Meet David Miller

2020 BIAAS Grant for "Musical modernisms, manuscripts, and mountains, from the Austrian Alps to the North Cascades"

What is your BIAAS-supported project about?

I’m writing about Hans and Rosaleen Moldenhauer, a couple from Spokane, WA (he an émigré from Germany, she a Spokane native) who rather improbably acquired fame and fortune over the course of 1960s and 70s by collecting the music manuscripts of Austrian modernist composer Anton Webern.

How did you become interested in this project?

This project stems from my dissertation. Back then it was just one chapter, but there was so much going on that I knew I wanted to come back to it and expand things substantially.

What is the significance of the transatlantic history between the US and Austria in your work? And, if this pertains to your work, how does looking at the transatlantic relationship enrich your research subject?

A lot of my work has to do with how Austrian music (and European classical music more generally) came to represent an important cultural heritage for artists who left Europe for the United States during the 1930s. I also look at how European modernist music was received differently in U.S. contexts (especially outside of big cities like LA and NYC) than it was in Europe.

How is the Covid-19 pandemic affecting your work? Or, how are you advancing your research in light of the challenges of the pandemic?

It’s been tough. My work is very much grounded in archival research, and I had been planning on spending several weeks in various archives during the summer and fall of 2020, which obviously didn’t happen. Fortunately, I had significant material already scanned from previous trips, but there’s no question that the pandemic has slowed me down some.

What book is a must-read for your topic?

I very much enjoyed reading John Findlay’s Magic Lands: Western Cityscapes and American Culture After 1940.

What was a high point of your research experience with this project? Any low points?

A few years ago, when I was working on an earlier incarnation of this project, I met and interviewed someone who was a friend of a deceased woman I write about quite a bit as part of my project. Later, I sent this person a draft of some work, and they told me that my depiction of her was very accurate, and that “it is almost as if you had known her.” That was very meaningful to me, and incredibly validating to hear.

As for low points—most of those involve the excruciating task known as writing!

What is your favorite least-known locale of the Austria/Habsburg lands?

On my last trip to Austria I spent a few days in the Rätikon Alps south of Bludenz, an extremely beautiful area.

If you could meet with any Austrian/Habsburg figure of present or old, who would it be? Why? What would you want to ask them or talk about?

I’d love to talk to an “average” classical music fan ca. 1910 or so and see what they thought about all of the crazy modern music that was coming out around that time.

What are you currently reading? Or watching?

I recently started watching the HBO series from last year I May Destroy You, which is pretty incredible. I also just finished Torbjørn Ekelund’s In Praise of Paths, which is a lovely little book about walking.



David Miller

David H. Miller

David H. Miller received a $2,250 BIAAS grant to conduct research in the state of Washington for his monograph project “Musical Modernisms, Manuscripts, and Mountains, from the Austrian Alps to the North Cascades.” This project is centered around Hans and Rosaleen Moldenhauer, musicologists and music manuscript collectors from Spokane, WA who played key roles in…

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