Academic Year 2020–2021
Lectures for the 2020–2021 will be held online via Zoom. Registration can be found below. All lectures are free and open to the public.
This year’s Series will participate in the UNCG theme “She Can We Can” and features research about
Friday, September 25, 2020, 4pm.
To be presented on Zoom. For registration click here.
“Gender and Music in Dmitry Shostakovich’s Scores for Late Stalinist Films”Registration
Dmitry Shostakovich was Russia’s first major film composer, and worked within the Soviet film industry from 1929 through 1971. In many ways, he is significant case study for how Soviet Russian musicians negotiated their musical identities within this new category of composer. Unsurprisingly, the cultural politics of the arts industries, including music and cinema, addressed and participated in representations of race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and national/transnational identities. In this talk, I discuss the construction of gender in Stalinist cinema in film composition as heard in Shostakovich’s late Stalinist scores. Focusing on a few films from the mid to late 1940s, I examine how Shostakovich musically represented gender, and how that music connected with and informed contemporaneous politics. This talk is part of a broader study, over the course of three books, of Shostakovich’s particular negotiation of cultural politics and the Soviet film industry during his tenure as a film composer.
Jessica Swanston Baker
Ethnomusicology, University of Chicago
Friday, October 16, 2020, 4pm.
To be presented on Zoom. For registration click here.
“Armed with Sound: Noisy Women and the Beginning of the West Indies Labor Movement”
A series of civil unrest incidents that have been historically chronicled as “riots” on sugar plantations across the British Caribbean colonies, calcified as a sustained movement for labor rights amongst Black workers on various islands in the Caribbean archipelago. This political effort, the West Indies Labor Movement (1934–39) has, like many others like it, been understood as male-dominated political action. Taking up the notion of noise as disruption, this talk describes how the most prominent term for, and vehicle of, protest during the post-emancipation era, the riot, was not always a description of acts of male-led physical violence. Instead, especially on smaller islands like St. Kitts, this term has been deployed as part of a larger commentary on the prominent role of loud, singing, playing, dancing, and verbally protesting women who were integral to sustained political resistance. Drawing on recent research that disturbs the primacy of material artefacts over the oral histories of women, this talk highlights the importance of “making noise” within the colloquial narratives of Caribbean women whose legacies of activism and agitation have been silenced by the abundant and noisy archives of papers, legers, receipts, and memos that selectively chronicle the business and activities of men.
Musicology and Film/Media Studies, University of South Carolina
Friday, January 22, 2021, 4pm.
“Barbra Streisand and Second Wave Feminism in New Hollywood Film”Registration
The women’s liberation movement was among the most important political discourses to emerge in 1960s and 1970s. Like many political movements, however, this “second wave” of feminism had an uneven effect on the art and literature of the period. It triggered an appreciable surge of feminist literature, but the movement’s effect on cinema, on Hollywood studio filmmaking in particular, was virtually unnoticeable. Although American filmmaking was experiencing a renaissance, a period of experimentation that challenged conventional narrative strategies, camera and editing practices, women participated very little in this “New Hollywood.” The image of women on screen changed comparatively little and opportunities to direct and wield executive power remained non-existent. The expanded male-centricity in front and behind the camera in 70s Hollywood, in fact, as critic Molly Haskell observed, was something of a backlash against the women’s movement.
This presentation interrogates feminist filmmaking in New Hollywood at the height of the “women’s lib” movement in the early 1970s by reassessing the work of one of the most popular and successful actresses of the period: Barbra Streisand. Few film scholars include Barbra among their lists of feminists even though Streisand was a formidable presence in Hollywood in the 1970s. By looking more closely not only at the roles she played but at the control she exerted over the use of her voice, and the unconventional sound practices she pursued in five early 1970s films, The Owl and the Pussycat, What’s Up, Doc?, Up The Sandbox, the Way We Were, and For Pete’s Sake, this presentation offers a reappraisal of Streisand’s contributions to New Hollywood and to second wave feminism.
Yayoi Uno Everett
Music Theory, University of Illinois, Chicago
Friday, February 5, 2021, 4pm.
“Kaija Saariaho and Peter Sellars’s Only the Sound Remains (2016): Transcoding the Aesthetics of Noh Drama”
Saariaho and Sellars’s Only the Sound Remains (2016):
Transcoding the aesthetics of Noh drama
Only the Sound Remains (2016) is the third opera produced in collaboration between Peter Sellars and Kaija Saariaho. Sellars famously described Noh drama as a theatre in which “everything is slowed down to a pace where we can feel what is going on at each moment” and shares his thoughts behind linking two otherwise separate plays in the making of this opera as follows. Tsunemasa (Always Strong) is about night, a favorite of the Emperor who played the lute, who killed someone in war and then was killed. He is a restless spirit, who appears during a service conducted by the monk Gyōkei, then disappears into the night in flame. Hagoromo (the Feather Mantle) is about a fisherman at dawn, who sees a cloak hanging from a pine. He agrees to return it to the Tennin (celestial maiden) if she performs the sacred dance of heaven. Considering the opera as a transcultural adaptation of Noh drama, this presentation explores three main questions. How does Sellars reimagine the illusory world of Noh drama into a contemporary opera and infuse it with familiar archetypes from western mythology? How does Saariaho’s music salvage characteristics central to the music of Noh drama and transcode them into her own musico-dramatic aesthetics? Finally, given David Levin’s claim that contemporary opera is “a site where the operatic text competes with the performance text” (2007: xviii), how does one account for “the tension between sight and sound” (McClary 2019: 136) that lies at the heart of this collaboration?
Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor of Music
Music Theory, UNC Chapel Hill
Friday, February 26, 2021, 4pm.
“Singing Your Own Songs: How Female Songwriters Navigate Intellectual Property and Public Authenticity”Registration
When fans of today’s country music listen to a song, they hear many layers of voices: the narrative voice of the protagonist, the physical voice of the artist, the metaphoric voices of the genre and its intertextuality, and the creative voice of its songwriter, whose identity is often hidden behind the façade of the performance. Although the songwriter’s voice and persona have taken the spotlight at a few different times in recent history, more commonly, the one person who can rightly claim legal ownership of a particular song is displaced by the physical presence of the performer. The intersection between these layers of voices is even more complicated for female songwriters working in country music, where gendered representation underpins the genre’s core philosophies. In this paper we will explore the landscape of cultural ownership for contemporary female country songwriters and the challenges of writing songs in one’s own voice to be sung by someone else. Drawing on interviews, reception history, and close readings of individual songs, we will reflect on how a songwriter’s personal voice carries through to the fans, and what is filtered out by the same music industry that claims to crave an authentic, personal voice from its performers.
Yun Emily Wang
Ethnomusicology, Duke University (Starting Fall 2020)
Friday, March 26, 2021, 4pm.
“Sounding ‘Homes’ and Making Do in Sinophone Toronto”Registration
Abstract is forthcoming.
Friday, April 16, 2021, 4pm.
me mean, I knew know I ’m was kinda tall for high asking: How we Teach Machines to Listen for (Certain) Accents to Reinforce Racism”
Going back to the mid-1950s, Kodak famously standardized their Shirley cards test, used to calibrate color when printing photos. Jersson Garcia who worked at a photo Lab told the NPR: “‘She was the standard’ ‘so whenever we printed anything, we had to pull Shirley in. If Shirley looked good, everything else was OK. If Shirley didn’t look so hot that day, we had to tweak something — something was wrong.’” We saw the same premise of the technology in the youtube videos that were shared in around the Christmas shopping season in 2009—HP webcams that “can’t see black people.” In this presentation I argue that in the same way as Kodak film and HP cameras were calibrated for white skin color, voice- and listening technology also carries and reproduce the same social bias, discrimination, and racism. Considering the vocal synthesis software Vocaloid, voice to text technology, and the Voice Bank Monopoly game, I consider how vocal and listening technology listens for, against, and in non-recognition of certain accents, vocal performances standing in for non-whiteness.
A light reception will follow each lecture. All lectures are free and open to the public.
Music Theory and Musicology UNC Greensboro
Wednesday, February 19, 2020 – 4pm
UNCG Music Building Room 235
“My Recent Life in Octatonia”
This lecture is an opportunity to share some of my compositions with many of you who have not had a chance to hear my works performed.
Over the course of my 39 years on the School of Music faculty, my compositional style and approach have changed from serialism to alternate modalities using quartal/quintal harmonic structures and use of pentatonic and hexatonic scales. During the last 10-12 years I have been exploring melodic and harmonic possibilities of the octatonic scale as a source of pitch organization.
My presentation will be primarily experiential (listening) and conversational. Theoretical aspects will be discussed as they relate to representative compositions. Selected works to be discussed and heard include sonatas for each of the following: violin, cello and clarinet. My presentation will conclude with the second and third movements of Ala Barocca—a work dedicated to the basso continuo (here: bassoon and piano) to have the opportunity to escape “beast of burden” status and to function as “soloists” instead! This work is a Baroque concerto, but in a style seen through the lens of the octatonic scale.
Ethnomusicology UNC Greensboro
Wednesday, March 11, 2020 – 4pm
UNCG Music Building Room 235
“From Jah Rastafari to Ras Tafari: The Glocalization of Reggae Music in Ethiopia through Negotiations of Proximity”
From Jah Rastafari to Ras Tafari: The Glocalization of Reggae Music in Ethiopia through Negotiations of Proximity
Reggae music was created in Jamaica in the 1960s and subsequently became popular worldwide. While various studies examine the globalization of reggae music, my research focusses on the glocalization of reggae in Ethiopia—the Rastafarian Promised Land. I build on the work of Timothy Rommen and Marvin Sterling who investigate the ways reggae is linked to Rastafari ideology in its globalization and glocalization. In this presentation, drawing on ethnographic research and music analysis, I examine how the processes of globalization in Ethiopia intersect with Ethiopian nationalism and Rastafari migration to Ethiopia. More specifically, I investigate the extent to which Ethiopian reggae singers position themselves in relation to the Rastafari movement in order to be perceived as authentic reggae artists while maintaining their Ethiopian identities. This process of negotiating proximity impacts how Ethiopians localize reggae music and reveals the tensions, and potential compatibilities, between Ethiopians and Rastafarians.
Mark J. Butler
Music Theory and Cognition Northwestern University
Friday, April 3, 2020 – 4pm.
UNCG Music Building. Cone Lecture Hall, Room 217
“Bodies, Instruments, Interfaces: Theorizing the Materialities of Performance in Electronic Dance Music”
All lectures will be held on the UNCG campus in the Music Building, Lecture Hall (Room 217). A light reception will follow each lecture in the Lecture Hall. All lectures are free and open to the public.
University of Tennessee, School of Music
September 13, 2019 – 4pm
“The Sounds of Desire, Seduction, and Nostalgia: Musicalizing Femininity in cine mexicano (1936–1952)”
The Sounds of Desire, Seduction, and Nostalgia: Musicalizing Femininity in cine mexicano (1931–1952)
During the 1930s and 1940s, the Mexican film industry produced genres that depicted crucial characteristics that shaped mexicanidad (the cultural identity of the Mexican people) and highlighted on-screen musical performances, particularly by male characters. Although national cinema focused predominantly on the representation of Mexican masculinity and machismo (evident in the singing charro), the visual and aural representations of femininity and womanhood were explored in two significant genres: the prostitute melodrama and the cine de añoranza porfiriana (films of Porfirian longing). Women characters in these films (such as the prostitute and the debutante) mirrored contemporary societal beliefs and followed narratives in which their social behaviors were scrutinized and criticized as they attempt to move outside of the status quo. Diegetic musical performances were intertwined in these narratives, exposing the societal contradictions of contemporary Mexican culture, particularly the precarious position of women.
UNCG, Musicology and Ethnomusicology Area
October 18, 2019 – 4pm
“Voicing the Opposition: Lila Downs, El demagogo, and Balas y chocolate”
Voicing the Opposition: Lila Downs, El Demagogo, and Balas y Chocolate
In her 2015 CD Balas y Chocolate (Bullets and Chocolate), Mixtec–American singer-songwriter Lila Downs (b.1969)—perhaps best known to U.S. audiences for her cameo in the film Frida (2002)—weaves themes of the Day of the Dead ceremony across varied songs in vernacular and transnational styles to create a coherent, vigorous, extended musico-poetic critique of greed, corruption, violence, and environmental degradation. In doing so, she conjures the figure of the “new mestiza,” described by Chicana feminist Gloria Anzaldúa (1942–2002) as a woman of mixed cultures, languages, and identities, with “a new mestiza consciousness, una conciencia de mujer, a consciousness of the Borderlands” (Borderlands/La Frontera, 1987).
This paper considers three songs from the CD, including the title song, “Humito de copal” (copal smoke), and “La patria madrina” (Motherland), as well as Downs’s more recent “El Demagogo” (The demagogue), which she sang at the U.S. Mexico border (2016).
Assistant Professor and Director of the Cherokee Language Program
Western Carolina University, Department of Anthropology and Sociology
November 15, 2019 – 4pm
“Sound, Sociality, and the Making of Mountain Skies”
Sound, Sociality, and the Making of Mountain Skies
In May 2019, the Mountain Skies Festival was held in Black Mountain, North Carolina, twenty miles outside of Asheville. Described as “three days of ambient electronic music,” the annual festival brings together local experimental electronic musicians and visual artists with musicians from around the world who gather to perform almost exclusively for each other. This talk will discuss the making of an ethnographic film about the festival called The Mountain Electric. The film draws upon numerous interviews and audio-visual recordings of performances from the festival to explore participants’ social histories, experiences, and relationships to technologies and each other. Ambient music emerges not as a well-defined genre or recognizable set of stylistic features, but rather as a matrix of practices and ideologies shared across multiple and overlapping virtual and local communities. Ambient musical sounds and production practices coalesce around and intersect with discourses about technology, experimentation, and (often) alternative spiritualities. They are mediated across internet radio, the Second Life virtual world, Facebook, and through localized face-to-face events such as the Mountain Skies festival. This talk will include clips from the film to illustrate key points that the film seeks to make and will also discuss some of the considerations and challenges of creating a musical ethnographic documentary.
Presented by the School of Music, and Musicology/Ethnomusicology and Music Theory Areas
For further information contact Joan Titus at email@example.com.
Irna Priore (1963–2014) was a beloved colleague, and associate professor of music theory in the UNCG School of Music. In addition to being a flutist, she was a scholar, teacher, and mentor in music studies, and contributed publications on Luciano Berio, Darmstadt, post-1945 theory, and Brazilian popular music. Her legacy of generosity, strength, and brilliance continues through her family, friends, colleagues, and students; this series is dedicated to her and celebrates her memory.