In today’s class, we will be talking about female composers active in art music today. Select a piece by a living woman composer and send it to me before class. Be prepared to tell the class about the piece and the composer.
Hazel Carby’s essay, “‘It Jus’ Be’s Dat Way Sometime’: The Sexual Politics of Women’s Blues” has been influential on scholarship and criticism about black women in blues and jazz. It has also produced some dissenting responses from other feminist scholars. Find a scholarly book or article that responds to Carby. Provide a citation to this source, and briefly summarize the other viewpoint.
Search through a historical publication (you can use a ProQuest historical newspapers database, the Library of Congress, fultonhistory.com, or another database with historical periodicals) for articles about chorus girls between about 1880 and 1930. I recommend the Police Gazette.
Post links/images/excerpts from some of your most interesting findings in the “Chorus Girls” thread on Blackboard. You should also comment on your own findings or those of your classmates–how are chorus girls usually characterized in newspaper and magazine reports?
In the chapter of her book we are reading for today, Catherine Clément critiques the plots of operas that end in the heroine’s death. In other sections of her book, she shows other ways that things don’t seem to turn out well for female characters and demonstrates that operas can reinforce gender stereotypes in a number of different ways.
Search through the opera plots in the Metropolitan Opera’s plot summary database (see www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/history) or a similar site. Pick an opera or two from the nineteenth or early twentieth century. How are the female characters treated? Can you identify any strong female characters? Be prepared to BRIEFLY summarize the plot for the class. You should also try to find an audio or audio-visual example of a key scene for one of the female characters.
As Jennifer Post points out in her article, “Erasing the Boundaries between Public and Private in Women’s Performance Traditions,” historically, cultures have tended to separated music making into “men’s” and “women’s” spheres. Summarize how these two spheres differ–what associations do we have with each? How are they oppositional, and how do they overlap?
The music library and KSL both have translations of Hildegard of Bingen’s writing and lyrics, and some are also available online (but make sure to use a reliable source)–she was very prolific! Find examples from her writings and lyrics that illustrate the Eve/Mary relationship described in Rebecca Garber’s article; alternatively, find lyrics that present another female model that Hildegard wanted her nuns to emulate or learn from.
Post the lyrics in the “Hildegard” thread on Blackboard, and be sure to include a brief description of the lyrics (where you found them/what they are from, and how they are relevant).
Women in art music today – Living women composers
Reading: Kristin Kuster, “Taking Off My Pants,” New York Times “Opinionator” blog, 17 July 2013: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/17/taking-off-my-pants/?_r=0
Amy Beth Kirsten, “The ‘Woman Composer’ Is Dead,” Newmusicbox.org, 19 March 2012: http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/the-woman-composer-is-dead/
Listening: TBD [Class selections of music by living women composers]
4/1 – Women in Blues and Jazz – Black feminist criticism
Reading: Hazel Carby, “‘It Jus’ Be’s Dat Way Sometime’: The Sexual Politics of Women’s Blues”
Listening: Clara Smith, “Freight Train Blues”
Bessie Smith, “In House Blues”
Ma Rainey, “Sweet Rough Man”
Ethel Waters, “No Man’ Mama Now”
Ida Cox, “One Hour Mama”
Women on Broadway and in Variety Theater – Chorus Girls
Reading: Excerpt from Lisa Misejewski, Ziegfeld Girl
Listening: John Steele, “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody”
Fanny Brice, “My Man”
Eva Tanguay, “I Don’t Care”
Representations of women in Romantic operas
Reading: Catherine Clément, “Dead Women” from Opera, or the Undoing of Women
Listening: Wagner, “Liebestod” from Tristan und Isolde
Bizet, “Seguidilla” from Carmen
Puccini, “Con onor muore” from Madame Butterfly