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Saagar Asnani

I completed my BA magna cum laude in Music, Biology, and French and Francophone Studies at the University of Pennsylvania in 2019, where I received the Clifton C. Cherpack Prize in French Studies upon graduation. My honors thesis for music, entitled: “I Heard That! Decoding Comprehensibility in Machaut’s Motets Through Phonetic Harmony and Texted Hockets” has set the base for my research and the questions I am pondering in graduate school at Berkeley.

The dichotomy between language and music, and their perception within the human brain, is the guiding thread to my research and questions. How is it that music and language, both manifestations of communicative sound, are so clearly differentiated by our minds? While I find myself echoing Merleau-Ponty’s sentiments on the role of both creative and corporeal expression being central to the production of both speech and language, I am grappling with how to frame productive research towards answering these questions without falling into the pitfalls of strictly empiricist or intellectual approaches (Merleau-Ponty: Phénoménologie de la Perception, 1945). My current approach has been to examine these questions from a variety of angles, including philological, linguistic, musicological, and biological. My area of particular interest is in the vocal and polyphonic music of medieval France, particularly of the 14th century, with a burgeoning interest in the eras that follow.

I also adore playing the viola and am an active member of the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra. While at Penn, I studied with Marvin Moon of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and I am currently working with Jonathan Vinocour of the San Francisco Symphony. When time permits, I enjoy teaching viola in the community and playing chamber music.