Welcome to the official website of Dr Sasha Valeri Millwood

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Millwood performing at Madingley Hall -- photograph courtesy of Gregor Forbes

Dr Millwood possesses a wide range of scholarly interests within the art and science of music, its associated analytical and theoretical traditions, musicology, as well as related disciplines (and some unrelated ones!).

Dr Millwood’s recent research is focussed on investigating contemporary compositional praxis in Western classical music, interrogating the affordances and limitations of archival papers. Such sources elucidate facets of praxis that are not always apparent from publications and other primary sources, yet they still constitute a mediated collection that is not in all respects representative. Such mediation, inasmuch as it is conditioned by the praxis under interrogation, elucidates implicit priorities.

Through this research, Dr Millwood explores the scope and purview of the professional role labelled "composer" and how it relates to to other facets of the music profession. Compositional praxis, in addition to its characteristic remit of devising and notating musical ideas, often entails various artistic, technical, and ambassadorial activities furthering a tacit quest for canonical status for the composer’s oeuvre.

Dr Millwood’s study of compositional praxis is underpinned by his acumen both as a cataloguer of archival papers and as a music analyst. Meanwhile, his own practical experience as a composer, arranger, and performer embolden him to evaluate the implications of his research and analysis for interpreting the music under scrutiny, even to the extent of sometimes disagreeing with its composer!

Publications

Educational background

Dr Millwood is an avid reader with a wont for questioning all manner of issues, from performance practice to music analysis, from aesthetics to data interpretation, encompassing both his own areas of specialist knowledge and more general issues. He comments on all manner of fora (usually anonymously or pseudonymously). The importance he places upon independent reading and original research was manifest in his undergraduate years, whether undertaking an individual project or studying for a paper in music history. Not content to take secondary literature at its word, he frequently consulted primary sources and the music itself (in the case of continuo parts in Baroque music, this extended to seeking versions without editorial realisations of the figured bass), and liked nothing better than to discover expections, contradictions, and elucidatory examples that had not been cited in lectures. A profuse user of physical books and journals, he was (and remains) liberal in allowing himself to stray off the list to pursue a serendipitously discovered chapter or article of interest. In the course of his doctoral research, this interest in primary sources shifted its focus towards unpublished material, thriving upon the opportunity to arrange and catalogue a theretofore undiscoverable archive at the British Library.

Doctoral research

Dr Millwood undertook his doctoral research under the joint auspices of the University of Glasgow and the British Library, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (through the Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Consortium), and supervised by Dr Martin Parker Dixon, Dr Simon Murray, and Richard Chesser.

The thesis, entitled ‘Elucidating the compositional praxis of a living composer, Thea Musgrave, through archival papers’, is informed primarily but not exclusively by the papers Musgrave sold in tranches from 2009 onwards to the British Library (GB-Lbl), where Dr Millwood arranged and catalogued as part of his research. Drawing on the wealth of documentation available in this archive whilst also reflecting on its limitations, the project interrogates Musgrave’s praxis as a composer, analysing her compositional processes and the influences exerted thereon. In particular, the thesis proposes critical frameworks for dramatic agency in Musgrave’s works, her ad libitum notation, the diverse working relationships she cultivates with performers, and an occasional obfuscity between soloist and tutti orchestral player that she harnesses to great effect (for example, in her Concerto for Orchestra).

The methodology combines a number of approaches in the framing and situating of Musgrave’s oeuvre. A selection of close readings analysing the structure and notation of her music elucidates and clarifies the practical manifestations of Musgrave’s ideas. Concepts from genetic criticism are brought to bear on discussions and comparisons involving some of the sketches, drafts, and revisions. These close readings inform, are informed by, and sometimes challenge the narratives advanced in biographies, interviews, programme notes, and other documentation within and outwith the archive at the British Library. In addition to musicological perspectives, the research is informed by critical approaches from theatre studies, in order to examine Musgrave’s manifold theatrical and/or dramatic propensities, and reflections on the nature and distribution of her archival materials.

As well as the thesis, outputs from Dr Millwood’s doctoral research include the organisation and cataloguing of the British Library's Thea Musgrave archive, a pair of in-depth interviews, and a book‐chapter scrutinising two of Musgrave's collaborations for a forthcoming volume on writing about contemporary musicians edited by Dr Ian Pace and Dr Christopher Wiley.

Dr Millwood has presented on facets of the research in various fora and various formats, including international conferences. An engaging and confident speaker, he is open to invitations to lecture or present on his research (or on more general topics), whether in specialist or non‑specialist contexts.

Undergraduate studies

Dr Millwood’s undergraduate education was undertaken at Girton College, University of Cambridge, where he read the Music Tripos, attaining upper‑second‑class honours in each part. His primary motivation in choosing Cambridge was the opportunity to learn how to write fugues, so it is probably unsurprising that his strongest performance was in that facet: in Part IB of the Tripos (sat in 2012), his coursework fugue scored the highest in the cohort, an achivement repeated with the four‐hour Fugue paper in Part II of the Tripos (sat in 2013). His supervisor for harmony and counterpoint was his Director of Studies, Dr Martin Ennis.

Pitch‑class set theory

Besides harmony and counterpoint, a major specialisation for Dr Millwood comprises the quantitative methodologies of music theory, particularly serial analysis and pitch‑class set theory (or set‑class theory), the latter of which he taught himself from various books and articles. His undergraduate analysis portfolio, supervised by Dr Paul Wingfield, compared and contrasted the approaches to pitch‑class set genera by Forte and Parks, appraising their strengths and weaknesses in application to Ligeti’s ‘Arc‑en‑ciel’ étude. In the process, Dr Millwood discovered some mathematically suspect rounding practices in Forte’s measurement of status quotient (squo). Meanwhile, his Master’s dissertation, supervised by Dr Claire Taylor‑Jay, appraised how pitch‑class set analysis can be utilised in conjunction with serial analysis in Schoenberg’s Phantasy for violin with piano accompaniment, whilst broadening the discourse to consider the structuralist dialectic of the fantastical in literature and the relation between violin and pianoforte.

Typesetter and editor

Dr Millwood is an expert user of Sibelius 6 software, having learned, from many years of experience, how to manage the content and appearence of a score, from general matters of house style to intricate details, such as controlling where a hairpin ends and hiding sections of barline that clash with text. As a professional composer (who is familiar with severe shortages of rehearsal time) and performer (who has suffered his fair share of atrocious parts) himself, he appreciates the immense importance of rendering the engraving as clear and tidy as possible, with sensible spacing and — so far as is practicable — convenient page‑turns.

Dr Millwood can work off many types of source material, including handwritten manuscripts, facsimiles, printed music, and even recordings. Where ambiguities exist (which they often do, especially in handwritten media!), he can make editorial suggestions or decisions, which can be discussed or assembled into commentaries. He can also write idiomatic realisations and completions, especially for passages where the composer had started to make a major alteration but had not written it out in full. He is also capable of working at speed, particularly for straightforward assignments such as transposing or "clef‑modernising".

Probably the most thrilling facet of this work is the discovery of music that was never published, whether due to obscurity or to being truncated, and Dr Millwood has been instrumental in enabling such music to be analysed, performed, and/or heard, sometimes for the first time in decades. His diverse experience in this facet ranges from transcribing the actual opening of Sweeney Todd (as opposed to the one found in the official score) for a colleague’s dissertation to typesetting and editing manuscripts by Frederick Septimus Kelly and his contemporaries for the "Fateful Voyage" project, a City of London Festival concert curated by the academic Dr Kate Kennedy‑Allum, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

Dr Millwood’s paying clients for typesetting and/or editing have included Rachel Podger, Iain Burnside, Giles Swayne, Dr Kate Kennedy‑Allum, Dr Martin Ennis, and Benjamin Comeau.

See also: fees for typesetting.

Proof‑reader

Dr Millwood is well known for his pedantry in respect of grammar, syntax, and punctuation. He is an experienced proof‐reader of dissertations, programme notes, correspondence, and notated music. His clients include researchers, students (both undergraduate and postgraduate), composers, performers, orchestras, festivals, publishers, societies, and institutions.

Work is usually carried out by physical or electronic correspondence, although site visits may be possible (especially where the assignment involves proof‐reading music typescripts against a physical manuscript in the possession of the composer/publisher/archive).

Proof‐reading of text

Proof‐reading of text usually takes the form of comments and suggested amendments, which may be made either as annotations or as a separate list. Where the subject of your work intersects with my expertise, I may, at my discretion, offer feedback above and beyond the remit of proof‐reader.

I will work within the house style you have chosen (or to which you are required to adhere), although I would advise you if I thought it were inappropriate. In many cases, there may be more than one acceptable solution, but consistency is vital. Whilst it is possible to infer most parameters of the house style from reading the text, it is preferable for information thereon, where it is to hand, to be provided (e.g.: policy on the serial comma; permissibility of contractions; British or American spelling; character for decimal point; utilisation of abbreviations; criteria for italicisation and representation of diegetic italics; policy on quotation marks; and plural forms for foreign words commonly used in English, such as concerto, prima donna, Lied, Terzverwandschaft, haute‐contre, and cor anglais).

See also: fees for proof‑reading of text.

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