Alfred Cramer is a music scholar whose work draws on fields as diverse as history, psychology, and linguistics as well as on his own considerable experience as a musical performer. At Pomona, Cramer teaches a course drawing together the study of psychological and cultural aspects of music and sound (Music 91: "Perception and Cognition of Sound in the Modern World"). For music majors, he teaches music theory courses (Music 80-82: Theory I, II, and III) and a course that offers an integrative perspective on the various branches of musical study (Music 86: "Music in Theory and Practice"). In the past he has taught on topics such as "Emotion in Music," "History of Reading," and "The Idea of American Music 1925-1950."
As a researcher, Professor Cramer is interested in the interface between cognition and culture, and in how music and language may (or may not) be related. He is at work on a book about music composed in the years before World War I by Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, and Alban Berg. The book draws on early twentieth-century psychological ideas to explain how these highly influential modernist composers, who are often regarded as mathematical and unemotional, actually worked to make their music as directly expressive as possible. Cramer is also engaged in a study examining similarities (and differences) in the ways sound is used to structure meaning in spoken language and in music. An earlier study investigated nineteenth-century music in relation to nineteenth-century handwriting, stenography, and information theory.
All of these scholarly studies attend closely to the problems of musical performance. Professor Cramer is an accomplished violinist with particular enthusiasm for orchestral playing and historically informed performance. While still in high school he was a member of the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra. He has also played in the New Haven Symphony, the National Repertory Orchestra, and in several regional orchestras in the Philadelphia area, and as soloist with the National Repertory Orchestra. As a period-instrument violinist he has performed with the University of Pennsylvania Baroque Ensemble, Brandywine Baroque, and the Bach Festival of Philadelphia, among others. In addition, he is a skilled pianist.
A member of the Pomona faculty since 1995, he received his B.A. in music from Yale University in 1987 and his Ph.D. in music theory from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997. He received the Society for Music Theory's Outstanding Publication Award in 2004.