Michael Puri

Interim Chair and Associate Professor (Critical & Comparative Studies)

Randall 124
Office Hours: Tuesday & Thursday - 9:30am-10:45am


A dutiful but unenthusiastic classical pianist in my youth, I suddenly became quite serious about music when I was sixteen and for the rest of high school spent an inordinate amount of time practicing and listening to classical repertoire. My desire to develop this newfound passion alongside my abiding interest in academics launched me on a journey which ultimately included not only a handful of degrees—B.A. in Music and German at Harvard, undergraduate and graduate diplomas in piano performance from the Music Academy in Basel, Switzerland, and an M. Phil. and Ph.D. in Music Theory from Yale—but also work as a programmer and announcer at a radio station (WHRB in Cambridge, MA), and as a volunteer in the community. Immediately after receiving my doctoral degree in 2004 I came to Charlottesville to teach in the McIntire Department of Music at the University of Virginia. I maintain my life as a performer by giving lecture-recitals on grounds; as a member of UVa's Center for German Studies, I have recently discussed and performed Brahms's op. 5 piano sonata, Robert Schumann's Kreisleriana and Nachtstücke, and Liszt's Funérailles.   

Just as I seek to balance musical performance and academics in my personal life, I also seek to balance technical with more humanistic approaches to music in my scholarly work. My equal investment in fields within music academia (music theory and historical musicology, in particular) and beyond it (literary and critical theory) has motivated me to explore the deep cultural implication of music without sacrificing attention to compositional detail. This synthetic method informs each of the eight chapters of my monograph, Ravel the Decadent: Memory, Sublimation, and Desire (Oxford, 2011). By broaching topics such as dandyism, traumatic and redemptive memory, idylls, and bacchanals, it traces the aesthetic origins of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875–1937) to the artistic movement of the French Decadence.

In addition to this book, my effort to wed music analysis to the interpretation of culture has led me to engage with the music and thought of Wagner, Adorno, Jankélévitch, and Gadamer; essays on these and other topics appear in a variety of journals—Journal of the American Musicological Society, Music Analysis, 19th-Century Music, Music Theory Online, and Cambridge Opera Journal, among others—and in several edited collections. (Bibliography and pdfs can be found on my personal webpage.) I am currently writing a second monograph, Sympathetic Resonances, which seeks to challenge the long-standing opposition between German Romanticism and early French Modernism by highlighting moments of sonic, cultural, and historical coincidence between the two.

At the University of Virginia I have taught a variety of courses. At the undergraduate level this has included the entire major-level theory sequence, as well as seminars on nineteenth-century music, program music, French music at the fin de siècle, and Schenkerian analysis. Doctoral seminar topics have included memory studies, Wagner (The Ring, Lohengrin, and Parsifal), the interarts, humor, and the analysis of music-text relations in art song.

For my research I have received financial support from many institutions, including the American Philosophical Society, the Javits Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the American Musicological Society, and the Society for Music Theory. For an essay on Ravel's dandyism I received the 2008 Alfred Einstein Award from the American Musicological Society, which recognizes the best article written by an early-career scholar in the previous year. During the 2013–14 academic year I was in residence at the National Humanities Center as its Delta Delta Delta Fellow. I am currently Director of Graduate Studies for my department and Review Editor (2017–19) for the Journal of the American Musicological Society.



UVA Department of Music
112 Old Cabell Hall
P.O. Box 400176 Charlottesville, VA 22904-4176