Varun Chandrasekhar

PhD student in Music Theory
research interests:
  • Jazz
  • Existentialism
  • Meaning in Popular Music
  • Phenomenology of Music
  • African-American Cultural Studies
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    Varun's research, building on his history as a guitarist, focuses on the existential condition of the jazz musician. Heeding Sartre's mantra that "existence precedes essence," Varun wonders how starting with the complex, racially marked, urban reality of the jazz musician can guide our understanding of the music. In simpler terms, how does the fact that the jazz musician is thrown into the world influence our musical intuitions, and are these properties thenĀ 
    theoretically quantifiable?

    Prior to coming to WashU, Varun finished a Bachelors in Jazz Performance at The Ohio State University and a Masters in Music Theory at the University of Minnesota studying with Kevin Turner and Sumanth Gopinath.

    In his free time, Varun can often be found watching basketball or blundering pieces in online chess. Additionally, although not verifiable, Varun believes he has the most popular tweet about music theory of all time.

    Conference Presentations

    "Heartbreaks and Halftime: A Study in Emo Mentorship," International Association for the Study of Popular Music-US Chapter 2022
    "The Grain of the Guitar: A Study in Embodied Signifyin(g)," Society of American Music 2022
    "Towards the Analysis of Lyric Videos"- International Association for the Study of Popular Music- 2021
    "Jazz and Imagination: A Sartrean Approach to Jazz Ontology"- South-Central Society of Music Theory-2021
    "A Love Supreme: A Schenkerian Analysis"- Issues in Contemporary Jazz-2020/ International Society of Improvised Music-2020