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Amanda Black
“Sonic Gentrification: Tourism, Periphery, and Privilege in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico”
(under the direction of David Garcia)

As the people of the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, face a new reality of unprecedented violence, tourism continues to be a pillar of the economy. Many scholars have delved into the topic of tourism and its exacerbating effects on inequality. Geographers have theorized the articulations between gentrification and tourism, while ethnomusicologists have examined the role of musicians in creating touristic environments in the Caribbean. In the case of San Miguel de Allende, population 161,000, historians and sociologists have examined the arrival of US Americans to what was once a small mountain town. The uninterrupted international media acclaim for San Miguel as the “Best City to Visit” belies the significant problems related to inequality in the city, including water scarcity, extreme income inequality, and crime. Scholarship has yet to analyze the long-term cultural effects of relative deprivation for locals in the face of tourists’ and new residents’ privileged access to and control over cultural events, space, and the sounds shaping their city. I argue that sound and music may be molded, instrumentalized, and controlled so as to weave gentrification and inequality into the social fabric of a city. My research examines the ways in which the combined forces of tourism, US immigration, and gentrification shape the musical, cultural, and sonic boundaries of the city of San Miguel. I employ an ethnographic and multimedia approach to document cross-genre sound difference between the center and periphery, and examine local musical and sound responses to cultural displacement, especially the emergence of hip hop.

Jamie Blake
“Architects of Russian America: Transnational Musical Networks Post 1917”
(under the direction of Annegret Fauser)

The Russian Revolution of 1917 set in motion unprecedented waves of human migration and permanently altered Russian culture expressions both at home and abroad. My dissertation centers on Russian music and musicians in the United States from the revolutionary period through the early Cold War. During this time, Russian émigré artists were vital emissaries of transnational experience, as defining Russianness on a global stage had become increasingly crucial to the construction and preservation of identity. Moreover, these musicians functioned not in isolation, but as part of tightly entangled networks, and I examine the impact of these networks for composers like Sergei Rachmaninoff and Igor Stravinsky, as well as for performers like Serge Koussevitzky. Drawing on archival research and reception histories, I approach performance as a cultural contact zone, with particular emphasis on the ways in which Russianness might have been presented or masked. Ultimately, my dissertation reveals both perceptions of Russianness in America and the impact of Russian émigré artistic networks on up-and-coming American musicians such as Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein.

John Caldwell
“Songs from the Other Side: The Lives of Pakistani Music in India”
(under the direction of Michael Figueroa)

This dissertation investigates the phenomenon of Pakistani music crossing the border into India in the decades since Partition (1947). I approach this project from several angles, looking at musicians, works, sites of collaboration, recordings, performances, and audience reception with an emphasis on the role of music in forging national, transnational, and regional communities in spite of political onflict. Although the border-crossing happens in both directions, I will primarily investigate Pakistan-to-India cultural flows, because in some sense these happen “against the grain,” with India being the culturally dominant entity in the region and a site of majoritarian resistance to Pakistani and Muslim cultural expression. Although the Indian film industry legitimized some Pakistani music, other music, particularly the ghazal genre, was often transmitted in the form of LP and cassette recordings, hand-carried from Pakistan into India and played at student coffee shops and private gatherings. In order to reconstruct this informal history, one component of my dissertation will be an ethnography of Indian listeners and fans who discovered Pakistani music in the 1960s and 1970s and formed its core audiences. In other case studies I will explore how music inhabits the border itself, specifically at the symbolic Wagah border crossing, and how offshore recording studios and television companies bring Pakistani music into contest and collaboration with Indian music. More broadly, I seek to understand the strategies of resistance inscribed in “music from the other side”—the symbols and icons deployed, the networks formed, and the narratives produced.

Joanna Helms
“Electronic Music History Through the Everyday: The RAI Studio di Fonologia (1954–83)”
(under the direction of Andrea Bohlman)

The Studio di Fonologia Musicale (SdF, 1954–83) at Italian state radio and television broadcasting company Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI) was founded in the context of national post-war cultural rebuilding efforts, European avant-garde discourses, and a worldwide boom in experimental music research centers. These centers, associated with universities, industrial manufacturers, and (as in the case of the SdF) mass media networks, served as sites of creative exchange among international and local networks of artistic and technical collaborators. The SdF hosted numerous composers of not only art music, but also of music for documentaries and dramatic works intended specifically for broadcast on radio and television. Existing research on the SdF centers on the art-music outputs of a select group of internationally prestigious Italian composers (namely Luciano Berio, Bruno Maderna, and Luigi Nono), offering limited windows into the social life, technological everyday, and collaborative discourse that characterized the institution during its nearly three decades of continuous operation. This historiographical preference reflects a larger trend within post-war electronic music histories to emphasize the production of a core group of intellectuals—mostly art-music composers—at a few key sites such as Paris, Cologne, and New York.

With this dissertation, I supplement and reorient existing histories by suggesting an alternative understanding of the Studio through the lens of everyday operations and presenting a continuous history of the SdF as a space. I rebuild the Studio’s boundaries and reach through a study of its technology, personal and professional networks, and mass media audiences. I emphasize the role of technology at the SdF, considering the equipment and techniques available there as prominent members of a network of human and technological actors whose actions resulted in the creation of electronic and experimental music. The other members of this network include not only the composers who came to work there, but also employees associated with the Studio including longtime sound engineer Marino Zuccheri and RAI executives, in addition to the performers, playwrights, and directors who worked on a variety of projects. The final, vital part of these networks were Italian radio and television audiences—as well as art-music audiences in the concert hall—who experienced the music produced at the Studio in a variety of public and domestic listening settings. Situating an experimental studio within such a diffuse network positions the SdF as a part of the Italian cultural landscape of the mid-twentieth century and as a space that operated in both avant-garde and mass-media cultural spheres.

Samantha Horn
Handel’s Flora and Fauna: Representing Nature in the London Operas, 1711–41
(under the direction of Tim Carter)

The first half of the eighteenth century was a formative period in the development of Londoners’ attitudes towards and engagement with the natural world. The era saw the emergence of competing approaches to the study of natural philosophy as well as new interest in nature-based entertainments such as landscape gardens and exotic animal displays. Nature and the appropriate enjoyment of it figured prominently in public discourses on British politics, empire, national identity, and art. This dissertation seeks to demonstrate how theatrical music, and specifically Italian opera, participated in the development of new attitudes towards nature in eighteenth century London. Focusing on the thirty-six operas Handel composed for performance in the city between 1711 and 1741, I examine the strategies by which Handel, and the librettists and performers with whom he worked, evoked elements of nature onstage. In addition to analyzing the works themselves, I aim to put their representations of nature in dialogue with other forms of eighteenth-century spectacle designed to curate, represent, and display the natural world for the consumption of urban British audiences. I argue that Handel’s representations of nature helped to shape both British conceptions of nature and the composer’s own legacy because they existed at the intersection of social, cultural, and political changes in British national self-image, in which both music and nature played a crucial role.

Grace Kweon
“Music for the Struggle by Asian Americans: Performing Race, Activism, and Community, 1968-1975”
(under the direction of Andrea F. Bohlman)

The Asian American Movement (AAM) was a social movement for racial justice in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s that led to the creation of an “Asian American” collective consciousness. To study how music figured in this identity construction, my research examines the activities and products of Yellow Pearl, an Asian American folk trio formed in 1970 by three New York–based activists of the AAM. I will utilize archives of event flyers, meeting notes, photographs, press articles, and correspondence relevant to Yellow Pearl to understand how notions of Asian Americanness created music and was generated by musical performance. I also interrogate how the medium of records, sheet music, and live concerts forged or limited musical networks within the AAM. I focus on this moment of Asian American history to examine the robust disagreements and discussions about the racial and political constructions of Asian American identity. Through my research, I hope to uncover a musical network of listeners and participants and analyze how they mediated music into different cultural products. I bring together musical scholarship on Asian Americans that has been ethnographic and historical by looking at this moment, which has powerful resonance in living memory, but my project is driven through archival work. This study foregrounds the musical activism of Asian Americans as an example of how coalitional politics and musical communities intersected in a moment of racial and political turmoil in US-American history.

Megan Ross
“The Critical Reception of Beethoven’s String Quartet in C# Minor, Op. 131”
(under the direction of Mark Evan Bonds)

Beethoven’s late string quartets have long been considered paradigmatic of the composer’s late works.  Of these, Op. 131 emerged early on as the quintessential late quartet.  My study examines the history of our understanding of this work across nearly two centuries of reception. The critical reception of Op. 131 serves as a paradigm for the reception of Beethoven’s late quartets and his late style in general.

The most important critical and creative responses have interpreted this work through approaches that include biography, theoretical analysis, critical interpretation, sketch studies, and compositional influence. My account within each of these broader approaches is chronological, drawing on reception theory in the field of Beethoven studies, musicology, and literary criticism.  The critical reception of Op. 131 thus has broader relevance in terms of Beethoven studies writ large, the history of the string quartet, and the development of the fields of music criticism and musicology.

Oren Vinogradov
“Theorizing Program Music: Schumann, Liszt, and Wagner as Critic-Composers”
(under the direction of Mark Evan Bonds)

My dissertation examines how a limited group of German composers actively shaped conflicting discourses about program music in the period between 1830 and 1865. I approach these discourses through a systematic reconsideration of composers as serious public intellectuals. The definition of program music developed into a heated philosophical conflict between opposing factions of musical aesthetics, each headed by a highly public critic-composer who promoted their own prescriptions for programmaticism. This project focuses attention on three composers who built their careers by influencing public opinion through music criticism: Robert Schumann (1810-1856), Franz Liszt (1811-1886), and Richard Wagner (1813-1883).

The traditional historical narrative holds that Romantic composers considered program music a unique aesthetic product, distinct from “characteristic” instrumental music, or incidental dramatic music. I propose instead that programmaticism was a particular quality within the music of multiple avant-garde movements, each of which vied for political control of program music’s public definition. This complicates previous suggestions that program music was conceived solely in opposition to absolute instrumental music. My research concerns the combined philosophical and musical-political motivations behind individual critic-composers’ public acceptance or rejection of specific extramusical content within their definition of programmaticism. Alongside close readings of their public writing, I investigate how these critic-composers managed their allied factions, and so regulated audiences’ exposure to opposing theories of expressive abstraction. The exploration of these rhetorical networks as musical-political influences on critic-composers provides a more refined perspective on how German Romantic composers constructed original philosophical ideas about aesthetic experience in general.