The American Philosophical Society has awarded Anthony Cummings, professor of music and coordinator of Italian studies, its 2013 John Frederick Lewis Award for his book Nino Pirrotta: An Intellectual Biography. The award recognizes the best book published by the society during the award year. Cummings will accept the award in November at the society’s annual meeting in Philadelphia.
Cummings is interested in the practice of musicology as an academic discipline, in its history and evolution, how it emerged, what its disciplinary goals and objectives are, and how they are attained.
While Cummings’ work reconstructs the details of the world-renowned Italian musicologist’s life and career more fully than what had been previously known, its primary emphasis is on Pirrotta’s thought and writings. Cummings traces the primary influences on his development (the principal elements in Italian intellectual life at the beginning of the 20th century) and how they are reflected in his writings. The book also assesses the findings and significance of Pirrotta’s principal publications and explains their distinctiveness within the field of musicology.
“Pirrotta is, by anyone’s reckoning, one of the most celebrated figures in the history of the discipline, and, when I first began graduate training in music history and first read his writings, they impressed me immediately as being among the most learned, most incisive, most sensitive and revealing of any musicological writings,” says Cummings. “I became interested in the figure who produced these writings, the human being behind the writings.”
Cummings worked on the book extensively during a sabbatical year in 2011-12. That fall, he was Robert Lehman Visiting Professor-in-Residence at Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence. During the spring, he was scholar-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome, where he had access to the library and conservatory where Pirrotta spent time before embarking on a teaching career at Princeton and Harvard universities, and the University of Rome, where Pirrotta taught after Harvard.
Undergraduate research contributions
Also indispensable to the book’s completion was Alexandra Hayley Trowbridge ’12, who as a double major in English and art worked with Cummings through the EXCEL Scholars undergraduate research program to collect materials and read and edit first drafts. Cummings uses the material from the book in his survey of Italian music from the time of Dante to the Italian operatic tradition of the 19th century and often assigns Pirrotta’s writings to his students.
Cummings has another book in press, an edition of the madrigals of the Renaissance composer Antonio Molino. It was edited with Zachary Jones ’13, then a double major in music and anthropology & sociology, also through the EXCEL Scholars program, and two colleagues from Tulane University and the University of Nottingham.
Cummings also has several new projects underway. The first is a study of presidential and provostial leadership at the American college and university from the late 19th century to the present. He is exploring the often indirect relationship between a president’s disciplinary training in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, or the professions and the responsibilities he or she has as leader in fundraising, balancing revenues and expenditures, and personnel matters.
The second project is a series of essays provisionally titled Between Music and History, a collection of case studies of moments in European civilization when the music of the time reflects especially closely the historical moment. For example, the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation had profound effects on the period’s music and resulted in radical changes in musical style. Cummings seeks to illustrate that music, in addition to being true to its own internal practices and traditions, is also an expression of its historical context.
Cummings’ previous books include The Lion’s Ear: Pope Leo X, The Renaissance Papacy, and Music (2012), The Maecenas and the Madrigalist (2004), Music in Renaissance Cities and Courts (1996), and The Politicized Muse: Music for Medici Festivals, 1512-1537 (1992).
The American Philosophical Society was founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin and is the oldest learned society in the United States. The “Transactions of the American Philosophical Society” series, which contains Cummings’ book, is the oldest continuing series of scholarly publications in the country, first published before the American Revolution. The John Frederick Lewis Award was established in the 1930s and since 1981 has been given to the author of the best book published by the Society in that particular calendar year. Last year’s winner was Neil Rudenstine, president emeritus of Harvard University.