This article is an autobiography or has been extensively edited by the subject or by someone connected to the subject. (December 2012)
David Carson Berry (born March 28, 1968) is an American music theorist and historian, writer about music, and college professor. Among his diverse research interests are American popular music of the 1920s-60s, including a focus on Irving Berlin and Jimmy Van Heusen; the theory and aesthetics of music of the mid-eighteenth through mid-twentieth centuries, including a focus on Igor Stravinsky; and Schenkerian theory and its reception history in the U.S.
Berry was born in Paragould, Arkansas, as the only child of Jimmy Shelton Berry and Melba Moore Berry. The family moved to Marked Tree, Arkansas in 1969. The parents taught in the town's only school district: the father, social studies; and the mother, home economics. Berry completed primary and secondary school there, graduating as the valedictorian of Marked Tree High School in 1986.
Berry attended Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where music composition was his major and trombone performance was a secondary interest; he graduated magna cum laude in 1990, with a Bachelor of Music degree in composition. He next attended Memphis State University (now University of Memphis), where he initially began working on a master's degree in composition. He changed his focus while there, and graduated with a Master of Music degree in music theory in 1993. His thesis, completed under the advisement of David Russell Williams, was entitled "Portrait with Retouches: The Adaptation and Transformation of Stravinsky's Pulcinella Finale." He was subsequently accepted as a doctoral student and teaching fellow at the University of North Texas; he was enrolled there from 1993 to 1995, and studied with John Covach, Graham Phipps, Janna Saslaw, David Schwartz, and others. He left the program after spring 1995, in order to apply to other schools. In fall 1996, he began doctoral studies at Yale University. While there he studied with Kofi Agawu, Gianmario Borio, Allen Forte, Michael Friedmann, David Kopp, Patrick McCreless, Robert Morgan, Claude V. Palisca, and Leon Plantinga. After his coursework was completed he taught "Elementary Studies in Analysis and Composition I and II," for which he was awarded a "Prize Teaching Fellowship" in 2001, in recognition of "outstanding performance and promise as a teacher." His dissertation, completed in 2002 under the advisement of Forte, was entitled "Stravinsky's 'Skeletons': Reconnoitering the Evolutionary Paths from Variation Sets to Serialism." Work on it was facilitated by a fellowship from the Whiting Foundation, and upon its completion the dissertation was accepted as "distinguished" by the Yale Music Department.
After receiving his Ph.D. in music theory in 2002, Berry was appointed a lecturer at Yale for the 2002-03 academic year. In fall 2003, he was appointed assistant professor of music theory at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music; and in 2009 he was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor.
In 2006 Berry was awarded the Society for Music Theory's "Emerging Scholar Award" for "The Meaning(s) of 'Without': An Exploration of Liszt's Bagatelle ohne Tonart," 19th-Century Music 27/3 (2004): 230-262. The article was described by the SMT awards committee as a "careful and detailed analytical study, of a single piece with a tantalizing title, [that] places the music within the framework of 19th-century musical thought, in particular the evolving theories of chromaticism that would eventually lead to Schoenberg's radicalism and beyond. The author shows that Liszt's 'Bagatelle without Tonality' is not so much 'without tonality' as a piece without the fulfillment of a tonic. In doing so, he makes a telling contribution to what many consider the central story of music theory: the story of the circumvention of tonality."
To date, Berry has published 19 articles and reviews, and has delivered roughly 30 papers on diverse topics at various academic venues in the U.S. and Europe. His book, A Topical Guide to Schenkerian Literature: An Annotated Bibliography with Indices (Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press, 2004), is the largest reference work devoted to writings about the music theorist Heinrich Schenker and his approach to analysis; it contains 3600 entries, representing the work of 1475 authors.
Berry is currently the editor of Gamut: The Journal of the Music Theory Society of the Mid-Atlantic. He is a past editor of Theory and Practice (the journal of the Music Theory Society of New York State), and a past reviews editor of the Journal of Music Theory.