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Thursday Lecture Series are open to Columbia faculty, students, and guests.
Special Events are open to the public, unless otherwise noted.

Thursday Lecture Series: Supernatural

Investing in the Stars: The Astrology of Money and Markets in the Modern United States

In 1984, Stanford Economics Professor Ezra Solomon famously quipped, “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” Though intended as a jab at other economists, Solomon’s claim also spoke to a growing trend in market prediction – the application of astrological tools and methods to financial forecasting. Financial astrology, popularly known as “market gazing,” did indeed gain respectability over the past half century. As Solomon suggested, the failures of economists to predict the behaviors of markets undoubtedly played a role in that process. But the rise of astrology in the field of finance can be linked to other historical contexts as well. This talk offers a brief history of the astrology of money and markets in the United States, from the Gilded Age to the present. Special emphasis will be placed on the past 40-50 years, and linkages between the growing popularity of financial astrology and market rationality in a neoliberal era. >>

Special Events

The Borrowed Muse

“An imitator shares his crown, if he has one, with the chosen object of his imitation,” the poet Edward Young declared in 1759, “an original enjoys an undivided applause.”  But just where does one locate originality, and how does one determine its relationship to artistic merit and value?  Over the past few decades, several developments have called the very notion of originality into question.  Postmodern thought has relegated it to one among many creative paradigms — think only of the practices of interpreting Jazz standards and of sampling.  Moreover, there is the stockpile of knowledge (two centuries of critical editions, often state-supported) and its explosion into the everyman’s land of Google. In moving books and manuscripts into an endlessly searchable, domestic platform, the digital revolution has likewise created new forms of knowledge and expertise. This proliferation has created brought forth “algorithmic divination,” (Freedgood), i.e. new forms of reading and other scholarly practices that unearth various unsuspected lineages of, and connections between, works.  Indeed, modern scholars frequently have access to a richer and deeper range of primary sources than would the authors have had themselves. Taking these materials and tools into consideration thus offers a prime opportunity for a reassessment of musical creation and creativity in the distant past. This panel examines originalities in musical cultures from the fourteenth through eighteenth centuries, while turning a critical eye from the dawn of the digital age toward scholarly creations of musical pasts. Each contribution opens questions about the paradox of modern musicology, at a moment when it has become possible for scholars to establish more thorough textual contents than might even have been available--or even desirable--to the creators whom they study.  Eric Bianchi (Fordham) will examine Charles Burney’s writings on musical borrowing against the tension between his own covert indulgence in textual borrowing and careful cultivation of his literary reputation; Ellen Rosand (Yale) will consider Francesco Cavalli’s self-borrowings and the distorting effects of too much scholarly knowledge, and Michael Cuthbert (MIT) will discuss how new digital tools can uncover patterns of transmission and borrowing in medieval music.  >>