The Key to Beethoven

20 February 2015

Alumnus Dr Paul Ellison has had his first book published, based on a revision of his Cardiff PhD thesis.

The Key to Beethoven: Connecting Tonality and Meaning in His Music is published by Pendragon Press, Hillsdale, New York, as part of the North American Beethoven Studies series.

Building on the correlation between key and tonal affect found in Beethoven's vocal music, the book establishes an understanding of the way in which the composer uses tonality affectively.

This is the first volume to demonstrate through a combination of historical and empirical evidence that, in most instances, Beethoven does employ tonality in an affective way in his vocal music, paving the way for a future examination of the nexus between tonality and meaning in his instrumental music.

In his Introduction to the volume, Dr Ellison remarks that: "Unlike Mozart, Beethoven scholarship has been wary of this topic until quite recently. Yet, as controversial as the subject may be, it has great potential to alter radically the ways in which we hear and interpret Beethoven's music."

Dr Ellison completed his PhD in 2010, under the supervision of Professor David Wyn Jones. He is currently Lecturer in Musicology at San Francisco State University, as well as Associate Editor of The Beethoven Journal, the periodical of the American Beethoven Society. 

We took the opportunity to ask Dr Ellison some questions about his time at Cardiff:

What made you choose the School of Music at Cardiff University?
The availability of two scholars in my chosen area on the faculty and the fact that I could study part-time.

What career path have you followed since graduating in 2010?
I am a lecturer in musicology at San Francisco State University and Associate Editor of The Beethoven Journal. I also continue to give freelance lectures (Cal Performances, the Three Choirs Festival) and to write program and liner notes.

What is your favourite aspect of your current role?

Being able to teach musicology and writing to undergraduate and graduate students.

What effect do you feel your studies at Cardiff has had on your career?
It has helped in establishing me as a junior scholar in the field of Beethoven studies.

What are your main highlights from studying here?
The quality of the advising. Professor David Wyn Jones' input to my thesis and writing was invaluable.

What advice would you give to somebody considering studying at Cardiff University?
I would recommend studying at Cardiff University unreservedly.