Frederick Loewe Symposium in American Music 2013

Joan Tower, Artist in Residence
University of Redlands School of Music
October, 2013

Symposium Schedule

Thursday, October 24

2:00 Welcome

2:30 Denise Von Glahn, Opening Remarks

2:50-3:50 Women Composers, Environment, and Identity

Melissa de Graaf (University of Miami)
"Johanna Beyer's Musical Landscape: From Her Garden to the Stars"

Ultramodernist composer Johanna Beyer suffered for years from poverty and physical handicap, before falling into obscurity upon her death. Unlike her fellow ultramodernist Carl Ruggles, who embraced the rugged American frontier and mountains as symbols of the American sublime, Beyer-limited by her circumstances and by her own body-chose a metaphysical escape into the stars. In this paper I explore the ways in which gender intersected with nature and modernism in her Three Songs for Soprano and Clarinet ("Total Eclipse," "Universal-Local," "To Be") (1934) and Ballad of the Star Eater (1934).

Kate Galloway (Memorial University, Newfoundland)
"Voicing and Listening to Place, Environment, and Cultural Folklore in Kati Agócs's Elysium and Shenanigan"

Kati Agócs's works often reflect specific geographical and cultural settings, and the music and voices associated with them. That is, they compositionally "tune in" to and remember place. Elysium (2010) interweaves newly composed music alongside field recordings of elderly residents of Newfoundland fishing villages during the 1970s and 1980s that depict environmental encounter in the form of shipwrecks, while Shenanigan (2011) recontextualizes Atlantic musical soundmarks by reimagining a fiddle reel within the contemporary orchestra. This presentation addresses the ways in which both compositions embody processes of listening to, interweaving, reimagining distinct cultural and physical environments and environmental encounters.

4:00-5:30 Open Seminar Discussion on Women and the American Musical Landscape (WAT 103)

Friday, October 25

8:00 Coffee (Watchorn Lobby)

8:30-10:30 Performing Gender in America (FLPH)

Julianne Lindberg (University of Nevada, Reno),
"Musical Eclecticism and Gender Performance: ‘Perhaps, Perhaps, Quizás'"

Mexican-American vocalist Lila Downs claims no one culture, language, or musical influence. She sings in English, Spanish, Mixtec, and Mayan, and blends Mexican folk music with jazz grooves and mainstream American pop forms. Downs' cover of "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps" speaks to this liminal cultural identity. She moves effortlessly between powerful, declamatory phrases and sultry, jazz-inflected sections, obfuscating any one version of Latina femininity. Downs' performance gives voice to a diverse audience and comments on the lie of inclusivity that is so central to ideologies of American nationalism. She also offers an alternative: one that embraces the culturally (and musically) eclectic.

Matthew Valnes
"‘Not Gonna Waste My "Precious Diva Energy": Esperanza Spalding and Improvising Female Musicians"

This paper explores the role female musicians have played, and continue to play, in jazz and other African American improvisatory musical practices. While frequently marginalized in jazz history, female musicians have been integral to African American music in terms of compositional acuity, improvisational and performative virtuosity, and as consummate ensemble leaders. In this paper I take two performances from Grammy award-winning musician Esperanza Spalding's Chamber Music Society – "Wild Is the Wind" and "Winter Sun" – to examine how her compositional arrangements push the sonic boundaries of "typical" jazz performances, and how her improvisational skills complicate entrenched gendered notions of virtuosity.

Maribeth Clark (New College of Florida)
"Whistling as Women's Work in the United States 1887-1936"

From the 1880s to at least 1936 whistling was a viable career for white, middle-class, American women. They taught and performed, made recordings, and supported themselves and their families. In order to explore the rise of women's whistling, this paper focuses on the careers of Mrs. Alice J. Shaw, who achieved international fame in 1888, and Agnes Woodward, who founded the California School of Artistic Whistling in the 1900s. Their careers reflect changes in attitudes towards women in general as well as toward women musicians active in the public realm across the United States.

Marian Wilson Kimber (University of Iowa)
"‘Where no heart breaks': Sentimentality in the Accompanied Recitations of American Women"

Late nineteenth-century female elocutionists shaped the practice of "accompanied recitation," in which poems were spoken with dances, parlor songs, or hymns, played when they were mentioned in the texts. Such songs served as "sentimental keepsakes," audible symbols of grief, loss, and the fragility of human connections, topoi at the core of sentimental literature. Familiar music also recalled the domestic sphere, facilitating platform appearances by women in the male oratorical realm. Through their musical additions to elocution, women exerted creative authority outside the traditionally masculine boundaries of musical or literary creation, and centered their artistic expression in the act of performance.

Coffee and Discussion Break

11:00 On Mentorship

Rachel Lumsden, "Mentorship and "Skillful Listening" Among Women Modernist Composers"
In numerous interviews, the prolific composer Vivian Fine (1913–2000) described with great fondness how her teacher Ruth Crawford listened to her very first composition. Fine explained how Crawford "listened to the piece very carefully," emphasizing that "I could tell she was really paying attention." Far from an isolated pedagogical incident, Fine characterized the moment as a "critical experience" in her career, one that helped foster a non-hierarchical, collaborative musical relationship between the two women that eventually transcended simple mentoring. Ultimately, Crawford's careful listening reflects some of the core themes discussed by Denise Von Glahn (2013), and also illustrates the potential for women's "skillful listening" to extend beyond their own musical endeavors and to profoundly affect the careers of other women composers as well.

11:30 Denise Von Glahn (Florida State University), Keynote

1:30-2:30 Round Table with Joan Tower, Denise Von Glahn, and Panelists