Professor Barlow Remembered as a Brilliant Pianist

Olivia DrakeJanuary 5, 20163min

Jon Barlow, professor of music, emeritus, died Dec. 15 at the age of 73.

Barlow arrived at Wesleyan in 1966 after receiving his BA and MA from Cornell University. He arrived as the Music Department began its visionary phase and taught in the department for 34 years. Grounded in “Western” music history, Barlow expanded his horizons geographically and conceptually, constantly creating innovative courses, which attracted serious students. Many of his students went on to become established composers, performers, musicologists and ethnomusicologists.

Barlow was very proud of the interdisciplinary courses he taught, including a course on the metaphysics of baseball. He also co-taught courses with Joe Reed and Bob Rosenbaum, focusing on the films of John Ford, the novels of William Faulkner and the music of Charles Ives. These courses reflected not only his love of teaching, but also his belief that his best teaching occurred while he was learning and that Wesleyan was a special place to have offered him the opportunity to learn alongside and from his own students.

Barlow’s friend, Mark Slobin, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, said, “He was a brilliant and original pianist who collaborated with eminent composers and performers, mostly at Wesleyan, and did individualistic scholarship on figures ranging from the medieval Guido d’Arezzo to the New Englander Charles Ives.”

Barlow maintained an active program of research in retirement. He prepared an annotated translation of Johannes Kepler’s Harmonices Mundi. He also worked on an alternative translation of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus based on his view that the consistency of terminology in Wittgenstein’s German allows the Tractatus to be read as formal logic as well as natural language.

Barlow is survived by his spouse, Muriel; by his children, Nathanael and his wife, Debra; Rachael and her husband, Elliot; his foster-daughter, Lisa; and his grandchildren, Annabelle and Clara.

The family does not plan to have a memorial service, but has requested that memorial contributions be made in Jon Barlow’s name to Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, Conn.