Music scholar pursues research from Russia to the barre

Aug. 6, 2003 11:07 a.m.

Princeton faculty member Simon Morrison is willing to suffer for his scholarship. The assistant professor of music has spent hours in the dead of winter in an unheated library in St. Petersburg, on the trail of a lost choreography for his research on Russian ballet music. Despite being a self-proclaimed "klutz," he has taken ballet lessons on two continents to improve his understanding of the art.

Morrison's perseverance in his research is what sets him apart as a scholar, according to colleagues -- and what carries him through some difficult situations.

Living in St. Petersburg, where he spent four months last winter doing research, "was literally like living in the twilight zone because there was six hours of light a day," Morrison said. And his living conditions were quite rugged. "That's Russia -- the rough before the diamonds. But I got hooked on tracking down these lost choreographies. It became an obsession."

There are only a handful of Russian music experts in North America, most of whom are a good deal older than Morrison, who earned his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1997.

"Simon is a trailblazer," said Scott Burnham, chair of the music department . "He's out there where few have dared to tread. He's like a great surfer on a big wave, and he's got the energy and the persistence to stay with it."

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Contact: Eric Quinones (609) 258-3601