Peter J. Schmelz

Peter J. Schmelz

Research Professor

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Research Interests: 20th and 21st-century music, Soviet and post-Soviet music and culture, aesthetics, polystylism, modernism and the avant-garde, popular and experimental music, jazz, film, Alfred Schnittke, Valentyn Sylvestrov (Valentin Silvestrov)

Peter J. Schmelz investigates and teaches 20th and 21st-century music; Ukrainian, Russian, and Soviet music, particularly Valentyn Sylvestrov, Alfred Schnittke, and Dmitri Shostakovich; music and culture in the Cold War; popular and experimental music; film music; music and politics; and sound studies. Trained as a musicologist, his research and teaching cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, encompassing history, literature, film, and the visual arts, as well as borrowing from oral history and ethnographic methods. He seeks to discover and convey the ways music articulates selfhood, identity, thinking and being in the world—both individually and as part of a community—especially under authoritarian regimes or in situations in which individuals are otherwise disenfranchised. Professor Schmelz’s work explores how music acts as a social force that helps people and groups negotiate between public and private, mediating between control, coexistence, and resistance. His current research projects also include investigating postcolonial and decolonial approaches to the Russian empire, the USSR, and post-Soviet spaces.

Professor Schmelz’s two recently published books are: Sonic Overload: Alfred Schnittke, Valentin Silvestrov, and Polystylism in the Late USSR (Oxford University Press, 2021), and Alfred Schnittke's Concerto Grosso no. 1 (Oxford, 2019).

In addition to working on a collection of essays on Ukrainian music (with Leah Batstone) as well as helping to translate into English a volume of Valentyn Sylvestrov’s writings, Professor Schmelz is currently completing two other book projects, one called Intimate Histories of the Musical Cold War: A Ukrainian Composer, Conductor, and Musicologist Struggle for Independence, Recognition, and the Avant-Garde in the 1960s; the other is titled Some Combinations of Freedoms and Passions: Soviet Experimental Music in the 1980s (on the Ganelin Trio, Sergey Kuryokhin and Pop Mekhanika, Valentina Ponomareva, Sainkho Namchylak, and the group Auktsyon).

Professor Schmelz has received a number of fellowships and awards, including from the National Endowment for the Humanities, ASCAP, the American Academy in Berlin, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the American Musicological Society, and the Fulbright Program (to Georgia). With Simon Morrison, Professor Schmelz serves as series editor for Indiana University Press’s East European Music Studies; he edited, with Jesse Rodin, the Journal of Musicology from 2014-18.