Stanford seeks a composer for geeks


The Department of Music at Stanford University is inviting applications for the position of tenure-track composer at the rank of Assistant Professor. The envisaged starting date is September 1, 2018.

We are searching for a creative and innovative composer who will show every promise of attaining professional distinction. The successful candidate must have a commitment to highquality undergraduate and graduate instruction, and ability or potential in teaching and mentoring a diverse student body that includes women, minorities, and others from underrepresented backgrounds.

Candidates should have an interest and expertise in one or more additional areas of performance and/or research, including, but not limited to, theory within or beyond the traditions of Western art music, music performance, and computer music. The successful responsibilities will involve courses primarily in composition and analysis, at both undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as the supervision of individual composition research. Courses may also be taught in the candidate’s additional areas of expertise.

Letters of application, together with a curriculum vitae, list of should be received on or before October 1, 2017. You may apply here.

Additional supporting materials will be requested at a later date. Please do NOT send scores or recordings at this stage of the search.

Stanford University is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to increasing the diversity of its faculty. It welcomes nominations of, and applications from, women, members of minority groups, protected veterans and individuals with disabilities, as well as others who would bring additional dimensions to the university’s research, teaching, and clinical missions.


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    • I’m sorry, you must be new here. A pejorative tone is broadly acceptable in all circumstances.

  • They are looking for a diverse candidate. Teaching composition to minority students is supposed to be quite different from teaching majority students, how would that difference show itself? Probably by stressing the great value of rap to African-American students, the importance of female composers to lesbians, and prioritizing Tchaikovsky and Britten to gays. But what to do with Indian-Americans? And the Asian-Americans, will they be fed with Chinese opera? And what about the other, often completely forgotten minority of truly-gifted students – feeding them Bach, Beethoven and Boulez? The diversity-adaptable curriculum will result in many small classes with very different courses.

    But seriously, this kind of list of requirements demonstrates the absence of a general basis of craftmanschip that could serve as grounding for any musical direction.

    This may be helpful:

    • I think you should apply nevertheless. Alone your dedication to this blog is an unparalleled achievement.

      • If the board would read my SD contributions, they would immediately scrap my name from the list, because they would realize I would carefully undo all the work of the institution to create convention and conformity.

    • Excellent points, and the agenda of diversifying the West into oblivion is well on course. Vorwaerts!

      • How on earth did an advert for a composer become a sign of the future oblivion of the West? What nonsense! Recognising and studying musical cultures, ‘western’ or otherwise, is all to the good, and acts and has long acted as a stimulus to what we seem to feel the need to call ‘western art music’. Further, when did a diversity of culture lead to oblivion? Change, certainly; oblivion, less likely.

        • I like diversity when I c h o o s e to experience it in Hong Kong, Nigeria, Istanbul or wherever. Not when it is thrust down my throat on my back doorstep.

          • That must be a difficult situation for you in an already diverse world. Do you really think that diversity should exist somewhere else so that you can dip your toes into it when you feel suitably attracted to the exotic?

    • I’m not sure how you managed to infer that the listing excludes general craftsmanship – they seek someone of professional distinction, after all. Nor am I sure that the looked-for candidate is required to be diverse, merely that they should be open to teaching people of diverse backgrounds.

      • Why would diverse background of students need to be mentioned at all? This suggests that the background of students would influence the teaching. But the only differences in students that would be important to any teaching, would be their perceptivity and intelligence and talents. To suggest that it is the students’ background which would be a factor of consideration as important to the teaching, is in itself discriminatory – as if a black gay would experience a diminshed seventh chord differently because of being a member of a minority. It is confusing sociological categories with musical ones. It would be another matter if members of minorities would be extra encouraged to enrol, and be eligible for some extra support, but that is something very different from the teaching in itself.

        • Here’s a wild and crazy possibility: some candidates might actually find a diverse student body to be an attractive part of the proposition.

          • I’m a Stanford alumna. The student body is hardly diverse! The only black guy I ever saw on campus outside of the football team in my libel law class was Chelsea Clinton’s security security detail. It’s white and Asian. That’s it.

          • Blair Tindall states that the Stanford student population is not diverse, based on her experiences nearly two decades ago. We could take her word for it, or we could look at the statistics on last year’s entering class:


            FWIW, even nearly two decades before her experience, mine was otherwise, living as I did next door to the black studies theme house on campus, which most assuredly did not do double duty as football or basketball team housing. I will observe that the demographics of those in any particular program of study may not be a miniature version of the student body as a whole, and graduate classes tended to be quite different than undergraduate classes. The only continent not represented on my hallway freshman year was Antarctica. Certainly the student body seems more diverse to me than most orchestras I see!

            I apologize in advance to any I may have offended by attempting to bring facts into a Slipped Disc discussion!

          • Bill, because you lived next to the entire 10-person black population of Stanford, who were segregated in that housing.

          • Ms. Tindall, I attended Stanford from 2003 to 2004. I regularly saw African-American students on campus. Not a huge number, but not rare either.

        • Firstly, that’s a pretty naïve way of looking at it; secondly, your referencing of ethnicity and sexuality is more revealing of your own concerns than those of anyone else – ‘non-minority’ (if we have to categorise) people from less than privileged positions (poverty, for example) are also starkly underrepresented at universities. Beyond and perhaps more usefully to the discussion than this, most universities state their working ethos and ethical positions on these matters in every job description in order to make it clear to applicants that these are places of intellectual freedom and exchange regardless of background. At a time of increasing polarisation and intolerance, these statements are particularly applicable as, regardless of education and law, not every person reading the advert will be able to get past their own prejudices; as such, filtering those people out before application makes more sense than the alternatives.

          • All this seems quite confused to me. I was merely stating that the teaching as such should be unhindered by ‘minority concerns’, which should be located somewhere else, not in the teaching.

  • All of the best composers are dead. The golden age died with Boulez and Milton Babbitt. There is no one I trust to teach today’s youth, and our youth are woefully uneducated in the matter of serious music. Some slacked jawed millennial type like Mason Bates will probably end up getting the post. We are watching the decline of Western Civilization before our very eyes.

    • That decline had already begun when people were under the impression that Boulez and Babbit were ‘great composers’.

      • I kinda like Boulez…but Babbitt doesn’t get the mark for me. Just curious, John: if pressed, who amongst our living composers would get a nod towards greatness from you? I think Ades and Turnage are pretty strong, but not sure if they are at the Beethoven level (or even Babbitt).

        • Ades is IMHO a gifted but confused composer, partly trendy, partly traditional, with bits that work and lots of bits that don’t – so, mainly experimental; and Turnage should not be considered a serious composer at all. All these kinds of people are fruits of postwar modernism and working in a field where the concept of ‘greatness’ has been cancelled, so it would be useless to find ‘great composers’ in a field with such limitations. The really great talents can be found where the tonal tradition is still taken seriously and practised, so I would say that the British composer David Matthews and the Frenchman Nicolas Bacri possess musical greatness.

    • What a tiresome comment. I swear some comments here are like parodies of what well-informed people would say. It really gives me pause. I hope to god people like this don’t really make up a substantial portion of the audience for concert music.

  • Stanford has a diverse student population, not made up primarily of white males of European descent. If you’re hoping to teach such a population (white guys), Stanford has done you a favor by alerting you that it may not be the ideal job for you. I think others have misread the part about other interests: non-Western is not a requirement, but if you had an interest in non-Western music, that would be viewed as part of the desired breadth, just as an interest in computer music or (perish the thought!) performance would be.

    So, if you’re interested in teaching composition and analysis, don’t mind teaching it to people who may not look just like you, and have some interests in music other than trying to be the next Brahms, you should ignore the whining from the “sky is falling” crowd and investigate further.

    Obligatory disclosure: I have personal experience with the Stanford music department stretching back some decades, and am on a first-name basis with the previous department chair. A recent product of the music department plays quartets with me on a weekly basis, and despite being an Asian female, she seems to have an excellent grasp on playing those old dead European guys, which might explain how she recently won a bunch of professional auditions. There’s historically been some tension between those on the academic side and those on the performance side, and the university being a university, the academic side (read: musicologists and composers whose music doesn’t do much for me) has tended to get the upper hand, so expressing an interest in someone whose “outside” interests might involve performance strikes me as a good thing.

  • I wonder who from Stanford have Mr. Lebrecht met that lead him to label Stanford students as “geeks”? I have met a ton of people from there – I went there myself and met many fellow students and alumni. While there were some geeks there, most of the people were well-rounded and many were VERY bright.

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