Articles

Ricardo Lorenz: A Post-Colonial/Modern Latin(o) American Composer

Published Jun 11, 2019

European art music was brought into the Euro-baptized American continent by the Spaniards and Portuguese as an art discipline that supported the conversion to Catholicism, and, in general, its colonization. Nevertheless, Latin American composers—using agency, creativity and the process of transculturation—appropriated and transformed this music tradition to produce their innovative and hybrid art music works… Read more

Through the Fabric of My Own: Louise Alenius and Embodied Interrelationality

Published Jun 11, 2019

Since 2014, Danish composer Louise Alenius has engaged in a series of performances characterized by extraordinary circumstances entitled Porøset. Eminently site-specific, Porøset has been mounted within the disheveled attic spaces and compact dressing rooms of the Royal Danish Theater in Copenhagen. Alenius, the sole recurring participant in each performance, meticulously structures these performances utilizing three… Read more

Telling Tales: A Survey of Narratological Approaches to Music

Published Jun 11, 2019

Of the various hermeneutic approaches to the study of music developed in the last half century or so, narratological analysis has gone further than many in navigating a path that draws on both cultural and structural contexts. This overview of the development of narrative theory in music charts the course of three “waves” of narratological… Read more

Editor’s Note: Sounding the Break: Music Studies and the Political

Published Jan 24, 2019

The academic study of music and sound is facing an array of political and intellectual challenges, prompting a pointed moment of critical self-reflection, what Stuart Hall might call a break—a conjuncture in which “old lines of thought are disrupted, older constellations displaced, and elements, old and new, are regrouped around a different set of premises… Read more

The Musicological Elite

Published Jan 23, 2019

Excerpt: Musicologists have been gripped by the desire to democratize, diversify, decolonize, and popularize their discipline. Driven by a growing moral demand to challenge the Eurocentric, heteronormative, exclusionary, colonial, settler colonial, non-diverse, and white supremacist legacies of  a discipline plagued by its rootedness in European classical musical traditions, they have recently accelerated their efforts to… Read more

Academic Labor and Music Curricula

Published Jan 23, 2019

Excerpt: In this paper we parse recent initiatives rethinking music curricula—in particular, those critiquing the enduring centrality of the Western art music canon—in connection to questions of academic labor and service. Many of our interlocutors ask us: “Why are conservative curricula a problem now?” The short answer is that canon-driven music curricula have always been… Read more

Introduction: I am Nothing

Published Jan 23, 2019

Excerpt: In 1969, at the height of the Cold War, the Puerto Rican singer Lucecita Benítez won the First Festival of Latin Song in the World with her performance of “Génesis”: Cuando nada en la tierra quede que tibie el sol Cuando nadie en la tierra quede que evoque a Dios Cuando sobre la tierra… Read more

Licia’s Lectures on Nothing

Published Jan 23, 2019

When nothing is left on Earth to feel the warmth of the sun When no one is left on Earth to invoke God When not even pain will be felt on earth There will only be a flame and that flame will be love, Love, love! To begin again. Considering its lugubrious content, it seems… Read more

Archival Nothing

Published Jan 23, 2019

As opposed to other realms of art, like literature or painting, a plethora of “great women singers” has existed in the Caribbean and Latin America since the recording industry began. These were marquee artists with legions of adoring fans. Yet, the critical paucity regarding their careers has been severe. It seems obvious, but bears repeating,… Read more

Seeing and Hearing the Thinking Voice

Published Jan 23, 2019

Given that my own work is focused on questions of diaspora, visuality, and queerness, I am very grateful for the fact that Fiol-Matta models for us a mode of both listening and looking with deep care. This critical listening and critical looking make apparent an entirely different understanding of Puerto Rican music culture, through an… Read more

The Wonder of Delays

Published Jan 23, 2019

There are many things feminist music critics must too often defer by force or by choice. There is so much work and time involved in the mere fact of saying: there is more to the story. In the Latinate New York world, trying to tell a different story—any shift in its form or its players—has… Read more

Power and Equity in the Academy: Change from Within

Published Jan 23, 2019

Excerpt: As an undergraduate music major interested in graduate study in music theory, I asked Joseph Straus, with whom I was taking an independent study in music theory and feminism, if he knew of any  published work  in feminist music theory. The only relevant writing he could think of was Susan McClary’s “Pitches, Expression, Ideology,”… Read more

Editor’s Note

Published Sep 19, 2018

Issue 101 of Current Musicology presents five articles that exemplify the journal’s commitment to critical discussions of music and sound across the disciplines. In her article, “As Time Goes By: Car Radio and the Travel Experience in Twentieth-Century America,” Sarah Messbauer explores the advent of car radio in the United States during the first half… Read more

From Coups that Silence Ezan-s to Ezan-s that Silence Coups!: Sonic Resistance to the 2016 Turkish Military Coup

Published Jul 31, 2018

In the early morning hours after the July 15, 2016 Turkish military coup, Turkish President Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan FaceTimed in to CNNTürk to issue an apparently desperate call for Turkish citizens to occupy city squares and “defend democracy.” Erdoğan’s call was loudly repeated by Islamic calls to prayer from muezzins synchronized nationwide via text message. Hearing these calls, thousands of Turks ventured out and collectively reclaimed urban streets and squares for Erdoğan’s government. This paper examines the process by which Islamic calls to prayer forged Turkish citizens into a unisonous body that claimed and transformed secular urban spaces, initiating an epochal neo-Ottoman shift in Turkish politics. I engage with this process via a hybrid virtual-physical ethnographic site derived from coup resistance, treating YouTube videos and contemporary Turkish media as both windows into on-the-ground resistance and sites at which Turks negotiate their political subjectivity. To unpack the role of sacred sound and affective embodiment in leading coup resistance and transforming space (Hirschkind 2006, Massey 2005, Thrift 2009), I employ Turino’s theories of Peircean semiotics and participatory music making. I argue that Islamic calls to prayer-led resistance not only turns the tables on the repressive sonic regimes of Republican Turkey, but also challenges understanding of twenty-first century nationalisms rising in the twittersphere. In the early hours of July 16, 2016, Facetime and text message laid the foundations, but it was Islamic calls to prayer resounding in streets and squares that forged citizens into a unisonous body capable of transforming secular urban space and the future of Turkish politics.

Black Labor and the Deep South in Hurston’s The Great Day and Ellington’s Black, Brown, and Beige

Published Jul 31, 2018

Among the musical representations of Deep South African American life circulating in the 1930s and early 1940s, Ellington’s extended composition Black, Brown, and Beige and Zora Neale Hurston’s staged revue The Great Day stand out for their shared emphasis on the laboring body. This emphasis, I argue, countervailed predominant representations produced in two important spheres of artistic activity at the time. The first, Tin Pan Alley, had inherited much from the legacy of nineteenth-century blackface minstrel theater and tended to present Southern plantation life through nostalgic, bucolic tableaus and through playful “naturally rhythmic” dancing black bodies. The second, intellectuals associated with the Harlem Renaissance, cast the concert spiritual as the music best suited to put black cultural actors on equal footing with their white counterparts, positioning the “soul” as the bearer of African American culture, thus downplaying the role of the body.

Building on works from Cedric Robinson and Raymond Williams, this article highlights the ideological work that goes into naturalizing ideas of race and space. In the 1930s and 1940s this ideological work could be seen in what Ellington labeled “the Dixie Chamber of Commerce dream picture of the South.” Through Ellington’s poetry and Hurston’s critical essays, I show the intent of these artists to reimagine the Deep South landscape in ways that highlight the contribution of black labor. Then, through an analysis of Ellington’s music and Hurston’s staging of folkloric songs, I demonstrate the specific ways that each artist went about realizing this intent.

Milton Babbitt’s Glosses on American Jewish Identity

Published Jul 31, 2018

Despite the fact that Babbitt claimed to “regard himself as Jewish and did not wish to be in any way evasive about being Jewish,” little scholarship has documented how Babbitt’s Jewish identity influenced his discourse or music. Yet, during the postwar era—a time when many American Jews felt an obligation to reaffirm their Jewish identity—Babbitt frequently employed Jewish themes in his discourse. Mapping the Jewish Exile narrative onto the plight of academic composers, he often draws correspondences between Schoenberg and Moses, America and the Promised Land, and the university and Masada. In this article, I contextualize this aspect of Babbitt’s rhetoric by outlining how his relationship to his Jewish identity evolved over the course of his career: from concessions he made to Princeton’s anti-Semitic policies early in his career to his active participation in conferences devoted to Jewish issues later in his career. I argue that the analogies Babbitt draws between Jewish tradition and his music demonstrate that he, like many American Jews during the period, fashioned his Jewish identity around Jewish individuals and religious beliefs that complemented his secular worldview. Then, I examine the repercussions Babbitt’s constructed Jewish identity had for his music. To this end, I offer an interpretation of three climactic, unsung moments in Glosses (1988). These three un-pitched vocalizations, I argue, not only realize the Jewish tradition wherein God, who in defying definition also resists signification, but also gloss Schoenberg’s musical symbol for YHVH.

Cosmopolitanism and Race in Percy Grainger’s American “Delius Campaign”

Published Jul 31, 2018

“Cosmopolitanism and Race in Percy Grainger’s American ‘Delius Campaign’” analyzes Grainger’s early-twentieth-century campaign to promote the works of Frederick Delius in the United States, exposing the campaign’s underpinnings in Grainger’s racist, nativist, and eugenicist ideologies and projects. Kirby exposes a peculiar construction of cosmopolitanism at the root of Grainger’s modes of presenting Delius to US audiences, arguing that by downplaying his European national roots, Delius and his music could be deployed as a “blank canvas” upon which Grainger could superimpose his own “developing racist ideologies.”

As Time Goes By: Car Radio and the Travel Experience in Twentieth-Century America

Published Jul 31, 2018

Since its invention nearly a century ago, the car radio has found its way into over ninety-five percent of vehicles on the road. Modern day radio programming is tailored to suit a mobile audience, and many listeners view car radios as an essential part of the driving experience. Yet within the scope of scholarly studies on this subject, the questions addressed are so focused on the mechanical problems of how radios were integrated into automobiles that there is substantially less research examining why radios were first imported into the car. What was the inspiration for such a combination? And how did it affect the travel experience for car users? Expanding upon current scholarship related to mobile sound technologies and their influence on the experience of mechanized travel, I argue that the conditions individually brought about by the radio and the automobile mutually reinforced one another: both worked together to alter the perceived passage of time and space for their users. Given that these developments directly reflect similar shifts in the perception of space and time occurring with the invention of older travel technologies such as the railroad half a century earlier, the application of radio to the car can be understood as just one more manifestation of the new spatiotemporal paradigm gripping the post-industrial West in the first half of the twentieth century.