through the symbolic system constructed in the first part, in order to systematically break down each of the aforementioned subject positions that dominate existing Mahler scholarship: Notions of narrative are discussed through the recurrent question of programme, (auto)biography is critiqued through the often problematic interaction with documentary sources, and character is considered through the treatment of music with text. Ultimately, the development of this 'immanent' musical subject is traced throughout, where it is hoped that progress might be made towards an analytical understanding of this particular self-conscious musical modernism through the construction of a method that is capable both of theorizing and contextualizing such a perpetual 'in-betweenness'. 



Rebecca is course convenor and visiting lecturer for MU2000 Studies in Music Analysis at Royal Holloway, and a music analysis tutor at St. John's College, University of Oxford for the academic year 2016-17. She was a visiting tutor (PG TA) and marking assistant for MU1110 Theory and Analysis and MU2000 Studies in Music Analysis for the academic year 2015-16 at RHUL. She is a PhD Tutor for The Brilliant Club where she has designed a university style course based on her research, and has delivered it to KS3 pupils at non-selective state schools. She is also a Writing Mentor for the Centre for the Development of Academic Skills (CeDAS) at RHUL. Rebecca is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

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