Robin James
University of North Carolina - Charlotte
11/29, 4pm

"Must Be Love On The Brain?: How can feminists reconcile our love of artworks with our disgust at the misogynist artists who made them?"

Abstract: As #MeToo activism has revealed cascades of famous and influential men to be serial sexual harassers and rapists, the question of what to do about aesthetically pleasing art made by morally and politically disgusting men has received renewed interest and urgency. I identify 2 different types of feminist responses to this question. The first kind of response modifies post-feminist and post-race approaches to diversity as a kind of beauty: replacing beauty with disgust, these approaches treat sexismm and misogyny as individual-level flaws that can be eliminated through appropriate aesthetic judgments. The second kind of response begins from the premise that centuries of white supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy have shaped our aesthetic principles and conventions such that sexism and misogyny are systemic problems baked into all works of art. I examine how Angela Davis’s revision of Marcuse’s concept of the aesthetic dimension, Katherine McKittrick’s and Alexander Weheliye’s concept of “emulation,” and Rihanna’s vocal performance choices on her 2016 single “Love On The Brain” are all instances of this latter type of response.
Isidora Miranda
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Breaking the Glass: Musical Labor and the Tagalog Diva in the Work of Atang de la Rama

During the early American colonial period in the Philippines, zarzuelas in various local languages became the main form of popular entertainment. Through the novelty of the sung vernacular and the steady stream of Filipino performers and composers, the inherited Spanish genre opened up a new space for local productions. Playwrights sought to create a world that mirrored the dramas of working class urbanites with the goals of educating its local audience and maintaining the largely patriarchal social order of early twentieth-century Manila.

This presentation focuses on the performer as an active contributor to the creation and development of the Tagalog zarzuelas. Through the work of Honorata “Atang” de la Rama, particularly her performance in Dalagang Bukid (“The Country Maiden”), the zarzuela stage in Manila gained new momentum in the 1920s. Throughout her career, she portrayed roles that encompassed various stereotypes of women: from the virtuous Filipina to the manipulative and flirtatious female often depicted as products of urban modernization. Yet a closer look at de la Rama’s performance reveals the artist’s renegotiation of gendered identities inscribed by its male authors. Through a variety of sources including rare recordings, newspaper reviews, published interviews, and de la Rama’s own writings, this talk amplifies Atang’s musical and metaphorical “voice” to address the important role of women in the production of Tagalog zarzuelas beyond their representations onstage.
Molly Cyderman-Weber
Central Michigan University 

Coding and Ideology in American Social Guidance Films from the 1940s-1950s

After a long period of establishing their legitimacy as an appropriate and effective instructional tool, classroom films became popular teaching medium in the 1950s.  Instructional films addressed many topics; the most common were science films, travelogues, traffic safety films, and social guidance films.  Instructional films provided an institutional vehicle for teaching cultural musical codes - a language of associations based on instrumentation, rhythm, melody, and harmony - to the baby boomer generation. 

In this talk, I investigate the contributions of music to ideologies sustained through cultural musical codes in 104 social guidance films by discussing the conditions under which music occurs in each film and by examining the possible meanings.  The films, a subset of the Prelinger Archive, were made by 21 different production companies, but titles from Coronet, Centron, and McGraw-Hill dominate the collection and therefore receive more detailed scrutiny than titles from other companies.  In my analysis, I address title theme, diegetic, and non-diegetic music and consider practical function along with ideological communication. 

Kyle Johnson
University of Wisconsin - Madison 

Podcasting the Humanities: Producing Art Music Perspectives

According to Edison Media Research, one in four Americans between the ages of 12 and 54 have listened to a podcast in the past month (a higher percentage of Americans than Twitter users in the same time frame).[1] The digital medium currently has a 57 million-person audience in the United States, with most listeners consuming five or more shows per week.[2] Content within the humanities, in particular, translates well to this new form of digital media. For example, podcasts such as Philosophize This! deliver weekly, thirty-minute doses of a specific topic or notable philosopher in history; RadioLab weaves engaging “stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries”[3]; finally, Meet the Composer features the concert footage and interviews of renown living composers and performers.
Consumers experience both music and podcasts as an easily-accessible sonic experience, which is why podcasting can be a relevant, creative approach to delving into topics within music, history, and multidisciplinary projects. After briefly discussing the emergence in the early 2000s of this digital form, I will discuss my own work and creative process on research related to Olivier Messiaen’s Catalog d’Oiseaux. Using examples from my own podcast series, Art Music Perspectives, I will explain the possibilities and restraints of effective podcasting. Finally, my hope is that the presentation will inspire others within academia to explore podcasting as a means to share their own course content, individual projects, and research in an engaging way.

[1] Edison Research, “The Infinite Dial 2016,” 10 March 2016,
[2] Edison Research, “The Infinite Dial 2016.”
[3] Radio Lab, “About,” 26 February 2018,
Katherine Brucher
DePaul University

By Chicago, For Chicago? Listening for the City in the Creation of Grant Park Music Festival

In an echo of Daniel Burnham’s call to “make no little plans,” the Grant Park Music Festival has operated on a grand scale since it was founded as Grant Park Concerts in 1935. This presentation examines how the Chicago Park District, in cooperation with James C. Petrillo and the Chicago Federation of Musicians, launched a major festival during the Great Depression that took place in Grant Park, described as “Chicago’s Front Yard.” Union leadership, city government, and support from the federal Works Progress Administration collaborated to employ large numbers of professional musicians and park workers and reach huge audiences. The concerts were billed as “by Chicago, for Chicago” in an effort to draw people into the gem of the newly consolidated Chicago Park District and promote a sense of civic pride rooted in local musicians’ performances of predominantly classical music. However, policies mandating who performed, their programming choices, and the social norms governing park usage complicated the notion of civic unity promoted by the festival. Despite its democratic aspirations, persistent patterns of discrimination and racial segregation cast doubt on the notion that the outdoor festival served all Chicagoans. The Chicago Federation of Musicians, Local 10 of the American Federation of Musicians, excluded African American musicians until 1966. In response, a separate union local, no. 208, served professional African-American musicians, but Grant Park Concerts only hired ensembles whose musicians who were members of Local 10. Female musicians performed in the Women’s Symphony Orchestra, but other than occasional guest soloists, all other ensembles were exclusively male. Although the majority of Chicago’s African-American community resided just a few miles south of Grant Park in the Bronzeville neighborhood, it is not clear that African Americans felt welcome in the park. Drawing on archival material such as scrapbooks and bulletins from the Chicago Federation of Musicians, Chicago Park District reports, newspaper coverage, and concert programs, this project seeks to uncover the process through which the city, musicians’ union, and its constituents sought to create new employment opportunities, craft a listening public and shape civic life through Grant Park Concerts.