William Robin is an associate professor of musicology at the University of Maryland’s School of Music. His research and writing untangle the complex cultural and institutional histories of contemporary classical music in the United States.
His first book, Industry: Bang on a Can and New Music in the Marketplace (Oxford University Press, 2021) examines the new-music festival Bang on a Can and their participation in the American avant-garde’s marketplace turn in the 1980s and ’90s. In collaboration with Kerry O’Brien, his next project is On Minimalism: Documenting a Musical Movement (University of California Press, forthcoming 2023), a revisionist history of musical minimalism told through the presentation and contextualization of more than a hundred primary sources.
His peer-reviewed articles include “Horizons ’83, Meet the Composer, and New Romanticism’s New Marketplace,” (Musical Quarterly, summer/fall 2019), “Balance Problems: New-Music Ensembles, the University, and Neoliberalism,” (Journal of the American Musicological Society, fall 2018); and “The Rise and Fall of ‘Indie Classical’: Tracing a Controversial Term in Twenty-First Century New Music,” (Journal of the Society for American Music, spring 2018), and “Traveling with Ancient Music: Intellectual and Transatlantic Currents in American Psalmody Reform,” (Journal of Musicology, spring 2015).
As a public scholar, William contributes regularly to the The New York Times. He hosts the podcast Sound Expertise, in which he interviews fellow music scholars about their research and why it matters. He has also written for The New Yorker, NewMusicBox, and Bandcamp. The University of Maryland awarded him a Research Communicator Impact Award for a New Yorker article on Colin Kaepernick and the political history of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” for which he was also invited to speak on an extended segment of the WNYC program On the Media. He has conducted preconcert interviews with musicians at Cincinnati’s MusicNOW festival, served as faculty at Bang on a Can’s inaugural media workshop for young writers, and publicly interviewed Philip Glass at the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art.
William has given keynote addresses at the University of Montreal’s International Meetings on Music Mediations, the South Central chapter of the American Musicological Society, and the Rutgers University Musicological Society Graduate Student Music Conference. He has been invited to speak at the University of Chicago, Eastman School of Music, Wesleyan University, and the University of Bristol, as well as at Oberlin’s “Public Intellectuals in a Changing World” conference and “Experiments in Opera Today” sponsored by Columbia University’s Heyman Center for the Humanities. He has presented papers at the annual meetings of the American Musicological Society and Society for American Music, and at conferences including the Eighth International Conference on Music and Minimalism, “What We Talk About When We Talk About New Music,” “Branding ‘Western’ Music,” “Music Criticism in the Twentieth Century in America and the English Speaking-World,” and the New Music Gathering.
At Maryland, William enthusiastically teaches courses for undergraduates and graduate students, including “What Does Music Mean?” “Music in Western Culture Since 1900,” and seminars on public scholarship and contemporary music. He has helped shepherd a major overhaul of Maryland’s music history curriculum that took effect in fall 2019.
He completed a PhD in musicology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016 with a dissertation analyzing American new music in the twenty-first century through the lens of “indie classical,” focusing on New Amsterdam Records and the ensemble yMusic. Prior to his graduate studies, William held a DAAD Study Scholarship in Berlin, where he researched the unfinished opera projects of German avant-garde composer Bernd Alois Zimmermann. He received a Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music in saxophone performance and musicology.
William maintains a fairly inactive Twitter presence as @seatedovation.
William Robin is an associate professor of musicology at the University of Maryland’s School of Music. His research and writing untangle the complex cultural and institutional histories of contemporary classical music in the United States. His first book, Industry: Bang on a Can and New Music in the Marketplace (Oxford University Press, 2021), examines the new-music festival Bang on a Can and their participation in major shifts in the 1980s and 1990s as the American avant-garde pivoted towards the marketplace. His next project, in collaboration with Kerry O’Brien, is On Minimalism: Documenting a Musical Movement (University of California Press, forthcoming 2023), a revisionist history of musical minimalism told through the presentation and contextualization of more than a hundred primary sources. As a public musicologist, Robin contributes to The New York Times, hosts the podcast Sound Expertise, and tweets as @seatedovation.