Philip Ewell began playing cello at the age of nine in his hometown of DeKalb, Illinois. He started an undergraduate degree in physics, but soon switched his focus to his true love, music. His BA in Music is from Stanford University, where he studied with David Rakowski, Ross Bauer, and Leonard Ratner. He then got an MA in cello performance at Queens College (CUNY), where he studied cello with Barbara Stein Mallow and music theory with Carl Schachter. Philip has a certificate in cello performance from the St. Petersburg (Russia) Conservatory and a PhD in music theory from Yale University, where he wrote a dissertation on Alexander Scriabin under Allen Forte. He also studied music theory, as a visiting student, with Yuri Kholopov at the Moscow Conservatory.
Philip’s specialties include Russian music and music theory, 20th-century music, modal theory, and hiphop and popular music. He has writings published in Music Theory Online, Music and Politics, Journal of Schenkerian Studies, and Popular Music, among other journals. He was the founding editor of Gamut, the online journal of the Music Theory Society of the Mid-Atlantic, and he served as the chair of the Committee on Diversity of the Society for Music Theory from 2007 to 2010. In addition to his North American appearances, Philip has given papers at international conferences in Belgium, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
His recent research focuses on Russian interpretations of modernist composers such as Stravinsky and Webern. Specifically, he has worked extensively on the modal theories of Sergei Protopopov and Boleslav Yavorsky, whose ideas are widespread in Russia and can be applied to many different types of late-romantic and post-tonal tertian music. Much of this research has entailed archival work in Russia, most significantly at the Glinka Museum of Musical Culture in Moscow. Philip has also generally worked with the voluminous writings of brother and sister Yuri Kholopov and Valentina Kholopova, and has presented their concepts at conferences and in English translation. His most recent writings in the field of popular-music studies—which entailed fieldwork in Moscow in 2013—examine contemporary Russian rap and hip-hop.
An active cellist and chamber musician, Philip is at home as both a classical and a contemporary musician, playing either his acoustic or his 5-string electric cello. He has concertized in North America, Europe, and Asia, and has played under the baton of such luminaries as Gustav Meier and Pierre Boulez, in master classes for Janos Starker and Glenn Dicterow, and in backup bands for artists such as Johnny Mathis and Stan Getz. From 2011 to 2013 he was the cellist with the Brooklyn-based indie rock band Eve Lesov, which played in legendary NY venues such as The Knitting Factory and The Bitter End. His primary cello teachers were Stephen Harrison, Frederick Zlotkin, Barbara Mallow, and Anatoly Nikitine. Philip began an appointment as Assistant Professor of Music Theory at Hunter College CUNY in the fall of 2009, and in the spring of 2010 he began a joint appointment with the CUNY Graduate Center.