With New Book, Sheppard Reveals Influences, Roots, and Intents of Modernist Music Theater

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., Feb. 27, 2001 — With his new book, “Revealing Masks: Exotic Influences and Ritualized Performance in Modernist Music Theater” (University of California Press), W. Anthony Sheppard considers a wide range of important musical works in this fascinating exploration of ritualized performance in twentieth-century music.

Sheppard, assistant professor of music at Williams College, argues that modernist music theater &endash; perhaps best described as a hybrid of several performance traditions &endash; is an important genre unto its own, and discusses the multiple models drawn upon by the modernist creators of music theater – ranging from Greek tragedy to vaudeville, medieval Christian morality plays to Japanese kabuki.

He is especially interested in the use of “exotic” techniques of masking and stylization, identifying Japanese Noh, medieval Christian drama, and ancient Greek theater as the most prominent exotic models for the creation of “total theater.”

In his study, Sheppard draws on a diverse range of music theater pieces, exploring examples from French Modernist theater, Leonard Bernstein, Igor Stravinsky, and even Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” video, as well as artists in literature, theatre, and dance, such as William Butler Yeats, Bertolt Brecht, and Isadora Duncan.

The book poses challenging questions that will interest readers beyond those in the field of music scholarship and shows that compositional concerns and cultural themes manifested in music theater are central to the history of twentieth-century Euro-American music, drama, and dance.

He joined the Williams faculty in 1996 after earning his Ph.D. from Princeton University with the dissertation from which “Revealing Masks” sprang. He earned his M.F.A. from Princeton University and his B.A. from Amherst College. He has written a number of articles for musicologists’ conferences and is also an accomplished clarinetist. He is currently at work on a book titled “Extreme Exoticism: Japan in the American Musical Imagination.”

Note: Review copies of “Revealing Masks” are available from the University of California Press, Publicity Dept., 2000 Center Street, Suite 303, Berkeley, CA 94704.