(In Conference Order)
Paper Session: Music, Memory, and Forced Migration
Nadia Younan (University of Toronto, Canada)
Intersections of Collective Memory and Cultural Trauma in Assyrian Narrative Song: A Case Study on ‘The Eagle of Tkhomeh’
Genocide, persecution, and forced migration are familiar experiences for the Assyrian peoples. An ethnic and religious minority from the borderlands of Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq, the Assyrian community resides predominantly in the Global North as a result of these violent processes. Drawing from multi-sited ethnographic research in Mississauga, Ontario; San Jose, California; and Scottsdale, Arizona, this paper interrogates the polysemy of the Assyrian folk song “Ya Nishra Tkhomeh” (The Eagle of Tkhomeh), where the soaring eagle is a metaphor for refugee flight and a resilience that transcends the gravity of the Assyrians’ expulsion from their homelands. This case study aims to address a broader schema for understanding the contextual role of expressive culture in the intersections of collective memory and cultural trauma. “Ya Nishra Tkhomeh” was originally conceived as a poem in the early twentieth century by Assyrian scholar Freydun Atoraya in response to the 1915 Assyrian Genocide; the poem was set to music by Assyrian artist Gibrail Sayyad following the events of the 1933 Simele Massacre of Assyrians in Iraq. My analysis considers the continued performance of “Ya Nishra Tkhomeh” from these periods into the present at various community events, as well as the interpretations and individual feelings about the song as expressed pervasively in discourse with my interlocutors. How and why has this narrative song constituted an enduring expression of the Assyrian experience over several generations, and how does it shape the collective memory and cultural trauma of a geographically fragmented community? Making reference to certain Assyrian villages that no longer exist in contemporary cartography, “Ya Nishra Tkhomeh” also serves as a form of oral history that documents conceptualizations of home in the repertoire of collective memory (Stokes 1994; Taylor 2003) and metaphorically describes the trajectory of Assyrian refugee movement that persists to the present day.
Nadia Younan is a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of Toronto. Her dissertation on intersections of cultural trauma and collective memory in Assyrian popular music and dance expressions is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She has recently published an article on stateless nationalism and embodiment in Assyrian line dance practice in the Revue européenne des migrations internationals (2020). Nadia is also a vocalist in the Toronto-based Balkan music group Meden Glas, and in the California-based choral ensemble Assyrian Women.
Nick Poulakis (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece)
Echoes of Trauma in Cinema: Music and the Greek Film Melodrama of the Sixties
Traumatic events remain in people’s memory often aided by various cultural practices that operate as mnemonic means of storing, retaining, and subsequently retrieving information or even formulate new interpretations of past memories or impressions. Contemporary mass media have been frequently used as channels of communicating earlier traumatic experiences and their consequences through audiovisual representations that ground upon a mixture of simplistic psychocultural stereotypes and preconstructed symbolisms. The Asia Minor Catastrophe (1922) and the forced uprooting of more than 1.5 million Greek people from their homelands has been a major turning point in the history of Modern Greece, since the idea of irredentism held an essential place in Greek national imagination. This major traumatic crisis has been either straightforwardly or implicitly displayed in numerous popular films of the so-called Old Greek Cinema of the sixties. Klak Film –a B-movies production company of that era directed by Apostolos Tegopoulos– specialized in low-budget cult melodramas starring the much-loved actor and successful singer Nikos Xanthopoulos, some of which refer to the aforementioned disaster. These epic films reproduce the widespread Greek perception of cultural controversy between the East and the West, forming a hybrid musical and filmic illustration of the neighbor (Turkish/Ottoman) Other as exotic, fierce, and strange, but at the same time as familiar, accepted, and likeable. They reveal a reproduction of the Other which, on the one hand, embraces certain perspectives and aspects of the (Greek) Self and, on the other, has been shaped by conceptual generalizations and naïve representations of the past through popular/national memory of collective traumas. Being a cinematic genre where emotion is been exaggerated through the plentiful application of music, melodrama is based on the archetypal romantic narrative with prefixed characters and intentional overacting pointing towards an excess that would directly appeal to everyday audiences. Originated in current theories of nationalism, identity, otherness, and trauma, the proposed paper will analyze Klak Film’s productions with particular focus on their music as means of nationalistic filmic nostalgia that echoes previous traumatic episodes but also present-day anxieties and inconveniencies.
Nick Poulakis holds a PhD in Film Musicology from the Department of Music Studies at the University of Athens (Greece) where he serves as a staff member of the Laboratory of Ethnomusicology and Cultural Anthropology. He is also an adjunct instructor at the Hellenic Open University. He teaches ethnographic cinema and documentary, film music and applied ethnomusicology. He has been involved in various research projects on intangible cultural heritage; museums and archives; participatory documentary and video life stories; and anthropological films focusing on the performing arts. He has published two books on film music and several papers focusing on music, mass media, identity, and representation.
Heather MacLachlan (University of Dayton, US)
Music’s Role in the Persecution of Muslims in Burma/Myanmar
Profound trauma is being experienced by nearly one million Muslim refugees now living in Bangladesh; since 2012, they have been fleeing Burma/Myanmar to escape genocidal violence perpetrated against them. This presentation excavates the role that a corpus of contemporary pop songs, archived online, play in fostering that trauma. These songs are sung in Burmese and exhort listeners to “defend Buddhism” by discriminating against Muslims, who are portrayed as a different and repellent “race” of people who constitute a threat to Burmans, to Buddhism, and to the fate of the nation. I argue that the hate speech contained in the lyrics of these songs inflicts traumatic harm on Muslims still living inside Burma/Myanmar (Thompson 2012). Even more consequentially, I contend that the songs’ lyrics constitute incitement to violence, following the definition of incitement developed by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The songs and their creators are therefore complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Burma/Myanmar in recent years, and in one of the largest-scale manifestations of trauma in the world today. This presentation contributes to the conference’s themes of music and trauma in the context of displacement, violence, and systemic racism.
Dr. Heather MacLachlan is associate professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. She is the author of Burma’s Pop Music Industry: Creators, Distributors, Censors (University of Rochester Press, 2011) and Singing Out: GALA Choruses and Social Change (University of Michigan Press, 2020), as well a number of scholarly articles and book chapters. She speaks English, French and Burmese and has taught in each of these languages at various times. Dr. MacLachlan also serves as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in the Montgomery County Juvenile Court.
Paper Session: Listening to Traumatized Bodies in Medical Contexts
Erin Johnson-Williams (Durham University, UK)
Silencing ‘Savage’ Soundscapes: British Imperial Records of C-Sections in Nineteenth-Century South Africa and Uganda
Birth by c-section is often as assumed to be the quieter option for delivery. Yet the ability to be given pain medication sufficient to numb the highly invasive procedure is only relatively recent. Indeed, it is only in the twentieth century that the mother would reliably survive, and even more recently that she would experience the operation without significant, life-threatening pain. Thus, the sonic history of the c-section is a traumatically turbulent one – the operation was performed only if a woman in labour was going to die if no interventions were taken. And yet, soundscapes of c-section birth have been even less written about than the soundscapes of “natural” delivery, rendering the trauma of c-section delivery even further repressed in medical history and cultural memory.
This paper aims to address that imbalance, proposing that British imperialist forms of medical writing participated in the silencing of c-section deliveries for women in colonial contexts. According to several written account, the first successful c-section operation performed by a surgeon in the British empire was conducted by Dr James Barry (a transgender surgeon born as Miranda Barry) in South Africa c.1815–1821. The Barry narrative is that he “brought” the technology of the c-section to Africa, but existing reports from a British doctor traveling to Uganda show that Indigenous Ugandans had already been practicing c-sections themselves: in an 1884 account by Robert W. Felkin, he describes the Indigenous surgeon as lifting up a knife, and “muttering an incantation” over it before cutting into the mother, who then survived. Comparing the presence of “savage” sound in colonial medical writings to nineteenth-century European ideas about African music, I will situate the mysticism and projected western fantasies of sound about the Ugandan “incantation” within a broader framework for critiquing the idea of the “silent, sterile” western c-section.
Erin Johnson-Williams is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Music. Her research focuses on music and de/colonialism, the imperial legacies of music education, decolonisation, trauma studies, gender, and soundscapes of colonial violence. Erin’s current Leverhulme project, entitled ‘Audible Incarceration: Singing Communal Religion in Colonial Concentration Camps’, examines the role of singing, religious experience and trauma in spaces of colonial incarceration, with particular focus on the concentration camps of the Boer War in South Africa.
Erin Brooks (State University of New York at Potsdam, US)
This is a Rhythm I Have Breathed in Since That Day: Polio, Sound, and Traumatic Memory
In his narrative of a young polio victim, historian and polio survivor Daniel Wilson notes “the sense of fear was omnipresent, from parents, doctor, and the nurses who wheeled you down long corridors, past closed doors to the isolation ward.” America’s polio epidemics traumatized many; children, for example, were subjected to lengthy hospitalizations and forced family separations, situations compounded by silencing, denial, suppressed memories, and exclusion from society. Bessel Van der Kolk’s work suggests polio symptoms might intensify traumatic experiences, due to paralytic effects on the body. As polio victims aged, many began to process suppressed memories, resulting in a flood of narratives and testimonies from the 1960s through today.
Sifting through these accounts reveals how America’s midcentury polio wards reverberated with sound and music. From straining to hear the specific footsteps of a family member to clicking tongues or whistling as a signal for nurses to the rhythmic whooshing of iron lungs—or their ominous silence—hospital soundscapes provided knowledge, power, pleasure, and fear for immobilized polio sufferers. Music was present too, from omnipresent radio programs to informal music-making such as Warm Spring’s “Poliopolitan Opera Company.” Yet despite extensive scholarship on polio—particularly the race to develop the vaccine—sound’s connection to polio has received little critical attention. Building on musicologist Jenny Johnson’s work on how involuntary memories “emerge primarily through the language of sounds,” and weaving together testimonies of polio survivors, midcentury medical, psychological, and music therapy publications, media coverage and charity campaigns, and theory from trauma scholars such as Van der Kolk and Allan Young, this paper analyzes the echoes of America’s midcentury polio epidemic. Ultimately, I demonstrate how polio’s soundscapes were intimately connected with the body, medicine, childhood illness, and traumatic memory.
Erin Brooks is Assistant Professor of Musicology at the State University of New York–Potsdam. While research interests include opera, film, gender and sexuality, disability, and urban geography, her current work on trauma focuses on historical sound studies. At AMS national meetings, she co-organized a panel on trauma studies in 2017 and presented on sonic trauma in 2018; she has also shared this research at Durham University and the Royal Musical Association. In addition to forthcoming work on sonic trauma during France’s l’année terrible, Erin is currently engaged in a project on sound, trauma, and the polio epidemic and is one of the co-organizers of this conference.
Michelle Meinhart (Trinity Laban Conservatoire, UK)
Contractions, Cries, and COVID: The Traumatic Soundscapes of UK Lockdown Hospital Maternity Wards
Modern delivery and maternity wards present numerous human and technological sounds, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent global lockdown of hospitals in 2020 has variegated this soundscape. While beeps and blips of medical equipment – and certainly, the cries of babies – remain, patients and staff have largely been silenced. The barrier of face masks stifles – both literally and figuratively – personal exchange, and the anticipated joyful conversations of visiting family and friends has been absent as mothers and babies spent their first days together alone, alienated.
This paper explores how new mothers during the time of COVID have harnessed technology to mitigate and re-exert control over the traumatic soundscapes of lockdown delivery and maternity. Music streaming, messaging, and video calls have helped to ameliorate the traumas of labour and/or surgery and the experience of forced separation from family and friends, as well as to silence pervasive medical technologies and the sounds of distress of other patients in situations of shared wards. I draw upon my own experience of giving birth in a London hospital in June 2020, and after developing preeclampsia, subsequent week of feeling imprisoned within a maternity ward’s soundscape. In addition to drawing upon my observations of fellow patients, I consider accounts of lockdown maternity and birth shared in social media (from Instagram to #butnotmaternity), and the healing communities built online. Such testimonies I frame within trauma theory by Elaine Scarry and Judith Herman, and sound theory by Steven Goodman and Marie Thompson. In addition to establishing intersections of trauma and soundscapes of lockdown delivery and maternity wards, this paper proposes new ways for understanding how women’s birth experiences have been silenced – not only a silencing imposed by COVID restrictions, but also the way that women, even in shared spaces, can silence each other.
Michelle is a senior lecturer at Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London, UK and holds a Senior Fellowship of the UK Higher Education Academy. Her research focuses on sound, memory, narrative and trauma in Britain from the 19th- century to today, including the edited volume A Great Divide? Music, Britain and the First World War (Routledge 2021) and the monograph-in-progress Music, Healing, and Memory in the English Country House, 1914-1919. Her work has been published or forthcoming in the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Nineteenth-Century Music Review, the Journal of Musicological Research, and several edited collections. Her research has been funded by the US-UK Fulbright Commission, NEH, AAUW, and Music and Letters Trust. She is also the editor of NABMSA Reviews and is one of the co-organisers of this conference.
Joseph Stiefel (Pianist and Musicologist, Indiana University, US)
“Healing and Empowerment in Margaret Bonds’s Spiritual Suite for Piano”
In 1949, Langston Hughes published a Chicago Defender column promoting the earliest solo piano arrangements of spirituals by Margaret Bonds—composer, pianist, activist. About her setting of “Wade in the Water,” which later became the stirring finale of her Spiritual Suite, he wrote, “The sounds that emerged from the piano then took on the force of the whole upward march of our people through bondage, trouble, and sorrow to the light of day. I have seldom been so moved by any music in a concert hall.” Hughes heard the trauma of racial oppression, but also empowerment and healing. Scholars have written extensively about spirituals as a coping mechanism during slavery, the centrality of spirituals to the psychological formation of African Americans, and the incorporation of spirituals in art music. However, the healing power of concertized spirituals for composers, performers, and listeners remains less explored.
I will demonstrate in a 1-hour lecture recital that Bonds’s Spiritual Suite played significant roles of empowerment and healing from the personal trauma she faced working in the overwhelmingly white, patriarchal field of classical music, and the cultural trauma she inherited as an African American. Drawing on Jeffrey Alexander’s understanding of cultural trauma, Laura Brown’s concept of insidious trauma, and Judith Herman’s theories of recovery, I analyze biographical information and Bonds’s music to elucidate its healing and empowering qualities. I place Bonds’s work in the context of other spiritual settings by Florence Price and H.T. Burleigh and writings on spirituals by Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, and Howard Thurman. Addressing and performing Bonds’s music in this light will foster greater appreciation of Bonds because many of her works (including two movements from the Spiritual Suite) remain unpublished and unknown, especially by white audiences.
Joseph Stiefel is pursuing an MA in Musicology and MM in Piano Performance at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music where he has served as an Associate Instructor of both piano and music theory. An interest in piano music by African American composers has led him to pursue research and performance projects on the life and work of composer Margaret Bonds, which he presented at the Spring 2020 IU Musicology Colloquium Series. This year he is organizing a virtual concert series of piano music by composers of the African Diaspora sponsored by the IU Arts and Humanities Council.
Paper Session: Theatrical Representations of Trauma
Michael Ka-Chi Cheuk (The Open University Hong Kong)
Escaping through Sound: Gao Xingjian’s Absolute Signal
Before becoming the first Chinese-language writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, Gao Xingjian was known as the godfather of Chinese avant-garde theatre in the 1980s (Ferrari 2012). Writing for a mainland Chinese audience that had just survived the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-76), also known as “Ten Years of Chaos,” Gao’s Absolute Signal (1981) introduced then-groundbreaking lighting, sound, set, and acting techniques to convey a marked difference between the play’s naturalist scenes and non-realist scenes. The play’s portrayal of post-Cultural Revolution life in a familiar, but also unfamiliar way, paved way for its critical and popular acclaim (Łabędzka 2008).
As sound in theatre is mostly used to provoke emotional responses or create mood in an indirect way, it is usually examined in conjunction with other aspects of the theatre production. The recognition of the autonomy of sound, however, according to Mladen Ovadija (2013), is “a part of the weaponry in the struggle of the historical avant-garde against the closure of representation of the dramatic text.” Sound, then, becomes a potential site for detachment from the domination of meaning from the text, the director, and the playwright.
Following Gao Xingjian’s suggestion that the “rhythm of the sound” is the play’s “sixth character” (1981), I consider sound as an independent entity that is marginal yet significant to the narrative of Absolute Signal. The boundaries of real and non-real are blurred by the use of sound, and I examine how sound serves as an autonomous space of reflection about the traumatic impact of the Cultural Revolution towards its survivors, which span from those who were born during the Cultural Revolution to those who were influenced by the “revolution in education” policy during their formative years (“the lost generation”) (Bonnin 2006).
Michael Ka-chi Cheuk is Lecturer in English and Comparative Literature at The Open University of Hong Kong. He recently completed a PhD on Gao Xingjian’s pre-Nobel plays and censorship at SOAS University of London. He is now leading a Hong Kong Research Grant Council-funded project on Gao Xingjian’s post-Nobel works. Michael also teaches and writes about popular culture (especially Chinese hip hop).
Allison Bernard (Yale University, US)
“Flowers in the Rear Courtyard”: Singing the Tune of a Falling Dynasty
In 1645, the Chinese general Shi Kefa faced an existential crisis: how could he face historical judgement having failed his duties as a Ming dynasty (1368-1644) officer? Unable to reconcile himself to life as a defeated official, Shi Kefa removes his uniform, jumps into a river, and commits suicide. This, at least, is how Shi’s death is portrayed in The Peach Blossom Fan (1699), an early Qing dynasty (1644-1912) historical drama by playwright-historian Kong Shangren. In tracing the traumatic collapse of the Ming dynasty, The Peach Blossom Fan foregrounds the human tragedies of its age against a tableau of political crisis, uniting “facts” of official history to the illusory realm of theater and performance. Like all traditional Chinese dramas, Kong’s play is an opera, in which music features prominently as a catalyst for narrative action. Especially significant is a scene leading up to Shi Kefa’s suicide, in which he sings an aria to the tune of “Flowers in the Rear Courtyard”: a tune that becomes synonymous with the sounds of a falling dynasty.
Examining the use of “Flowers in the Rear Courtyard” in and beyond The Peach Blossom Fan, I demonstrate how this tune becomes a leitmotif for the breakdown of social and political institutions, particularly at moments of bureaucratic upheaval and historical trauma. Indeed, Fan’s playwright Kong Shangren operated in a Confucian philosophical context that equated dissonant music with an unstable society and cosmos; thus, achieving social harmony required harmonious music. By analyzing the recurring use of this tune in and beyond Fan — including its connection to an unsuccessful attempt to restore the falling Ming, disregard for social etiquette, and the demise of personal relationships — I reveal the broader functions of musical sound to reflect and create patterns of order and disorder in Chinese drama.
Allison Bernard (PhD) is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Council on East Asian Studies at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University. She is a scholar of early modern Chinese literature, whose work focuses on drama, print and theatrical culture, and intersections between literature and history. She is currently working on a book project that explores the use of meta-theater as historiography in and around Kong Shangren’s Peach Blossom Fan. Allison received her PhD from Columbia University’s department of East Asian Languages and Cultures (2019), and has previously taught at Wesleyan University. https://ceas.yale.edu/people/allison-bernard
Jeremy Lowenthal (University of Iowa, US)
Air Drama: Traumatic Sound Effects in the Beckettian Skullscape
In “Disappearing History: Scenes of Trauma in the Theater of Human Rights,” one essay from Cathy Caruth’s 2013 monograph Literature in the Ashes of History, Caruth analyzes the dramatic and metaphoric function of the tape recorder vis-à-vis the representation of personal and collective trauma in Ariel Dorfman’s 1990 play Death and the Maiden. In Caruth’s judgement, Dorfman’s tape recorder operates as a sound archive from which history appears and disappears in a dramatic feedback loop that gradually enables the “performance of a new kind of listening” to the traumatic past. For Dorfman’s protagonist, Paulina, this manifests as a new way of listening to the music once played by her torturer, Roberto, during her abuse and rape: Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D Minor, known as Death and the Maiden. Though unrecognized in Caruth’s analysis, Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden intertextually roots itself in Samuel Beckett’s famous radio play All That Fall (1957), which opens with Schubert’s quartet and foregrounds tape recording technology in its pioneering use of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s new tape-based radiophonic sound effects. In Embers and Krapp’s Last Tape too, Beckett places new sound recording technologies centerstage in an effort to connect them materially and metaphorically to the innerworkings of the traumatized mind. My essay will trace this history to evince the function that tape recording has performed as a medium and metaphor for the representation and theorization of trauma since the close of the Second World War. Close readings of and listenings to Beckett’s All That Fall will support my claim that twentieth-century acoustic and broadcast technologies have played a significant role in shaping aesthetic representations of, and, by extension, humanist discourses on trauma, including Caruth’s most recent monograph.
Jeremy Lowenthal’s Bio: I am an English Ph.D. candidate at the University of Iowa, where I research and teach at the intersections of sound, media, and trauma studies. In addition to teaching a UIowa Resilience and Trauma-informed Perspectives certified course entitled “Literature in the Aftermath of Catastrophe,” I am writing a dissertation on the ways that writers for the BBC Third Programme deployed the broadcast word in tandem with new radiophonic techniques to represent trauma on the air following World War Two. Much of my research on this topic is forthcoming in Modernism/modernity.
Paper Session: Trauma, Time, Embodiment, Performance
Hila Tamir Ostrover (Tel-Aviv University, Israel)
The Embodiment of Trauma in Chaya Czernowin’s Pnima… ins Innere
In this paper, I trace the embodiment of trauma in the performance gestures of Chaya Czernowin’s Pnima… ins Innere, by relying on a combination of research in embodied cognition and documented somatic reactions of PTSD. Czernowin’s critically acclaimed opera Pnima… ins Innere (Pnima, henceforth) deals with the trauma of the holocaust from the perspective of the ‘second generation’: the children of the survivors. It contains no spoken words, only fragmented utterances, and while there are two actors on the stage, they do not speak or sing. Instead, each character is represented musically by a battery of voices and instruments, so as to capture the polyphonic internal reality of the characters, according to Czernowin. Indications of Pnima’s extreme emotional profile can be found among audience comments, critical reviews and academic papers. It has been described as a “physical fabric of emotion” (Czernowin, 2006); said to be full of “emotional undertows” (Schleusener, 2000); and portrayed as “strong empathic resonances of experience: trauma transformed into sound” (Hiekel, 2010). I argue that the musical material in Pnima often enacts common physical reactions to trauma, and that by doing so it may trigger an empathic response in the performers and audience. I then translate these ideas to analyzing the dynamics between the dramatis personae and their musical expression, showing how Pnima is not only an opera about trauma, but about the possibility of empathically sensing the trauma of the other.
Hila Tamir Ostrover is a music theorist and a composer. She obtained her Ph.D. from New York University in January 2020. Her research focuses on embodied music cognition, cross-modal correspondences of sound with vision and motion, and the analysis of 20th and 21st centuries concert music. Starting October 2020, she will be a postdoctoral fellow at Tel-Aviv University, where she will lead the music cognition aspect of an interdisciplinary project involving machine learning, music and motion.
Alisha Stranges (University of Toronto, Canada)
Dancing with Rupture: Respite, Transcendence, and the Art of Improvised Rhythm Tap in the Aftermath of Psychic Trauma
Psychic trauma is, fundamentally, a temporal problem. The traumatic moment inflicts a brutal blow on the psyche that occurs too suddenly to prepare an effective defense. In an always futile effort to overcome profound unreadiness, the survivor repeatedly returns to the site of injury and, consequently, falls “out of sync” with linear time. This “traumatic return” can be painful, particularly in a capitalist culture, where any digression from forward-momentum is aberrant. But what if this traumatic return could be a radically disruptive gift? What if the trauma survivor could cultivate a space that embraces time’s perpetual slippage? I propose that when resolution of the traumatic return seems unfeasible, the trauma survivor can seek spaces of respite, finding temporary rather than absolute relief from suffering. I argue that the practice of solo, improvised, rhythm tap dance offers one model for engineering such spaces, because the body learns how to refunction the unsettling nature of traumatic temporality. My research draws on my own lived experience as a trauma survivor and rhythm tap improvisor, findings from practice-based research with professional rhythm tap dancers, and scholarship in psychoanalysis, music improvisation studies, queer theory, and time perception. Given that performance possesses an inherently deviant relationship to time, I contend that, in the aftermath of catastrophe, one can utilize performance to transcend ongoing tensions to comply with “straight” time or to submit to its “queer” counterpart. Through an exploration of the transcendent states that improvisation may produce (“flow,” altered consciousness), I consider how music and rhythm tap improvisation permit linear time to distort in ways that feel good. Ultimately, I introduce to the canon of trauma-informed therapy a different way of understanding traumatic recovery, encouraging trauma survivors to embrace life on the margins of linear time.
Alisha Stranges received her master’s in Women & Gender Studies from the University of Toronto, with a collaborative specialization in Sexual Diversity Studies. Her master’s research project examines the therapeutic resonances of improvised rhythm tap dance for survivors of psychological trauma. Alisha is also a graduate of the Humber College Theatre Performance program. As a queer woman, theatre creator, dancer, and performer, Alisha spent a decade devising original plays within Toronto’s independent theatre community. Most recently, Alisha launched the anti-Archive Project, a digital collection of animated videos that preserve the history of the Qu(e)erying Religion Program at the University of Toronto.
Nicolette Van den Bogerd (Indiana University, US)
Holocaust Trauma and Israeli Identity: The Case of Alexandre Tansman’s Isaïe le prophète
In 1949, three years after returning to France from temporary exile in the United States to avoid Nazi persecution, Polish-Jewish émigré composer Alexandre Tansman began working on his oratorio Isaïe le prophète. The piece features a narrative built on selections from the Old Testament’s Book of Isaiah. Tansman translated these biblical excerpts himself, constructing a messianic tale he described as going “from anguish to joy, through prayer.” In a 1985 interview with Radio France Tansman acknowledged that the piece functions as a monument in memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Moments later in the same interview, he states that the piece also serves as a “salute to the State of Israel.” This nation was founded in 1948, just two years before Tansman completed the oratorio. That Tansman wrote the piece to simultaneously commemorate two events suggests that he believed that there was a connection between these moments in Jewish history. Early postwar Holocaust commemoration practices, in fact, demonstrate that Holocaust trauma is closely related to early efforts in building an Israeli national identity. But precisely how does Tansman’s piece function in this context?
Using Idith Zertal’s framework of the Israeli nation as a “trauma community,” I demonstrate that Tansman derives Isaïe le prophète’s narrative from similar principles that informed early postwar thinking about relationships between Holocaust trauma and Israeli nationalism. Tansman participates in this conversation with musical expressions that frame the emotional journey he envisioned with the text, rendering this piece a musical offering to the plight of a traumatized Jewish nation in search of an identity. By closely examining Tansman’s interviews, published writings, and archival documents—some of which have not previously been consulted—I show how music illuminates national and social discourses about Holocaust trauma and Jewish identity in the early postwar period.
Nicolette van den Bogerd is a PhD candidate in musicology at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Her research centers on how composers have used music to cope with Holocaust grief and trauma. Much of her work is interdisciplinary, engaging in the areas of trauma studies, memory studies, Jewish studies, and music and politics, with a special focus on twentieth century Poland and France. Nicolette has presented at conferences in Europe and the United States, and she currently serves on the board of the Jewish Studies and Music group at the American Musicological Society.
Paper Session: Transformative Spaces: Thinking through Trauma in Classrooms
Jillian Rogers (Indiana University, US)
“There’s Always Time to Talk About Feelings”: Taking a Trauma-Informed Approach to Musicological Teaching & Training
The COVID-19 pandemic, the racial injustices constantly appearing in US news cycles, and the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the current US administration have created increasingly difficult environments for university students in the United States. Many students in US classrooms are coping with traumatic events as well as microaggressions based in racism, sexism, ableism, US exceptionalism, and transphobia—all of which have been fomented through US policy. In recent years, trauma-informed teaching has become a significant methodology in social work education, developed to attend to students who encounter triggering materials. In addition, scholars such as bell hooks and Cornel West have argued the importance of vulnerability in response to student’s difficult experiences. Despite these calls for a more care-centered pedagogical approach that acknowledges students’ feelings, musicologists have not yet theorized how music history classrooms—whether in person or online—might offer spaces for not only supporting students, but also for teaching students how to support each other and those in their communities.
In this paper, I explore trauma-informed teaching in the contexts of music history and musicology pedagogy. Drawing on theorizations of trauma-informed teaching alongside considerations from disability studies, I offer practical advice on bringing this pedagogy into music history classrooms. Utilizing interviews with students who have taken trauma-centered music history courses, I address the benefits, challenges, and pitfalls of trauma-informed music history pedagogies. This paper demonstrates that music history—a subject that has long had affective experience at its core—taught in this manner proffers transformative pedagogies of compassion founded on practicing reflection and dialogue about inequality and difficult life experiences throughout history and in the contemporary world. My hope is that through teaching students in ways that acknowledge their feelings, students and teachers increase their emotional intelligence, while also developing their own care-centered and trauma-informed pedagogical approaches.
Dr. Jillian Rogers is Assistant Professor of Musicology at Indiana University. Jill’s research centers on music and sound as embodied phenomena, and, in particular, on relationships between music/ sound and how people have historically experienced and coped with trauma. Her interests in French modernism, affect and psychoanalytic theory, sound studies, and trauma and performance studies coalesce in her current book project, Resonant Recoveries: Music and Trauma Between the Wars (OUP 2021). In addition to currently co-editing special issues of Nineteenth-Century Music Review and Journal of Musicology, Jill is a founding researcher for the Sonic Histories of Cork City Project and a co-organizer of this conference.
Marcie Ray (Michigan State University, US)
Centering Survivors in a Feminist Trauma-Informed Musicology Classroom
As many scholars have observed: teaching trauma is not the same as a trauma-informed pedagogy. In this talk, I outline a feminist trauma-informed framework that seeks to provide various ways to engage with difficult material, invites a critical consciousness with respect to oppressive structures, and encourages students to connect to their broader community. To scaffold discussions, I use Bonnie Burstow’s work to posit that a traumatized worldview is not distorted, but rather one that might offer a new way to think about survivors, their strategies to avoid harm, their struggles to achieve credibility, and their resilience. My students engage with these issues in a number of ways. First, we make social, cultural, political, and historical structures visible. In listening journals on a variety of genres from eighteenth-century cantatas to current popular music, we examine the tension between words that describe violence and accompanying music that amplifies, evades, obscures, or makes the words seem ironic and vice versa. We ponder why music might direct our attention to or away from violence to illuminate what systems or institutions it supports and what material consequences can follow. Next, I invite students to center survivors as we watch several versions of operatic scenes that stage traumatic encounters. I encourage students to examine how these characters respond to danger to consider the potential constraints and costs of fight, flight, freeze, and appeasement. Finally, students must create a community engagement project. They have, for instance, curated concerts in support of survivors of gender-based violence, grappling with the challenge of selecting repertoire that does not reinscribe women’s victimization and sexual shame. Ultimately, with such assignments, we center trauma and survivors to bear witness to traumatic experiences, to critique constraints, systems, and institutions, and to take collective action in response.
Marcie Ray is an Associate Professor of Musicology at Michigan State University. She is the author of Coquettes, Wives, and Widows: Gender Politics in French Baroque Opera and Theater (University of Rochester Press, 2020), which illustrates how composers and librettists transformed and diminished early feminist literary characters when they adapted them for the French Baroque stage. Other work appears in American Music, Early Music, and Engaging Students: Essays in Music Pedagogy.
Panel: “Better Be Good to Me”: Narratives of Domestic Violence in American Popular Song
The hashtag movements #BelieveWomen, #MeToo, and #BlackLivesMatter have given rise to a new era of retroactive truth-telling among women and marginalized groups who have experienced violence in the domestic sphere. From the dawn of the blues to the electro-pop of the 1980s, popular song tells American stories of violence in the kitchen, in the bedroom, and on the front porch with raw sadness and anger, creating a space for the untellable to be told, and the unbelievable to be believed. Through the lens of trauma theory and memoir studies, this collection of essays examines how the medium of American popular music, across multiple genres, has served as a conduit for communication between women, trans folx, and non-binary individuals in violent and threatening, but mostly private, circumstances. Like pages out of well-hidden diaries, songs about violence are mini-memoirs that relate the need to survive but the desire to give up; the desire to run but the need to care-take.
The authors on this panel—also contributors to a forthcoming collection of articles on the same topic—focus on artists’ shifts in style and method of creative work during and after their escape/release/recovery from violence. Their work represents an array of interdisciplinary approaches from the fields of Philosophy, Ethnomusicology, Musicology, and Music Theory, and their contributions here include explorations of songs by Aimee Mann, Bikini Kill, Alanis Morissette, and Sera Cahoone, among others. We also consider when, why, and how women and marginalized Others can be believed when they have been gaslighted and beaten down both mentally and physically, and the ways in which American popular music continues to mirror the cultural climate of gender equality.
Panel moderator Stephanie Jensen-Moulton is Tow Associate Professor of Musicology and American Studies at Brooklyn College, CUNY, where she is also Director of the Hitchcock Institute for Studies in American Music. Her edition of Miriam Gideon’s 1958 Opera Fortunato was published with A-R in 2013, and she is co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability (2016). Her writing on Music and Disability appears in American Music, Music Theory Online, the Journal of the American Musicological Society, and American Music Review.
Samantha Bassler, (New York University, US)
“Reasons I Drink”: Alanis Morissette, Trauma, and Being an Angry Woman
Alanis Morissette is something of a legend for many millennial women and, perhaps especially, those of Generation X. Bonnie Dow and Julia Wood name Alanis alongside three other “Gen X poster girls”: Courtney Love, Winona Ryder, and Janeane Garofalo. Now, because of the 2018 premiere of the Jagged Little Pill Broadway musical (with a book by writer Diablo Cody), younger generations are inspired by and relating to her songs. The album-inspired show deals with, among other subjects, women’s position in society, relationships, empowerment, agency, pain, trauma, and anger. Throughout Alanis’s career, which spans over thirty years and seven albums, Alanis has often been a voice for women, particularly of a certain socioeconomic status and racial identity. For many, Alanis’s music helped define gender and what being a “woman” could signify. Beyond cis women, since the debut of her musical, Alanis has gained traction as a queer icon, with lines like “perverted like me” from her hit song “You Oughtta Know” resonating with many queer people.
In this paper, I investigate several songs in Alanis’s catalog (“You Oughta Know”, “That I Would Be Good”, “Reasons I Drink”, “Diagnosis”, “Uninvited”, “Guardian”, “Citizen of the Planet”, “Precious Illusions”), drawing attention to Alanis’s influence on women, her relationship to both third and fourth wave feminisms, and women’s socioeconomic and racial statuses. I argue that through all of this, a woman’s experience of trauma–and her changing response to it–is vital. In particular, I focus on Alanis’s evolving response to trauma and abuse, as evidenced on her first major album, Jagged Little Pill through her most-recent release, Such Pretty Forks in the Road.
Samantha Bassler is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music at New York University. Her research interests are in music, disability, theatre, and gender in early modern England, and the reception history of early English music during the long eighteenth century. With Katherine Butler, Samantha co-edited Music, Myth, and Story in Medieval and Early Modern Culture (Boydell & Brewer, 2019), which also contains her most recent essay on music, disability, and gender on the early-modern stage. Samantha also owns and teaches private music lessons at Stellar Music Space in Brooklyn, NYC, and is the organist and music director at the Holy Lutheran Church of Flatbush in Brooklyn.
Anna Gotlib (Brooklyn College, City University of New York, US)
The Smile of Claudia Gator: Magnolia, Aimee Mann, and Forgiveness
In Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 film “Magnolia,” references to Exodus 8:2 (“And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite your whole territory with frogs”) abound. Apart from the scene where said frogs actually fall from the sky, I suggest that the targets of the verse are not the characters themselves, but their—and, indeed, our–cruelties, fear, weaknesses, and shame, born of abuse, neglect, unspoken truths, and subsequent traumas. Providing the score for the film’s focus on childhood traumas and their lifelong consequences, American musician Aimee Mann occupies the unusual position of also creating some of “Magnolia”’s more significant characters in the form of musical commentary. I will focus on two of her songs that I take to be central to the film’s moral and psychological narratives: “Save me” (a desperate plea for salvation from one’s own trauma-born brokenness) and “Wise up” (a resigned take on the impossibility of said salvation, and a glimpse of possibly moving forward). Taking the film’s emplotment and Mann’s accompanying score, this paper raises, and attempts to address, the following questions: Given the depth and the prevalence of childhood abuse and neglect, and the traumas of adult-self-destruction that follow, do we continue to reach out to each other for salvation in an act of what Viktor Frankl called “tragic optimism,” or do we simply resign to remain as we are, traumatized, alone, broken? And even if it is impossible to “heal” from our traumas, are we eternally caught in the event horizon of our own brokenness, convinced that we are neither capable nor deserving of forgiveness, of compassion, indeed of love? This paper critically examines the contribution of Mann’s music to this discourse, and suggests that perhaps somewhere within our traumas there lies a small, tentative flicker of hope.
Anna Gotlib is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Brooklyn College CUNY, specializing in feminist bioethics/medical ethics, moral psychology, and philosophy of law. She received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Michigan State University, and a J.D. from Cornell Law School. Anna co-edits the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics. Her work appeared in The Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Journal of Medical Humanities, Hypatia, and other journals. She also edited two volumes on moral psychology for Rowman and Littlefield International. In January 2020, Anna was a Fulbright Specialist Scholar at the University of Iceland.
Elizabeth K. Keenan (Columbia University, US)
“Daddy’s L’il Girl”: Riot Grrrl and Childhood Sexual Abuse
In the early 1990s, the punk rock feminist movement riot grrrl emerged as one of the formative elements of third wave feminism, through bands such as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Heavens to Betsy. The movement’s brash music and self-published zines covered wide-ranging topics, from abortion rights to ensuring girls had their own space at punk rock shows, and its emphasis on the “grrrl” translated into a focus on issues that emerged in childhood, including domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse. The movement framed childhood abuse as something that should be spoken (and even shouted) about, rather than hidden as a source of shame. Nowhere was this more salient than in the music of Bikini Kill, whose lead singer Kathleen Hanna alluded to childhood sexual abuse in songs such as “Daddy’s L’il Girl” and “Suck My Left One,” and, at live shows, performed spoken-word pieces about childhood abuse. This paper focuses on the relationships between Bikini Kill’s music and its young fans, and between the band and mainstream rock journalists. While Bikini Kill fans often wrote in self-published zines about their connection to the band’s music as a means of processing their own trauma, rock journalists often dismissed the riot grrrl movement’s focus on childhood sexual abuse as either an overblown issue or, worse, a type of hysteria for middle-class white girls. Finally, this paper places a special focus on the ways that media reacted to Hanna herself, as a stand-in for all survivors and as a performer. Through a combination of archival research and song analysis, I will argue that riot grrrl’s emphasis on childhood sexual abuse created a space for survivors to express a full range of reactions, even within a larger culture that sought to dismiss them.
Elizabeth K. Keenan earned her doctorate in ethnomusicology at Columbia University, and is currently writing a book on popular music and feminism since 1990. She has published articles in Oxford Handbooks Online, Women and Music, Journal of Popular Music Studies, Archivaria, and Current Musicology, and has a forthcoming chapter on riot grrrl in The Oxford Handbook of Punk Rock. In addition to her academic writing, Rebel Girls, her first young adult novel, was published on the HarperCollins imprint Inkyard Press in 2019.
Lauron Kehrer (Western Michigan University, US)
See Me Now: Awareness and Advocacy Around Domestic Violence in LGBTQ+ Relationships Through Pop Music
Representations of domestic violence in popular media and in research and treatment protocols remain largely heteronormative. Yet, according to the CDC, self-identified lesbian, gay, and bisexual people experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking at equal or higher rates than heterosexuals (Walters et al. 2013). Most scholarship has focused on heterosexual male offenders and heterosexual female victims which excludes not only female on male violence but also violence between people of the same gender, transgender and non-binary people, and myriad other non-heterosexual relationship configurations. Further, while some LGBT centers nationally offer support to survivors, there are only a few organizations dedicated specifically to providing resources for survivors or perpetrators of domestic abuse within LGBTQ+ communities, whose experiences are compounded by homo- and transphobia.
Pop songs can play a part in increasing awareness, advocacy, and representation around LGBTQ+ intimate partner violence. In this paper, I look at three recent songs by LGBTQ+ artists that address intimate partner violence in same-gender relationships: Tom Goss’ “La Bufadora” (2019); Lenny Gerard’s “Feel Me Now” (2017); and Sera Cahoone’s “Ladybug” (2017). These songs and/or their accompanying music videos challenge assumptions about domestic violence as only a heterosexual issue and present fictional or real cases within LGBTQ+ contexts. The artists not only raise awareness about how domestic violence effects these communities, but in some cases also use their platform to direct survivors to resources or to direct resources (proceeds) to organizations providing support specifically to LGBTQ+ survivors. Nevertheless, wrapping stories about domestic violence in, for example, an EDM package (Gerard’s song) has its limits – musical stylistic choices can contradict or even undermine the messaging of a song, especially when visual images are not present. This paper considers both the possibilities and the limits of advocacy through these three songs.
Dr. Lauron Kehrer is Assistant Professor of Ethno/Musicology in the School of Music at Western Michigan University. Her research focuses on the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality in American popular music, especially hip-hop. She has published articles on queer identity and women’s music, Macklemore, and Beyoncé in the journals American Music, the Journal of the Society for American Music, and Popular Music and Society, respectively. Her current book project, Queer Voices in Hip-Hop: Cultures, Communities, and Contemporary Performance (under contract with the University of Michigan Press, Tracking Pop series) examines the work of queer and trans artists in hip-hop.
Paper Session: Expressing Trauma through Ritual and Spirituality
Napakadol Kittisenee (University of Wisconsin-Madison, US)
Buddhist Ode to National Liberation: Liturgy of Wars and Atrocities
Buddhist mantra recital and songs soothe the living and the dying (Walker 2018) from individual suffering. This paper seeks to identify the more collective Buddhist liturgy as an under-recognized genre. By examining Buddhist odes in the wake of wars and atrocities presented in Cambodia, Laos, Central and Northern Thailand (Lanna), I argue that this liturgical practice commonly evokes socio-political temporality with the reference to anecdotal Buddhist texts and commentaries which in turn creates historical actuality. Inspired by Ly (2019)’s framework on the site/sight of trauma emerging from Cambodian visual culture, this paper therefore thrives to capitalize the nuances that Buddhist odes generates for collective healing. Besides presenting the research, I also aim at demonstrating these melodies of liberation.
Napakadol Kittisenee is a Thai anthropologist and a historian of Theravada Buddhism. He has conducted extensive field research in Cambodia, India, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. After a decade-long engagement with Dhammayietra, the peace walk in the spirit of late Maha Ghosananda, Napakadol is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Martin Greve (Orient-Institute Istanbul, Turkey)
Musical Expression within the Traumatized Society of Dersim (Central Eastern Anatolia)
This paper deals with both traditional and contemporary ways of musical expression in the area of Dersim / Tunceli (central-eastern Turkey) together with theoretical reflection on the research. The recent history of Dersim witch is mainly inhabited by ethnic and religious minorities, is a sequence of terror, including the genocide on Armenians in 1915, massacres committed by the Turkish army in 1937/38, forced exile of thousands of people to western Anatolia (1938-1947) and the destruction of villages as part of the war against the Kurdish PKK in the 1990s. Assimilation politics of the Turkish state suppressed the local languages Zaza and Kurdish, and until today its traditional religion of Alevism is not officially recognized. Numerous inhabitants of Dersim preferred to migrate to Europe.
Until the mid-twentieth century, feelings of pain where dealt with mainly by two traditions. On the one hand the regional religion of Alevism, in particular the ceremony of cem offered ’therapeutic’ help. Collective crying and shading tears during some of the songs was widely expected. On the other hand, the popular tradition of laments relieved survivors. However, both traditions almost disappeared meanwhile.
Field research in Dersim and among its diaspora faces a highly traumatized society, which rises a number of theoretical and methodological questions: In Dersim the concept of itinerant dervishes together with budela (mad / enlighted men) questions Western concepts of psychical normality and disease. Jeffrey Alexanders (2012) theory of Social trauma might be helpful. How, accordingly, is the social trauma constructed in the case of Dersim?
Recently a highly creative revival movement of (imagined) pre-1938 music took place. Here, recent theories of post-traumatic growth might be taken into account. However, also questions of trans-generational transmission of trauma need to be discussed.
Finally, consequences for applied research together with ethic reflections will should be discussed, including possible ways of cooperation between ethnomusicologists and psychologists.
Martin Greve is a German ethnomusicologist with a focus on music in Turkey. From 2005 – 2011 he directed the study program of Turkish music at the Rotterdam World Music Academy. From 2011 – 2018, Martin Greve was a research fellow at the Orient-Institut Istanbul. In 2017 he published the monograph „Makamsiz. Individualization of Traditional Music on the Eve of Kemalist Turkey“. His latest book “Yeni Dersim Soundunun Oluşumu: Anlatılamazı İfade Etmek” (Expressing the Unspeakable: The Emergence of the New Sound of Dersim), co-authored with Özay Şahin, was published in 2019. Since 2020 he is conducting the research project entitled ”Migration, Memory and Musical Expression. Musical Traditions from Central Western Anatolia in Turkey, Berlin, and Paris.”
Panel: Listening to Gendered Trauma after World War II
This panel examines female labor and representation in musical responses to the cultural traumas of World War II in Europe and North America. In nations involved in this global conflict, remembrance of World War II—which includes a vast network of remembrance rituals, Holocaust memorials, war monuments, museums, and military cemeteries—has been hypermasculine, both in terms of the victims commemorated, and those involved in memorial events. Recent interdisciplinary scholarship has sought to reassess this balance, particularly revealing how female experiences of the war and its aftermath can shed new light on cultural trauma. We contribute to this dialogue by focusing on female lamenters, as both performers and as a recurring historical trope, in musical representations of trauma. Women are prominent in the history of laments, from the bitter weeping of city goddesses recorded in the Lament for Sumer and Urim (2000 BCE) to improvised voceri in twentieth-century Corsica. The assignation of this “work of pain” (Magrini 1998) to women raises key questions about the subjects as diverse as the gendered labour of mourning, difficulties in listening to women’s stories of trauma, and the role of emotion and the body in producing narratives of personal and communal trauma. The papers on this panel demonstrate how female laments became musical palimpsests for cultural traumas after World War II. Ariana Phillips-Hutton lays out a conceptual framework for understanding how lament tropes have become a recognizable sonic marker of trauma in the West. Two papers by Martha Sprigge and Abby Anderton then explore how this framework was repurposed within the unique cultural context of the German Democratic Republic. Laments were a frame for making trauma recognizable and audible for survivors and earwitnesses alike, but also a means of forgetting and selective remembrance. This panel thus offers both theoretical and historically-grounded approaches to analyzing gendered forms of traumatic expression.
Ariana Phillips-Hutton (University of Cambridge, UK)
Howling Girls: Trauma, Gender, and Sound in Contemporary Laments
From the plangent tones of Ariadne’s ‘Lasciateme morire’ in Monteverdi’s L’Arianna (1608) or Dido’s ‘When I am laid’ in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (1680s) to Lucretia and the female chorus in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia (1946), portrayals of women in Western art music (and especially opera) have often featured laments. Within this frame, these betrayed or abandoned women employ a range of musical techniques in their often devastatingly articulate soundings of personal and collective trauma. Their virtuosic story-telling conveys the heightened emotions of trauma; yet outside the aesthetic boundaries of opera, the sonic character of traumatic experience is more likely to be characterized by silence and inchoate or fragmented sounds than by coherent speech or aesthetically elevated song. Considering this dichotomy prompts the question: what happens when these more true-to-life sounds of trauma invade the realm of art music?
In this paper I assess the relationship between trauma and incoherent or non-verbal vocal expression by examining how post-World War II musical works reimagine traumatic experience through foregrounding and distorting the sounds of female voices. Drawing on the work of Nina Eidsheim and Judith Butler, I propose that post-World War II representations of trauma and the lamenting woman within Western art music cast new light on the perception of the audibly traumatised voice as signifying an equally traumatised subjectivity. Furthermore, in focusing on the sonic, material, and affective character of the voice, composers draw on long-standing tropes connecting women with the body and emotion as well as echoing gendered stereotypes of emotional labour. In the face of trauma—an experience frequently framed as ‘unspeakable’—contemporary music which presents the figure of the female survivor as affectively powerful, yet inarticulate, reinforces the position of the female voice as non-rational vehicle for individual and collective trauma in the twentieth century and beyond.
Ariana Phillips-Hutton is an Affiliated Lecturer in Music at the University of Cambridge. Her research centres on the philosophy, performance, and politics of contemporary music, with particular interests in violence, conflict transformation, and musical ethics. Recent publications include journal articles in Twentieth-Century Music, Popular Music, and the Journal of the British Academy. She is also the author of Music Transforming Conflict (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020) and Associate Editor for the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Western Music and Philosophy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021).
Martha Sprigge (University of California, Santa Barbara, US)
Gendered Lamentations and Cultural Trauma in the German Democratic Republic
In the German Democratic Republic (GDR), narratives of World War II were controlled by the ruling Socialist Unity Party. Official commemorative culture celebrated selective political heroes, seemingly leaving no public space for mourning the atrocities of the Holocaust or the shame of national defeat. Yet by adapting historical memorial frameworks, many composers of East German commemorative music opened up sonic avenues for citizens to process their responses to personal and cultural traumas after World War II.
This paper examines one such musical template: the female lamenter. On the surface, East Germany’s public commemorative culture was highly masculinized, breaking from a historical, cross-cultural lineage that ascribes the labor of mourning to women. But female lamenters were a recurring trope in commemorative music, and used for both affective and political work. To demonstrate I trace the interlocking manifestations of the lament in Children’s Mass: In Memory of Children Murdered in the Third Reich (1974), for which Tilo Medek wrote the music and his wife Dorothea prepared the text.
The Medeks juxtaposed ancient and contemporary texts of Jewish mothers in mourning in an effort to personally comprehend the Holocaust as non-Jewish German citizens born during World War II. When premiered in East Germany their work became imbricated in a public memory culture that distorted the Nazi past. The lament genre was a means to challenge this narrative and make audiences bear witness to Jewish trauma and suffering. In later West German performances, this work became a means of critiquing Holocaust remembrance culture and confronting German guilt beyond the communist bloc. Since Tilo Medek’s death in 2006, the gendered work of mourning has transformed once again, as his wife and children resituate this musical response to the Holocaust by maintaining his archive. The Children’s Mass is thus a case study in transgenerational musical witnessing. It demonstrates how personal and collective responses to trauma remained intertwined and were continually reconfigured through the lament trope.
Martha Sprigge’s research focuses on musical expressions of mourning, grief, and remembrance in Germany after World War II. Her book, Socialist Laments: Musical Mourning in the German Democratic Republic, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press (2021). Other essays on musical commemorative practices in East Germany appear in the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, the journal Twentieth-Century Music, as well as in recent edited volumes on German music and culture. She is an Assistant Professor of Musicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Abby Anderton (Baruch College, City University of New York, US)
The Audible Survivor: Women’s Songs as Holocaust Musical Testimony
This paper concerns female Jewish musicians after World War II who gave witness to their experiences of Nazi persecution by performing, recording and preserving songs of the ghettos and camps. Music’s auditory and affective qualities enabled these survivors to begin voicing their traumas, offering them a rare public platform in postwar Germany. As Zoë Waxman and Atina Grossmann have shown, the content of women’s Holocaust testimonies differ in significant ways from men’s, often placing special emphasis on topics like familial relationships, friendships, and sexual violence. These topics can be heard in the music of singers like Afro-German activist Fasia Jansen, whose mandated labor in the kitchen barracks for the Neuengamme concentration camp served as motivation for her later career as a political songwriter.
Ultimately, the work of two East Berlin based survivor musicians, Inge Lammel and Lin Jaldati, proved critical for female survivor musicians. A musicologist at the East Berlin Academy of Arts, Lammel spent over forty years (from 1954 to 1985) creating the first centralized collection of survivor songs under the purview of her Worker’s Song Archive. She tirelessly recorded and transcribed the melodies and texts from survivors across Europe at a time when there was little public awareness for preserving these sonic artifacts. While Lammel was creating an archive of survivor voices, Dutch singer Lin Jaldati was performing hundreds of concerts under the auspices of the East German State. Her Anne Frank concert program –Jaldati had been friends with the teenaged diarist and a witness to her final days in Belsen –featured the singer reading from the diary and performing ghetto songs beside Anne’s photograph. I argue that the East German State amplified these survivor’s voices in the service of Cold War politics to accuse the West of a criminal silence regarding its Nazi past.
Abby Anderton is an Associate Professor of Music at Baruch College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her research interests include post-catastrophic music making, performance and Holocaust testimony, and female composers. Her 2019 book, Rubble Music: Occupying the Ruins of Postwar Berlin (Indiana University Press) examines the capital’s musical culture immediately after the fall of the Third Reich. Anderton’s work has appeared in the Journal of Musicological Research, German Studies Review, and Music & Politics, and she has received funding from the Fulbright Commission, the DAAD, and the Holocaust Educational Foundation.
Paper Session: Voice Studies/Trauma Studies
Emily Milius (University of Oregon, US)
Kesha’s Vocal Representations of Trauma and Recovery in ‘Praying’
Kesha has explicitly stated that her 2017 album Rainbow was written as self-therapy in response to traumatic abuse from her producer, Dr. Luke. In the first ballad of her career, “Praying,” Kesha discusses her struggle and ultimate acceptance of this abuse. My paper explores how Kesha’s voice musically portrays her journey through trauma and recovery. Drawing upon scholarship in music theory (Malawey 2020; Heidemann 2016; Moore 2012) and trauma theory (Harper 2017; van der Kolk 2014; Herman 1997), I provide an analysis of vocal timbre and proxemics, showing how they act as musical representations of her perceived loss of control and feelings of disconnection—two common trauma symptoms—as well as her large-scale growth in recovery.
In “Praying,” Kesha sings with many different timbres and in multiple registers. An in-depth timbral analysis shows how these different vocal styles—chest voice, vocal fry, vibrato, belt, breathy voice, and more—emphasize specific lyrics to portray her perceived loss of control. Throughout the song, multiple instruments and back-up vocals join the texture as the song builds. Using Allan Moore’s concept of vocal proxemics, I show how the vocal placement and additional textures portray her feelings of disconnection and her improving ability to connect with others in her recovery. Over the entire song, Kesha’s voice spans more than three octaves—from D3 to an impressive F6. She begins the song using her low chest voice, shifts to sing in her middle and upper registers, and finally sings a whistle-tone F6—so shockingly high that listeners’ reactions can be watched on YouTube—to begin the final chorus. Overall, this multi-registral journey portrays a large-scale increase in strength during her recovery. In these ways, my analysis shows how Kesha’s voice portrays her trauma and recovery in “Praying.”
Emily Milius is currently working towards her PhD in Music Theory at the University of Oregon. Previously, she taught Music Theory and Aural Skills at her alma mater, Stephen F. Austin State University, in East Texas. Her research interests include women and feminism in music, vocal music and text/music analysis, popular music, and mental health and music. More recently, Emily has also been very interested in music theory pedagogy, specifically in order to learn and implement ways to be more actively antiracist and inclusive in the music theory classroom.
Sasha Drozzina (Purdue Fort Wayne University, US)
IC3PEAK Whispers and Screams po-Russki (in Russian) of Cultural Downfalls in Russia Today
“I’m from a scary Russian fairytale!” shouts Nastya Krestlina from IC3PEAK on their 2018 record Skazka (Fairytale). The experimental electronic duo position themselves as an “audiovisual terror” project. IC3PEAK started singing almost exclusively in Russian since their third studio record Sweet Life (2017). Nastya explains: “There was a desire for dialogue with my own generation that happened, and in my native language—it erases distance” (2017). This decision reflects rising nationalism in Russia since 2012 (Biasioli 2020) and runs parallel to anti-Putinism in Russian rap (Ewell 2017). In 2018 the band’s activity caught the eye of the authorities and concerts were constantly disrupted by law enforcements (Examples 1–2), resulting in lingering paranoia and social anxiety for the band, now living in Russian countryside.
I demonstrate how IC3PEAK communicates their traumatizing despair caused by living conditions in Russia today through deconstruction of their songs, texts, and videos. IC3PEAK’s music references ongoing Russian socio-political issues—critiquing Putin’s eternal regime in “Death No More,” suppression of individual and democratic rights in “Marching,” domestic violence in “Boo-Hoo”—accompanied by grim videos that are immensely popular (see Example 3). Nastya draws on a wide range of vocal techniques: from whispers and chastushka-like recitations to yelling in verses, while displaying Russian pevuchest’ (“melodiousness”) in bridges and choruses. Visually the band also draws on Russian folkloric elements: braids peeking out of headscarves and roundelays in the wilderness, or distorting Soviet imagery (Examples 4–5)—altogether presenting an emotional personal outcry.
Sasha Drozzina, from Ventspils, Latvia, received her PhD in Music Theory, along with a minor in Musicology, at Louisiana State University and graduated in May 2020. Sasha’s dissertation, directed by Inessa Bazayev, is entitled “Schnittke, Gubaidulina, and Pärt: Religion and Spirituality during the Late Thaw and Early Perestroika,” in which she contextualizes selected works within the 1970s and 1980s in the late Soviet Union, and discusses the unique religious and spiritual nuances and compositional techniques within each piece. Sasha has previously presented her research on Russian music and politics internationally (Canadian University Music Society Annual Conference, Society for Music Theory).
Zeynep Bulut (Queen’s University Belfast, UK)
A Piece of Sustainability
This presentation will explore the sustainability of life force and speech within the contexts of aphasia and non-verbal voice in experimental music practices. Considering cases of aphasia together with experimental music practices, the suggestion is to critically reflect on habitual forms of functional speech and encourage an ecological account of voice that probes voice, body and speech as plastic, as both malleable and resistant, interacting with the physical and social environment. In light of this suggestion, the presentation will focus on the following: What does the non-fluency of language and speech imply in the context of aphasia? How may the conceptions of embodied voice in experimental music tradition—for instance, extended listening, singing and voicing exercises, breath and body work, such as the Deep Listening and Sonic Meditations devised by composer Pauline Oliveros— allow us to review the traumatic experiences of brain damage and loss of speech? How may the embodied voice expand on the fluency of speech, as well as sustain the life force and restore the power to speak? Can we probe such musical practices as a therapeutic experience for healing? I will discuss these questions drawing on the fields of experimental music, speech pathology, music and health sciences, neuropsychology, neuroscience and philosophy. I wish to propose concluding the presentation with a 5-minute interactive performance on the theme of the paper, which will employ speech sounds and bodily movements.
Zeynep Bulut is a Lecturer in Music at Queen’s University Belfast. Her research interests include voice and sound studies, experimental music, sound and media art, technologies of hearing and speech, digital media and culture, deaf performance and culture, and music and medicine. She is currently completing her first manuscript, titled, Building a Voice: Sound, Surface, Skin. Her articles have appeared in various volumes and journals including Perspectives of New Music, Postmodern Culture, and Music and Politics. Alongside her scholarly work, she has also exhibited sound works, and composed and performed vocal pieces for concert, video and theatre. Recently she has released her debut single, Eclipse, produced by Erdem Helvacioglu (Diffuse Records 2019). Her composer profile has been featured by British Music Collection. She is sound review editor for Sound Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, and project lead for the collaborative research initiative “Map A Voice.” https://pure.qub.ac.uk/en/persons/zeynep-bulut
Paper Session: Spectacles of Trauma in the 19th Century
Annelies Andries (Utrecht University, the Netherlands, and University of Oxford, UK)
Controlling War Traumas at the Circus, c. 1800
In 1809, a curious act was staged in Paris: a deer was being shot at (with empty cartridges) while placed on a platform alight with noisy pyrotechnics. The animal was not alarmed at all and maintained a heroic calmness. The scene, considered little short of a miracle, became a celebrated feature of the Parisian and touring shows of Cirque Franconi.
Such animal dressage shows, I argue, provided cultural strategies to help audiences cope with the threats of the Napoleonic wars and their noisy soundscapes – threats that can be interpreted as ‘traumatic’ in its current understanding. In the early nineteenth century, war noises had started to receive attention in medical circles for their ability to destabilise a person’s physical and mental state. While some treatises propose cures, there is little evidence for whether and how patients were actually treated. Dressage acts and manuals offered a different, tangible solution, one that could prevent such states: through rigorous training, horses and even naturally timid deer could be made immune to noisy, war-like environments.
By showcasing how drills teach men control (of their surroundings but also themselves) and heroism – characteristics also underscored by the march-like music accompanying these shows, these acts further the cause of nineteenth-century militarism. Firstly, they helped transform the aristocratic portraiture tradition of leaders on horseback in to a popular medium with a wide appeal and dissemination beyond the centres of political power (as the Cirque Franconi toured the provinces and neighbouring regions). Secondly, they propose that the military – with its rigorous drills and hero cults – can be a possible antidote to the potentially detrimental (‘traumatic’) impact of war and its noises. Such an emphasis on discourses of control, I contend, also prepare the scene for explicit considerations of the causes and treatments of trauma around 1900.
Annelies Andries is a Visiting Lecturer at Utrecht University and a postdoctoral Fellow at Magdalen College (Oxford). Her research focuses on how European opera and music theatre developed in the wake of military conflicts in the decades straddling 1800. Together with Dr. Clare Siviter (Bristol), she leads the research project ‘Theatre on the Move in Times of Conflict, 1750-1850’, supported among others by a British Academy\Leverhulme Small Research Grant. She is developing a book on Napoleonic opera; an article based on this research, titled ’Uniting the Arts to Stage the Nation’ has just been published by Cambridge Opera Journal.
Stephen Armstrong (Eastman School of Music, US)
Shipwreck, Trauma, and Disaster Tourism in Bellini’s Il Pirata
The melodramatic shipwreck opening Vincenzo Bellini’s Il pirata floored London audiences. Critics praised the lavish production, yet their attention caught on such nautical details as limp sails and anachronistic cannon fire. Many scholars have considered how innovations in scenic design animated the operas of late Georgian London, but few have considered how theatrical productions appropriated maritime tragedy for operatic display. In this paper, I explore the intersections of trauma and spectacle at the 1830 London premiere of Il pirata, arguing that the opera did not just move audiences aesthetically: it also acted as virtual disaster tourism, projecting them into a simulation of contemporary catastrophe.
In developing these arguments, I draw from scholarship on so-called “dark” tourism as well as Stephen Wearing, Deborah Stevenson, and Tamara Young’s theories of virtual tourism, a “travel without physical departure,” a journey “located in the imaginary.” In the opening shipwreck of Il pirata, British audiences were confronted with a spectacular cataclysm that suffused the national consciousness. It appeared at about the same time that disaster tourism had begun to grip real-life resort communities; as Alain Corbin has shown, the vicarious enjoyment of shipwrecks was a voyeuristic pastime in seaside resorts. Examining what made the shipwreck a success with the public clarifies how the traumatic spectacles of opera function, as well as the ways in which opera, like Gothic fiction and romantic poetry, can act as virtual tourism by transporting audiences to faraway realms of tragic experience.
Stephen Armstrong is a PhD candidate at the Eastman School of Music, where he is currently finishing his dissertation “Operatic Mobilities: Italian Opera as Tourist Exchange, 1770–1830.” His research has been supported by the American Musicological Society’s Holmes / D’Accone Dissertation Fellowship in Opera Studies as well as fellowships from the Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester. He has also received grants for research and conference travel from the AMS, the Music & Letters Trust, and the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. His articles appear in Women & Music and the Journal of the American Liszt Society.
Anthony Barone (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, US)
Musical Process and Trauma in the Discourses of Wagner’s Ring
The diagnostic category of trauma, explored by Freud in Studies in Hysteria through Beyond the Pleasure Principle, has in recent decades attracted the attention of humanities scholars such as Caruth (1996) and Schönfelder (2013), who have theorized and demonstrated its operations in prose, drama, and poetry. Trauma in musical works has been examined too, as in Wintle’s touchstone analysis of scenes from Wagner (1992). The present paper builds on the insights of this literature to analyze specific metaphors of trauma in semantic, gestic, and musical strata of Wagner’s Ring.
My focus is the conclusion of Siegfried, when Brünnhilde is awakened by Siegfried’s kiss. The scene modulates between enchantment and brutality: the rite of Brünnhilde’s awakening is followed by a traumatic episode that exhibits dissociation (anticipating Freud and Breuer’s Studies in Hysteria) and convulsion (anticipating the descriptions of neurologists such as Charcot). On the musical level, an especially important motivic process unfolds that has broad implications for an understanding of the Ring.
Composed into Brünnhilde’s trauma are motives that were earlier associated with her father, Wotan, on whom, as Wintle points out, she retains a “quasi-Oedipal dependence.” These motives first emerged in Die Walküre as orchestral figures accompanying the goddess Fricka and became traumatic signifiers following Fricka’s attack on Wotan’s ego. This trauma becomes intersubjective: these motives of Wotan’s existential terror return in traumatic episodes experienced by other characters in an uncanny musical repetition compulsion. My analysis connects these trauma motives forward to Brünnhilde’s subjugation in Götterdämmerung, and backward to what I propose is their origin as a specialized rhetorical figure found in Das Rheingold and even earlier works such as Lohengrin.
Anthony Barone is an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He specializes in studies of European nineteenth-century music, and has led courses on Richard Wagner, early Romanticism, keyboard literature, and general music history and appreciation at UNLV, Rutgers University, and Manhattan School of Music. Dr. Barone’s research focuses on the works of Wagner, but his research and teaching interests and activities extend back to the Baroque and forward to the early twentieth century, as well as to issues in music history pedagogy. His scholarly work on Wagner and other topics has appeared in Cambridge Opera Journal, Music & Letters, and The Musical Quarterly.
Sunday 2:30pm-4pm: Keynote Maria Cizmic (University of South Florida, US), “Reflections on Music and Trauma in Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden”
What does music scholarship bring to the trauma studies table? Maria Cizmic takes stock of the complex intersections between music and trauma through a consideration of music in Ariel Dorfman’s play Death and the Maiden and Cathy Caruth’s analysis of the play. Dorfman’s play presents a complex exploration of truth and epistemology in the wake of Pinochet’s regime in Chile, centering its drama around Schubert’s D minor String Quartet, “Der Tod und das Mädchen.” The influential trauma studies scholar Cathy Caruth argues that the string quartet in the play works as a symbol of the paradoxes regarding language, truth, and epistemology that open up between survivors, perpetrators, and the law. By looking to the rich history of “Death and the Maiden”—as paintings, poetry, song, string quartet, theater, and film—Cizmic argues that music’s ability to organize relationships between texts, objects, people, and ideologies is a crucial framework for understanding how music intersects with traumatic experiences.
Maria Cizmic is the author of Performing Pain: Music and Trauma in Eastern Europe (Oxford University Press). In this work, Cizmic looks to trauma studies in order to analyze the ways in which music composition, embodied performance, and music in film can be understood to represent trauma. By focusing on late-20th century composers in Eastern Europe, Cizmic argues that this generation of composers participated in a broader late socialist culture focused on historical and cultural memory. Her areas of research and teaching also include 20th-century American experimental and popular music; film music; disability studies; embodied performance, technology, and mediation. She has published in Twentieth-Century Music, American Music, Music and the Moving Image, and numerous edited collections. Maria Cizmic is currently Associate Professor in the Humanities and Cultural Studies Department at the University of South Florida.
Paper Session: Gender and Ethnographies of Institutional Trauma
Anthea Skinner (University of Melbourne, Australia)
‘He had a Rough War’: Trauma in the Australian Army Band Service After World War II
At the end of World War II, the Australian Army was in a state of flux. Amid mass demobilisation and widespread war fatigue, the nation was attempting to build its first standing army, having previously relied on part-time militias and wartime call-ups. The band service for this new army was divided into two parts, Regimental Bands, which would continue in their previous role as frontline soldiers and stretcher-bearers, and Command Bands which would be stationed in capital cities to provide services in those communities, their members shielded from active combat. Keen to recruit experienced military musicians to these high-profile local bands, the army encouraged veterans to stay in the band service, however six long years of war and a booming job market meant that few accepted. Those that did were often soldiers who, as a result of trauma experienced during the war, had found it impossible to reintegrate into civilian society. As a result, Australian Army Command Bands became a safe-haven for soldier-musicians experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They provided the army with experienced, talented musicians, while the army, in turn, provided them with regular employment, housing and an environment in which colleagues understood their experiences. Based on interviews with veterans, memoirs and military records, this paper explores the ways that the army supported traumatised soldier-musicians, and in turn, the ways their presence affected the post-war band service. It also examines the way surviving veterans have come to use ‘amusing’ stories from this period – of drunken bandmasters, brawls and accidental public nudity – to contextualise and explain their own experiences of, and reactions to, trauma.
Anthea Skinner is an early career researcher with a PhD in musicology from Monash University. She is also a trained archivist specialising in heritage collections. Anthea works in the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music at the University of Melbourne where she specialises in military music, disability music and organology. She also plays percussion in the crip-folk band The Bearbrass Asylum Orchestra.
Alyssa Wells (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, US)
A Band of Brothers?: Abuse in Drum Corps International
Unofficial rules such as “DFTK = Don’t Fuck The Kids” and “what happens on the bus stays on the bus” were ubiquitous among members and staff in Drum Corps International (DCI), despite being concealed from outsiders by a fierce sense of fraternity and camaraderie. Promoting of a code of silence and a culture wherein adult staff must be frequently reminded not to pursue physical relationships with the members, these rules have only recently been called into question. Many survivors began to speak out against rampant sexual violence, physical and mental abuse, discrimination, and hazing in DCI 2018 following the high-profile case of sexual assault by the Cadets Drum & Bugle Corps director, George Hopkins. These experiences were previously silenced or construed as badges of honor or hilarious stories to trade with one another, but they are finally becoming understood as problematic. While the ongoing efforts for reform have caused several monumental changes, questions of how and why this abuse became so commonplace has remained unanswered. This paper seeks to answer those questions.
In investigating the role of militarism and masculinity in these ensembles, I reveal how and why misconduct is normalized. Although former and current corps members are often reluctant to describe their experiences to outsiders, my status as a “veteran” of the activity allowed me to conduct in-depth interviews. These interviews allow me to locate their experiences at the nexus of research on fraternities, militaries, and trauma. Through careful analysis, I reveal how regimented conformity and feelings of brotherhood compel members to view deviant behaviors as acceptable. I conclude with how my research aids activists, alumni, and corps administrators in our mission to reform the activity.
Alyssa Wells is a candidate in historical musicology and Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan. Her dissertation articulates how marching bands in the United States function as forces of social influence through theories of whiteness, masculinity, and militarism. Alyssa’s secondary research area focuses on composer Hanns Eisler and music festivals in the German Democratic Republic. She completed master’s degrees at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Musicology (M.M.) and German and Scandinavian Studies (M.A.), where her work on Eisler received funding from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
Elly Scrine (University of Melbourne, Australia)
Beyond Trauma-Informed Practice: The Role of Music Therapy in a Shifting Trauma Paradigm
Calls for therapists, social workers, health professionals, and educators to understand the historical, collective, and systemic components of trauma have been led by scholars who urge professionals to better account for the pervasiveness of harm that occurs in ways that are complex or rendered invisible (Clark, 2016, Menakem, 2017). In the clinical music therapy discipline however, trauma scholarship in music therapy has predominantly focused on the affordances of music in ameliorating symptoms of trauma, bypassing unavailable cognitive processes, and working with the individual to promote experiences of safety. Meanwhile, in the music education context, Hess (2019) has critiqued the tendency for music to be positioned as a sanctuary for ‘traumatized’ and ‘vulnerable’ youth. This paper builds on these notions, problematizing the ways trauma is positioned as an individual health problem, and articulating the opportunities for music to act as a site of resistance, rather than resilience. The paper draws on data from a music therapy research project in a low socioeconomic and highly multicultural high school setting in Melbourne, Australia. The project examined the role of music therapy for young people exploring gender and power, and results highlighted the role of music therapy in challenging notions of victimhood and vulnerability, and connecting trauma to broader structural issues. The paper explicates how music therapists are especially well placed to respond to a shifting trauma paradigm for three reasons. First, in harnessing the elements of music that create opportunities for predictability, exploration, and expression. Second, in offering a clinical expertise that accounts for power differentials and the necessity to nurture clients’ agency and consent. Finally, that music therapists are uniquely prepared to adapt to the future of trauma work, if they are prepared to move beyond fantasies of ‘creating safe spaces’ and into fostering resistance.
Dr Elly Scrine is a Registered Music Therapist, a lecturer at the University of Melbourne, and an electronic artist. Elly’s doctoral research investigated the role of music to explore gender with young people in high school, and examined how schools in the settler-colonial context function as a site of power and regulation in young people’s lives. With a strong interest in critical theory, research, and practice frameworks, Elly’s academic and clinical work seeks to identify connections between trauma, pathologization, and perceived vulnerabilities, with structural violence and systemic injustice. Outside of academia and music therapy practice, Elly is an artist and an active member in the Australian music industry, and is deeply invested in the affordances of music to engender personal, social, and structural change.
Paper Session: Voicing Cultural Trauma in the 1960s and 1970s
Kristen M. Turner (North Carolina State University, US)
Cultural Trauma and the Importance of Music in the Civil Rights Movements
The iconic image of the American Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s is activists singing Freedom Songs linked arm-in-arm. Music was an organizing tool, an instrument for education, and a source of unity. Yet, music plays these roles in virtually all political movements. In this presentation, I argue that the black community’s history of responding to cultural trauma with music, when combined with an uncommon level of institutional support for musical political expression explains music’s unusual importance in the Civil Rights Movement.
Music was a key component of the curriculum at the Highlander Folk School, the primary site for Civil Rights workers’ training. Additionally, a cohort of important activists employed the music they spent the summer of 1961 developing and singing together to resist their brutal treatment at Louisiana’s Parchman Prison in their subsequent work throughout the South. These conditions alone are not sufficient to explain music’s central role in the Movement, however, as Highlander encouraged music in other political movements, and protestors often use music to resist jailhouse conditions. Building on Jeffrey Alexander’s ideas about cultural trauma and Moshe Bensimon’s work on music, emotion, and protest, I contend that African Americans have long used sacred music as a way to cope with and respond to the cultural trauma of enslavement and racial oppression. The spirituals and hymns at the core of the Freedom Song repertoire speak to resilience in spite of suffering and a longing for liberty. In a movement that was built on the sanctification and public exposure of black people’s suffering, the music that was already a site of a communal conversation about, and healing from, trauma served the same purpose for activists, who not only lived under segregation, but also daily faced violent reprisals from white supremacist terrorists and governmental officials.
Kristen M. Turner is a lecturer in the music and honors departments at North Carolina State University. Her work has been published in the Journal of the Society for American Music and the Journal of Musicological Research and a number of collected editions, most recently in the Cambridge Companion to Gershwin (2019) and Carmen Abroad (2020). Working with Lucy Caplan, she co-edited a special issue of American Studies on the Arts in the Black Press During the Age of Jim Crow (Fall 2020). In addition to her teaching and scholarship, she hosts the podcast New Books in Music.
Claire Buchanan (Indiana University, US)
‘We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden’: Analyzing Woodstock as a Trauma Response
In spite of taking place during the crux of the Vietnam War, the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival is commonly portrayed as a purely peaceful event—one that, through music and community, provided a safe haven from the ongoing political unrest in the United States. While the festival was founded upon a desire for a peaceful retreat, a crucial undertone is missing from modern narratives: the ways in which the Woodstock Music Festival affected and was affected by the cultural trauma instigated by the Vietnam War. While extensive musicological research focuses on the motivations for creating Woodstock, the festival has yet to be considered through the lens of trauma theory.
In this paper, I uncover how the collective cultural trauma stemming from the Vietnam War shaped the musical performances at the Woodstock Music Festival and, in turn, how the festival aided the social construction of this cultural trauma. By applying Jeffrey C. Alexander’s trauma process theory from his book, Trauma: A Social Theory, to events taking place at the Woodstock Music Festival, I demonstrate not only the Woodstock’s relationship to the cultural trauma instigated by the Vietnam War, but also analyze how the festival’s overarching aesthetics and musical performances actively shaped the trauma process. Further, I illuminate how specific soundscapes, lyrics, and musical depictions of trauma contributed to the trauma narrative by examining two Woodstock performances: Joan Baez’s “We Shall Overcome” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Star-Spangled Banner.” My analysis will shed light on the role that the Woodstock Music Festival played in both reflecting and shaping cultural trauma in the United States in and beyond the late 1960s. Through this research, I compel readers to rethink existing narratives about the Woodstock Music Festival as a solely passive, peaceful event and to consider the palpable collective trauma to which it responded and contributed.
Claire E. Buchanan is a second-year master’s student in Musicology at Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University Bloomington. Claire’s recent research focuses on the relationships between music and cultural narratives—particularly as they are portrayed in stage works and music festivals. In addition, Claire holds interests in popular music studies, musical theatre, music and trauma, and gender studies. Before studying at Indiana University, Claire graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance.
Diana Blom and Pamela Withnall (Western Sydney University, Australia)
Hearing Trauma in Australian Popular Songs of the Vietnam War
The paper discusses evidence of trauma in three Australian popular songs about the Vietnam War. Each song tells a personal story of this war experience, two in Australian battles, one in an American battle. ‘Khe Sanh’ (1968) by Don Walker is performed by Cold Chisel, ‘Smiley’ (1969) by Johnny Young performed by Ronnie Burns and ‘I was only nineteen’ (1983) by John Schumann performed by Redgum. The songs charted at four, one and one respectively.
The researchers drew on five analysis approaches. The songs were placed historically in the history of the Vietnam War and in relation to other Australian popular songs about the Vietnam War. Hirsch’s idea of ‘postmemory’ is discussed because the stories told in the songs are from observations of the experience of others – friends who fought and returned – second-hand experiences of the war experience. There is some autoethnographic thinking about the role of the Vietnam War and these songs in our lives. An analytical frame developed from folk song, protest song and popular song research identifies evidence of the war in the lyrics and music revealing historical features, memories, war tools, war experiences, personal associations and evidence of trauma. The music was analysed through Moore’s primary domain of melody, harmony, metre and rhythm and secondary domain, execution, but also drawing on Winter’s work with war monuments and Beyer’s focus on painting of WW1.
The three songs tell of trauma left by the Vietnam War experience, taken home and dealt with back home but passed on to friends and family on their return. Lyrics and music reflect specific aspects of trauma – health issues, PTSD including sound associations, injuries, the death of comrades and the attitude of the population to returning soldiers yet marginalized veterans could relate to the words of these songs which helped to facilitate healing.
Diana Blom, composer, keyboard player, teaches music at Western Sydney University. Research areas include war and music, music education, music and emotion. Diana has co-curated eight composition/performance/CD projects of new compositions and is co-author of Music Composition Toolbox, a composition textbook. Scores and CDs are published through Wirripang Pty. Ltd., Orpheus Music and Wai-te-Ata Press.
Pamela Withnall completed a Diploma of Jazz at the N.S.W. Conservatorium of Music and subsequently worked as a musician in Jazz, Rock, Cabaret and Musical Theatre. She recently completed a Bachelor of Music at Western Sydney University and is currently playing and teaching music.
Private Trauma and Public Memory in the Art Song of Grażyna Bacewicz, Tadeusz Zygfryd Kassern, and Zygmunt Mycielski
Although Poland was decimated during World War II and the Holocaust, the impacts of this trauma on Polish music from the early postwar years remain largely unexplored. On the one hand, the public discourse during this period focused on rebuilding ruined cities and relaunching musical life, priorities which often sidelined musicians’ grief from the historical record. On the other hand, Polish compositions that unambiguously engaged with wartime trauma, such as Górecki’s third symphony (1976) or Penderecki’s Death Brigade (1963), were composed long after the war concluded, suggesting that decades were needed for composers to grapple with its aftermath.
To question this apparent silence during the early post-WWII years, we explore the echoes of the war in Polish art song composed between 1945 and 1955.We draw on rarely studied archival sources to illuminate these composers’ lives and compositions, which have yet to receive attention from scholars or performers.
We suggest that the genre of art song, long situated at the nexus of private and public performance, helped these composers navigate the conflicts between personal traumatic experience and the demands for a forward-looking public memory of the war. Kassern, a Polish-Jew who survived the Holocaust in hiding, managed this tension through buried personal and national allusions in his haunting 1945 Mourning Triptych. Similarly, Mycielski, who survived the war in a German labor camp, set texts by Czesław Miłosz that questioned the possibility of an ethical artwork, but he kept these songs private, unpublished utterances. Finally, Bacewicz, a violinist and composer active in secret wartime performances, composed songs that focus on apparently mundane details, seemingly sidestepping the war altogether. Taken together, these songs call attention to the multifaceted expressions of trauma in this period, expressions that become audible when heard in relationship to these composers’ harrowing yet diverse experiences of the war.
Noted for her “dazzling, virtuoso singing” (Boston Globe), soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon believes that creating new works and recreating those lost in centuries past makes room for the multiplicity of voices integral to classical music’s future. As a recitalist Fitz Gibbon has appeared with her husband and collaborative partner, pianist Ryan McCullough, in such venues as London’s Wigmore Hall; New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Park Avenue Armory, and Merkin Hall; and Toronto’s Koerner Hall. She is Interim Director of the Vocal Program at Cornell University and serves on the faculty of Bard College-Conservatory of Music’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program.
Born in Boston and raised behind the “Redwood Curtain” of northern California, pianist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough has developed a variegated career as soloist, vocal and instrumental collaborator, composer, recording artist, and pedagogue. Ryan’s music-making encompasses work with historical keyboards, electro-acoustic tools and instruments, and close collaborations with some of today’s foremost composers. His longstanding collaborative (and life) partnership with soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon has yielded a substantial crop of new art song repertoire, as well as his work in contemporary ensemble HereNowHear, a commissioning project with pianist Andrew Zhou which was 2017 recipient of a Fromm Foundation commissioning award.
Mackenzie Pierce is assistant professor of musicology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He researches the aftermath of WWII and the Holocaust among Poland’s composers, musicologists, and performers, and he has organized world and US premieres of the works of Roman Palester and Tadeusz Zygfryd Kassern. His articles appear in venues including 19th-Century Music, The Journal of Musicology, and The Cambridge Companion to Music and Fascism. He has held fellowships from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, and the Kościuszko Foundation.