PROFILE: AIT&L's Own 'Renaissance Man' Finds Harmony in Sacred Music and Science
A PhD in musicology isnąt the qualification one expects to find in the CV of a computer technician.
But for AIT&L specialist Peter Poulos, the skills needed on his job and the detective work required to complete a doctoral dissertation at UC's College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) are in perfect harmony.
Poulos, who manages AIT&L’s computer lab at the Medical Center, recently completed his dissertation on “The Life and Sacred Music of Simone Molinaro (ca. 1570¬1636), Musician of Genoa,” a three-volume, 1,347-page text that is the first comprehensive transcription and analysis of Molinaro's sacred music.
According to Poulos, the fine sound discrimination required in analyzing music correlates well with the observation and attention to detail needed in his work with computers. His analytical and communication skills are utilized equally in both fields, he says.
A native of Vermillion, Ohio, Poulos served four years in the U.S. Navy before majoring in history at Kent State, while finding time for a class in music history and taking extracurricular classical guitar lessons.
His original goal was law school. But when he graduated with his history degree, he says, “I felt like something was missing.” Poulos’s love of music and the guitar classes he had been taking outside his major drove all thoughts of law school from his head. He decided to study for another two years to complete a degree in music.
“It was like a revelation to me,” he says. “I realized that this is what I wanted to do.”
After earning his music degree, Poulos was accepted as a graduate student at CCM. Completely absorbed by his studies, “I felt I had the best of both worlds,” he says.
He also added computer skills to his repertoire, which would later lead to his position as a technical analyst at the Medical Center.
The symbiotic relationship between science and music, along with his personal quest for knowledge, would take Poulos through the next chapter in his life.
Poulos had discovered Molinaro, who has had comparatively little recognition, while studying the guitar. Molinaro wrote not only vocal music, but also music for the Renaissance lute, an instrument with which Poulos was also familiar.
Only Molinaro’s lute music had been established in the musical community and most of his other works had not been transcribed into modern editions.
Poulos’s research soon turned up dozens more compositions in libraries all over the world.
Poulos not only used a computer to locate these works, he also applied special music notation software to transcribe them. One of the challenges was that some of the original music prints were damaged, but Poulos was able to reconstruct the missing notes.
Poulos was captivated by every aspect of the composer’s life. His relinquishing his vows as a priest in order to marry, which led to the loss of a coveted appointment as a choirmaster, was a puzzle that Poulos delighted in piecing together.
“There were all these mysteries,” Poulos says. “It was a lot of detective work, and I think thatąs one of the things that intrigued me.”
Poulos recently had a paper on Molinaro’s work, derived from his doctoral thesis, accepted for presentation at a conference in Rome, which looks like just the beginning of an academic career based on his favorite Renaissance composer.