AMS-NE Winter Chapter Meeting
February 23, 2019
Pendleton West 101 / Sargent Concert Salon --Wellesley College
(Parking Info and Campus Map)
(Parking Info and Campus Map)
9:45-10:15 Refreshments and Registration
10:20 “Me at Last, Me at Last!”: Black Artists Freeing Themselves From Country Music’s “White Avatar” – Joel Schwindt (Boston Conservatory at Berklee)
Mainstream country music has long been branded a “white” genre, even though this identity is based on ahistorical constructs that downplay regular borrowings from black musical culture (Malone 2017, Nunn 2010, Manuel 2008). This “white avatar” has even been used to justify the marginalization of black performers’ racial identity, most infamously in the refusal of Charley Pride’s label to include a photo in the singer’s promotional materials during the first two years of his career. This “hegemony of vision” (McCrary 1993), however, has been challenged by two emerging black singers, Kane Brown and Jimmie Allen. These artists formulated their “black avatar” in part through the regular inclusion of musical elements associated with rap and R&B (snap tracks, syncopations, rapped verses), a “non-country” image (e.g., Brown’s “fade” haircut, which is featured prominently on the cover of his 2018 album, Experiment), and high “black visibility” in their videos, including these artists’ creation of the first two mainstream country videos not to show a single white face (Brown’s 2017 “Heaven,” and Allen’s 2018’s “BestShot,” both of which reached #1 on Country Music Television’s weekly, viewer-polled countdown). Acceptance of the “black avatar” within mainstream country—a conclusion supported in part by both artists’ notable success—can be attributed to various factors, including a 14% increase in black listenership from 2005-15 (Country Music Association 2016), a substantial rise in collaborations between white country artists and black R&B/rap artists since 2003, and the use of rap and R&B styles by white mainstream artists such as Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean. Finally, the reclaiming of “rusticity” by black artists in American rootsmusic (e.g., The Ebony Hillbillies, The Carolina Chocolate Drops)—a construct largely avoided since the 1960s due to associations with minstrelsy, and the rising popularity of “urban” genres that eschewed it (Stewart 2005, Smith 2001b)—has weakened its presumed association with whiteness. In sum, this paper reveals noteworthy challenges to the hegemony of racial identity in country music, aided by changes in musical styles and visual representation, listener demographics, and cultural conceptions of blackness in popular music.
Joel Schwindt is an Assistant Professor of Music History at Boston Conservatory at Berklee. He has presented at various international and regional conferences, including the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music, the Renaissance Society of America, and regional chapters of the American Musicological Society. Among his publications are an article on Monteverdi’s Orfeo from the 2014 volume of the Cambridge Opera Journal, and a critical edition of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's In nativitatem Domini canticum, H. 416, published by Bärenreiter in 2011. He received the Eugene K. Wolf Travel Grant from the American Musicological Society in 2014, and the Mellon-Sachar Research Grant in 2012. Joel’s research focuses on class rivalry and gender in vocal music from the early modern era, as well as racial identity and religious philosophy in country music.
10:50 Fred Ho’s The Warrior Sisters (1998): A Performance of “Transformative Interracialism” – Jingyi Zhang (Harvard University)
Fred Ho’s opera The Warrior Sisters: The New Adventures of African and Asian Womyn Warriors premiered at the City College of New York in 1998, featuring an all principal cast of women of Asian and African descent. While much scholarly attention is focused on the mono-directional, cross-racial appropriations in looking at Asian-Americans performing black traditions or blacks performing stereotyped Asian traditions, few musicological studies explore the mutual, two-way interactions between black and Asian musical traditions, a gap I aim to bridge. Drawing on Ho’s archive at Harvard University’s Loeb Music Library, which includes his handwritten score of The Warrior Sisters, his personal writings, and interviews, I study the multilayered musico-cultural exchanges between black and Asian traditions, spanning the fields of critical theory, African American studies, Chinese film history, and ethnomusicology. Extending the conversation of prominent scholars like Tamara Roberts, Amilcar Cabral, Susan Asai, Kevin Fellezs, Ellie Hisama, Amy Abugo Ongiri, and Homi Bhabha, I seek to illuminate spaces whereby Asian and black performers simultaneously engage in both “black” and “Asian” soundworlds, enabling us to hear Afro-Asian music from multiple racial positions. I examine Ho’s aesthetics of what I call “transformative interracialism” in the opera, viewing his vision as a powerful performance of racial identity and expression of counter-dominant sonic spaces in which Asianness and blackness simultaneously engage in, through creative juxtapositions of musico-cultural traditions, singing styles, and the interracial identities of the artists who perform them. More specifically, I focus on two strategies that Ho employs in articulating “transformative interracialism,” through musical borrowing of the prominent Wong Fei-hung theme and rejection of a single sonic expression of Asianness or Africanness in presenting the fluid, dynamic musical conversation taking place between the Asian and African traditions.
Jingyi Zhang, a musicologist-pianist from Singapore, is currently pursuing her Ph.D. degree in historical musicology at Harvard University. Her research interest focuses on musical borrowing in the works of Chinese-American composers, film music, opera, philosophy of music, and aesthetics. An active performer and musicologist, Jingyi holds a double-degree BM in musicology and piano performance at Oberlin Conservatory under a Dean’s Scholarship Award, as well as a double-degree MA in musicology and MM in piano performance at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music under a three-year Jacobs fellowship. At Oberlin Conservatory, Jingyi served as Charles McGuire’s music history course tutor for all incoming music undergraduates. She was also actively involved in piano pedagogy and was a secondary piano program teacher led by Andrea McAlister. An avid performer, Jingyi has participated in numerous piano masterclasses by Edward Auer, José Ramón Mendez, Marian Hahn, and Mary Wu. She was also invited to perform in Singapore and several cities in China including Hangzhou, Changsha, and Wuhan. Upon graduating from Oberlin Conservatory, she was awarded the Carol Nott Pedagogy Prize for her exemplary efforts in music pedagogy. Last year, Jingyi was invited by Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) to be their guest music lecturer in the summer, teaching a course on Introduction to Western Music History.
11:20 Race and Anti-Patriotism in Bernstein’s 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – Neal Warner (University of Arizona)
Leonard Bernstein’s final Broadway undertaking, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on May 4th, 1976. The production, featuring book and lyrics written by Broadway veteran Alan Jay Lerner, is considered a massive flop, as it closed after only four days and seven total performances. Initial issues with the production became apparent during out-of-town tryouts in Philadelphia and Washington D.C., where the production experienced alterations to its meta-theatrical concept, editing and condensing of Bernstein’s original score (many times without his consent), and the loss of a number of the original production staff. A quote from Bernstein’s daughter Jamie reveals another possible reason for failure: “It was maybe ahead of its time. [The show had] a built in problem: Two white Jewish guys were talking about [race]. That automatically put people’s hackles up.”
While historical accounts often reduce 1600’s failures to the lackluster book put together by Lerner, few explore the unsettling problems present in the production’s conception and reception. Through personal accounts, interviews, and archival documents, this research will uncover 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s underlying racist and anti-patriotic sentiments, present in both the nature of the show and the attitudes of its creators and critics. These two sentiments exist as foundational pillars in the creation of 1600, undermining the artistic efforts of Bernstein and Lerner and largely contributing to the designation of the production as a non-starter in the landscape of 1976 American theater.
Neal Warner is a Detroit born composer, researcher, and music educator. His research includes explorations in the language of non-musicians as well as the narrative and emotional elements within the compositions of composers Franz Liszt and Gustav Mahler. Recent research presentations include appearances at the University of South Carolina, Florida State University, and the 2018 International Association for the Study of Popular Music conference in Hamilton, New Zealand. His research surrounding the programmatic nature of cadential formula in the music of Gustav Mahler is published in the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music’s 2018 Research Forum Journal. Warner holds a Bachelor of Music from Berklee College of Music, a Master of Music from Wayne State University, and is currently completing his Doctor of Musical Arts in composition and theory at the University of Arizona.
11:50 Freedom, Difference, and the Promise of the Ocean: Maritime “Otherness” in The Music of the Waters – Pallas Riedler (Eastman School of Music)
During the “Golden Age” of the sailing vessel, sea shanties were integral to maritime life. Sung by sailors as they navigated the open ocean, a sea shanty unified labor for maximum efficiency and relieved the tedium and monotony of the ocean by providing entertainment for the crew. As the decline of sailing vessels brought about the decline of sea shanties, practitioners and fans of the maritime oral tradition scrambled to preserve their music. Laura Alexandrine Smith’s anthology, The Music of the Waters (1888), has long been considered one of the most influential works from this period of preservation (Terry 1920; Carr 2009). In this paper, I examine Smith’s discourse of maritime “authenticity” and argue that her work exemplifies a larger trend of mainlander involvement in both the romanticization and empowerment of nautical culture.
As with any musical tradition that is translated from oral to written, sea-song anthologizers were forced to make difficult decisions regarding transcription and inclusion. In examining how Smith chose to portray maritime music, we are granted insight into mainlander conceptualizations of the maritime community. We are likewise able to identify the maritime community’s conceptualization of its own culture by studying the reactions to Smith’s work that emerged from nautical sources. Throughout my paper, I will refer to R. R. Terry’s response to Smith’s work (as published in the introduction to his own collection of sea shanties) as a primary example of the nautical community’s reaction to existing mainlander transcriptional practices and presentations of maritime identity.
Pallas Catenella Riedler is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in historical musicology at Eastman School of Music. In 2017, she received her B.A. in Music and English Literature from Wellesley College, where she completed a thesis on sea shanties in Western art music entitled “Piratical Debauchery, Homesick Sailors, and Nautical Rhythms.” Aside from maritime music, her research interests include musical manipulations of perceptual experience, imagined sound, and the intersection between music and poetry.
12:20-2:10 Lunch Break
2:10-2:30 Business Meeting
2:30pm Weeping as Singing in Strozzi’s Laments – Claire Fontijn (Wellesley College)
Over forty years ago, Ellen Rosand drew attention to a published debate from Giulio Strozzi’s Academy of the Unisons, La contesa del canto e delle lagrime, which pitted the affective power of a woman weeping against that of a woman singing. Matteo Dandolo and Giovanni Francesco Loredano argued each side, respectively, and Barbara Strozzi’s subsequent recitation of their arguments reportedly impressed the academy.
What did Strozzi’s recitation consist of? Perhaps a clue to the answer lies in her composition of three cantatas labelled “Lamento.” In each one, she evidently resolved the debate with a special technique: the verisimilitude of weeping as singing. In “Appresso ai molli argenti,” Strozzi focused on particular words—“laments,” “crying,” and “death”—to be interpreted with feigned characteristics of crying, such as trembling, gasping for breath, and disintegrating words. In “Lagrime mie,” Strozzi framed the cantata with the mimesis of weeping through the voice: an astonishing harmonic E-minor scale descends in a jagged and convulsive manner over a pedal tonic. By contrast, in “Sul Rodano severo,” around the midpoint of the lament for Henri, Marquis de Cinq-Mars, an instrumental trio accompanies his plaint over a passacaglia repeated 13 times. Henri weeps as he sings above the symbol of his misfortune.
Alex Ross wrote of Strozzi’s “gender identity melting away into a purely musical space of lamentation.” Indeed, her recitation and lament performances transformed the academic notion of a woman weeping or singing into weeping as singing—an androgynous emotive experience.
Claire Fontijn is Phyllis Henderson Carey Professor of Music at Wellesley College, where she teaches wide-ranging courses: Hildegard of Bingen; Musicke’s Recreation: Studies in Renaissance Music with an Emphasis of Performance; theSymphony; Music, Gender, and Sexuality; 20th- and 21st- century Solo Song; and Music in Public Discourse. She is the author of three books: a monograph, Desperate Measures: the Life and Music of Antonia Padoani Bembo (2006; 2013); a set of essays, Fiori Musicali: Liber Amicorum Alexander Silbiger (2010), and another monograph, The Vision of Music of Saint Hildegard’s Scivias (2013). In the past, she was a semi-professional baroque flutist; currently, she plays the renaissance flute with the Wellesley College Collegium Musicum. Herpaper today is adapted from a chapter in an anthology she’s editing for Routledge, Uncovering Music of Early European Women (1250-2020).
3:00pm Refashioning Ophélie: Emma Calvé’s Nouvelle Création in fin-de-siècle Paris – Molly Doran (Northeastern University)
During the 1880s, French artist Madeleine Lemaire painted an Ophélie shockingly different from those of her male colleagues: with a defiant glowing stare and breasts indecorously displayed, this Ophélie’s madness stems from frustrated sexuality and undermines the popular presentation of the character as pure and feminine in her madness and death. As Lemaire broke boundaries with her presentation of Paris’s favorite madwoman, her friend Emma Calvé also created a surprising Ophélie in performances of Ambroise Thomas’s opera Hamlet (1868). While portrayals of the operatic Ophélie earlier in the century by Christine Nilsson were celebrated for their delicate beauty, Calvé’s later, fin-de-siècle performances famously reflected an increasing desire for darker realism on the stage, and critics admired her less curated portrayal of insanity. In her memoir, Calvé comments on her decision to do away with aesthetically pleasing visuals and acting choices in favor of greater naturalism, even explaining that she observed an Ophélie-like madwoman in an asylum as preparation for the role. Calvé’s performances of Ophélie participate in Paris’s obsession with theatricalized hysteria during the later part of the nineteenth century, a period during which neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot’s displays of female patients’ hysteria in the Salpêtrière’s amphitheater produced an atmosphere in which madness and hysteria specifically were both feminized and commoditized. Indeed, the opera’s mad scene can be compared easily with the medical hysterical attack described by Charcot, and its theatrical intensity and dramatic fluctuations provide ample opportunity for expressive singing and acting choices. In this paper, I examine Calvé’s portrayal of Ophélie within the context of Parisian artistic and medical discourses surrounding Ophélie, madness, and hysteria. I argue that, although part of a problematic discourse that medicalized and othered women, Ophélie’s mad scene afforded artists and performers, such as Lemaire and Calvé, opportunities for experimentation and creativity.
Molly C. Doran is a PhD candidate in musicology at Indiana University Bloomington. Her dissertation, “Representing Trauma and Suffering on the Late-Nineteenth-Century Operatic Stage: Gender, Hysteria, Maternity, and Culture in France,” examines representations of women’s trauma and suffering in French opera, focusing on the performance of hysteria and maternity in works by Charles Gounod, Ambroise Thomas, and Jules Massenet. Combining critical analytical approaches from musicology, performance studies, and trauma studies, her work demonstrates how operatic performance, both historical and contemporary, can signify forms of witness-bearing. Applied to modern contexts, her critical strategies provide insight into how operatic performance choices can satisfy collective responsibilities to engage current issues of domestic violence and women’s rights, by breaking down barriers between stage and spectator and emphasizing female perspectives. Molly has received grants to present her work at major musicology, French studies, and trauma studies conferences in the US and abroad. She currently teaches music history and writing classes at Northeastern University and piano at the Dedham School of Music in Dedham, MA. A French enthusiast, she spent summer 2018 studying the language in an immersive environment at Middlebury College in Vermont. Molly received her MM in music history from Bowling Green State University and her BA in music from Hillsdale College. She currently lives in Providence, RI with her husband, Nathan, and her dog, Clara.
3:30pm The power of the femme fragile: How Lili Boulanger gave feminine voice to Debussy’s sound world in a culture that silenced women – Madison Spahn (Boston Conservatory at Berklee)
Lili Boulanger is well known as the first woman to claim the Grand Prize in composition at the Prix de Rome in 1913, as well as for her untimely death at the age of 24. With rare exceptions (such as the scholarship of Annegret Fauser), her work is most often approached through this limited biographical lens, without consideration for her multifaceted identity and the larger sociocultural implications of her work. She entered a world in which women were excluded from the professional sphere, in which female voices in literature and art were effectively silenced, and despite actively distancing herself from the femme nouvelle movement, she had a critically important role in giving voice to women who otherwise went unheard. Although her musical work met rare critical acclaim, many critics reduced her to and even idolized her femme fragile image, placing her in a position of weakness next to her male contemporaries. As I argue in this paper, however, it was exactly this position which allowed Boulanger the freedom to develop a genuine feminine compositional voice within the French prewar musical scene.
As an initial point of comparison, examination of works of male contemporary Claude Debussy featuring prominent female characters (L’enfant prodigue, Pélleas et Mélisande), in combination with contextual details of Debussy’s relationships with women, confirms his one-dimensional, stereotypically reduced approach to feminine narrative. Analysis of personal anecdotes as well as critical discourse surrounding Boulanger establish her popular characterization as a fragile, prodigal young woman in a constant state of suffering. Critical examination of several works by Boulanger (Faust et Hélène, Clariéres dans le ciel, La princesse Maleine) elucidate how Boulanger incorporated Debussy’s techniques into a wholly unique compositional style that, intentionally or not, gives a more personal voice to stories of the female experience. This study places Boulanger in a larger sociocultural context in which her work and its popularity provided a vehicle for greater authenticity in female narratives.
Madison Spahn hails from Sarasota, FL and is currently pursuing her Master of Music degree in Voice Performance at Boston Conservatory at Berklee under the tutelage of Kendra Colton. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Music from Duke University (2016), where she completed an honors thesis entitled “The Evolution of a Woman’s Life and Love: A Performer’s Guide to Frauenliebe und Leben” under the direction of R. Larry Todd. She is an active performer and has recently appeared in productions of Le Nozze di Figaro with the Miami Music Festival and Albert Herring with Chicago Summer Opera. In Boston, she also sings with The Boston Cecilia and as soprano section leader at Old West Church.
4:00pm “All my heart, in this my singing:” Amy Beach and the Women's Clubs of New England – Lili Tobias (Swarthmore College)
Scholars and critics have regularly chosen to focus on the large-scale works of Amy Beach in the context of the concert hall, situating her within a well-rehearsed narrative of “masters” and “masterworks,” aiming to prove (or disprove) her “greatness.” Yet such an approach paints an inaccurate picture of the ways in which Beach interacted with music and contributed to American musical culture over the course of her life. In actual fact, Beach’s compositional career overwhelmingly centered on creating music for women within the decidedly gendered context of women’s social clubs and societies, and her participation within this musical landscape was pivotal to her success as a composer.
In this paper, I focus on her songs, and in particular, the Three Browning Songs, Op. 44, within the context of the women musicians, composers, and listeners for whom these compositions were written. Using a graph model I have developed, I demonstrate that Beach’s harmonic language, contrary to the multitude of comparisons to that of the German Romantics, actually coincides with that of contemporary American parlor song writers. This is because having a common musical system facilitated social music-making and fostered a strong sense of community, providing a common base of musical knowledge that invited participation from everyone for whom it was familiar. I argue that Beach’s songs and other small-form works arose for the purpose of forming bonds of community, where ideas of “originality” or “greatness” were not the foremost metrics of musical value, and that these works were integral to her identity as a composer. In order to sufficiently discuss Amy Beach’s contribution to American music, I argue that one must first situate her creative work within the context in which it was principally created.
Lili Tobias is a senior at Swarthmore College, majoring in Music and Linguistics. Her current scholarly interests include women composers of vocal music, including Amy Beach and Pauline Viardot-García, and in general, the intersection of music and gender. Lili also studies composition with Gerald Levinson.
ALL AMS-NE Attendees are cordially inited to attend the Wellesley College Classical Faculty Concert at 7:30 pm in Jewett Auditorium, featuring Lois Shapiro (piano), Laura Bossert-King (violin/viola), David Russell (cello) , Franziska Huhn (harp), Deborah Selig (soprano), and Jane Starkman (violin/viola).