Musicologist and cultural theorist Tomlinson named director of Whitney Humanities Center

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Gary Tomlinson (Photo by Michael Marsland)

Gary Tomlinson, professor of music and humanities, has been appointed director of the Whitney Humanities Center for five years, beginning July 1, President Richard C. Levin has announced.

A musicologist and cultural theorist known for his interdisciplinary breadth, Tomlinson first came to Yale in 2010 as a visiting professor; in 2011, he became professor of music and humanities with a tenure appointment.

“In his short time at Yale, he has impressed dozens of colleagues with his wide range of interests, his deep curiosity, his ability to make connections across disciplines and historical periods, and his openness to the views of his colleagues. Many of you identified him as an ideal leader of the Whitney Humanities Center,” wrote Levin in his announcement.

Tomlinson’s teaching, lecturing, and scholarship have ranged across a wide set of interests, including the history of opera, early-modern European musical thought and practice, the musical cultures of indigenous American societies, jazz and popular music, and the philosophy of history and critical theory. His latest project concerns the evolutionary emergence of human musical capacities; he outlined this project in his 2009 Wort Lectures at the University of Cambridge, titled “1,000,000 Years of Music.”

His books include “Monteverdi and the End of the Renaissance,”  “Music in Renaissance Magic,” “Metaphysical Song: An Essay on Opera,” “The Singing of the New World: Indigenous Voice in the Era of European Contact,” and “Music and Historical Critique: Selected Essays.” He is the co-author, with Joseph Kerman, of the music appreciation textbook “Listen,” now in its seventh edition, and he has written numerous essays and reviews.

Tomlinson earned his B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1973 and his Ph.D. in musicology from the University of California–Berkeley in 1979. That same year, he joined the Department of Music faculty at the University of Pennsylvania; in 1997, he was named the Walter H. Annenberg Professor in the Humanities. He remained at Penn until his permanent appointment at Yale. Here he has been a fellow of the Whitney Humanities Center for two years and this year organized and taught the Shulman Seminar, given every year on a topic that bridges the humanities and sciences. His topic was “Music and Human Evolution.”  

ASCAP, the American Musicological Society, the British Academy, and the Modern Language Association all have awarded prizes to Tomlinson. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur award.

Tomlinson succeeds María Rosa Menocal, Sterling Professor of the Humanities, who has been director of the Whitney Humanities Center over the past 10 years,”

“María has been a visionary, articulate, and charismatic leader of the center,” noted Levin. “Colleagues have described her as ‘transcendent,’ and indeed, she has shown an extraordinary ability to forward the mission of the center, infuse it with renewed energy, and make it into a place where interdisciplinary discourse thrives. We have been fortunate to have such an outstanding leader and special university citizen.”

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