Steven Rings is a music theorist whose research focuses on transformational theory, phenomenology, popular music and voice. His book Tonality and Transformation (2011) — recipient of the Society for Music Theory’s 2012 Emerging Scholar Award — develops a transformational model of tonal hearing, employing it in interpretive essays on music from Bach to Mahler. His current book project explores Bob Dylan’s fifty-year performing career. Rings’ article “A Foreign Sound to Your Ear: Bob Dylan Performs ‘It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),’ 1964–2009” (2013) won the 2014 Outstanding Publication Award from the Society for Music Theory’s Popular Music Interest Group. In other recent research Rings has explored the popular singing voice and the music of Gabriel Fauré. He is also co-editing The Oxford Handbook of Critical Concepts in Music Theory with Alexander Rehding, for which he contributed the chapter on “tonic.”
Assoc. Prof. Steven Rings helped developed the course “VoiceGrooveSong” through UChicago’s Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, seeing it as a way to explore popular song structures in contemporary classical composition. Assoc. Prof. Rings is currently embarked on a three-year, Mellon-funded collaboration with composer and percussionist Glenn Kotche—best known as the drummer for the band Wilco—under the auspices of the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry.