Steven Rings’s research focuses on transformational theory, phenomenology, popular music, and voice. His book Tonality and Transformation (Oxford, 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’s article “A Foreign Sound to Your Ear: Bob Dylan Performs ‘It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),’ 1964–2009” (Music Theory Online, 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 Concepts in Music Theory with Alexander Rehding, for which he contributed the chapter on “tonic.”
Rings’s recent graduate seminars have explored the relationship between song, track, and performance in diverse popular-music traditions; the music of Bob Dylan; Lewinian transformational theory; and musical presence. Rings also teaches tonal and post-tonal theory at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as a course on musical interpretation and criticism in the College Core.
Rings has served on the faculty of the Mannes Institute for Advanced Study in Music Theory and he is the series editor of Oxford Studies in Music Theory. He is also the Chair of the University of Chicago Society of Fellows. Before becoming a music theorist, Rings was active as a classical guitarist, performing in the U.S. and in Portugal, where he was Professor of Guitar at the Conservatório Regional de Angra do Heroísmo.