Winter Quarter 2020
“Writing a Tenor’s Voice: Cesare Grandi and the Siena Production of Il Farnaspe (1750),” 4pm, Thursday 16 January, CAC Conference Room on the First Floor
As scholars press forward with their explorations of eighteenth-century drammi per musica productions as events (departing from a more singular focus on the work as captured in a musical score), revelations about the communities and individuals who had a hand in the shape of an opera continue to grow. Much recent work, for example, has focused intently on how performers influenced both the composition of a work and its production process. We have long known that composers often took into consideration singers’ voices, especially those of the renowned sopranos and castratos of the day—Francesco Bernardi, Faustino Bordoni, and Francesco Cuzzoni, to name just a few, who took the prima donna and primo uomo roles—and sometimes bowed to their wishes when composing parts for them. Prominent singers could also exert pressure in other ways, requesting control over the works programmed during a season, or a say in the hiring of other cast members.
But what of singers further down the hierarchy—those accustomed to taking the roles of the second or third man or woman? One might assume that their lesser status meant that they could not exert the same kind of power. This assumption is, however, belied by a cache of 119 letters regarding the preparations for staging a musico-dramatic work in Siena in 1750. These documents not only provide a rich new source of material on the complexity of the impresarial role, they also offer a case study of how one singer accustomed to playing secondary parts—the hitherto unknown tenor Cesare Grandi—could take charge when the impresario was an amateur without the expertise and connections necessary to bring off an opera. Letters from Grandi to the aristocratic impresario show that he successfully recruited instrumentalists and singers to the opera (including the star attraction, Gioacchino Conti), had music copied for all parts, revised the libretto, and suggested the costume designer, the actual work to be performed, and the time period in which it should premiere. It was largely due to Grandi’s careful handling of both the impresario and many of the impresarial duties that the premiere of Il Farnaspe, scheduled to celebrate the reopening of a new opera theater, was such a triumph.
Colleen Reardon received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles and is Professor of Music at the University of California, Irvine. Her research centers on musical culture in Siena from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. She has received grants from the Fulbright Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities to pursue her work. Her publications include three books with Oxford University Press—A Sociable Moment: Opera in Siena, 1669-1704 (2016), Holy Concord within Sacred Walls: Nuns and Music in Siena, 1575-1700 (2002), and Agostino Agazzari and Music at Siena Cathedral, 1597-1641 (1993)—as well as numerous articles. Current projects include an examination of a mid-eighteenth-century opera seria in Siena, and the American tour of the Sienese soprano Marietta Piccolomini (1834-99).
“Musical Widowhood and the Gendered Labour of Mourning in East Germany,” 4pm, Thursday 6 February, CAC Conference Room on the First Floor
In the archives of the former East German Academy of the Arts, there is a folder labeled “widow correspondence.” The letters inside offer a glimpse at the women who served as private brokers of their nation’s cultural heritage. They protected their husbands’ gravestones, oversaw their archives, and sustained their ideological commitments. Several were renowned artists in their own right. Their primary designation as widows in this collection raises questions of the role of women in performing the work of mourning in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR).
Though there are a wealth of studies that document the feminization of grief across cross-cultural and historical contexts, women were strikingly sidelined in East Germany’s public mourning rites. This paper demonstrates how mourning nevertheless remained gendered in two central ways: musical adaptations of gendered mourning tropes and archival practice. I first analyze works by Hanns Eisler and Paul Dessau (two of East Germany’s most renowned composers) who responded to the war by incorporating representations of female widowhood into their memorial works. In doing so, they adapted longstanding feminized mourning customs to suit the emotional needs of the new socialist state. I then turn to consider these composers posthumous legacies, examining the establishment of their archives. After their deaths, their widows—Stephanie Eisler and Ruth Berghaus—resisted official narratives of their husbands’ lives by maintaining control over their estates. As they attended to their husband’s material collections, scores, sketches, recordings, and other musical remains became what psychologists call “transitional objects” that helped these widowers navigate through different stages of grief.
In focusing on musical widowhood, my paper offers a reconsideration of three related issues: mourning practices after World War II, gender dynamics in the socialist state, and the role that widows play in curating musical legacies. Particularly given the central role that collections of the Academy of the Arts have played in research on East German music and culture, a closer look at the women behind these collections can be significant for assessing current historiography of this country and its musical life.
Martha Sprigge’s research focuses on musical expressions of mourning, grief, and remembrance in Germany after World War II. Her 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. Her work has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Michigan Society of Fellows, and the Hellman Foundation. She holds a PhD in music history and theory from the University of Chicago and is an Assistant Professor of Musicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
“Sonic Thresholds in Colonial Mexican Convents: The Grates of the Cloister and the Lips of Nuns, or Who was Sister Rosa?,” 4pm, Thursday 27 February, CAC Conference Room on the First Floor
The state of Novohispanic convent music and historical sources—limited and scattered at best; destroyed or in private hands at worst—has contributed to a lacuna in scholarship on women’s music making in colonial Mexico. The pioneering work of Julia Tuñón Pablos on the (forgotten) history of women in Mexico calls for a more careful reading between the lines of books and documents written by men to find women’s contributions to Mexican society. For music history, this means drawing musical concerns out of convent ceremonials and rules, devotional literature, and nuns’ biographies (Vidas de monjas), for example, to contextualize the few music manuscripts that remain. Through the writings of male clerics about how nuns should and should not live their cloistered lives, we learn that nuns’ thoughtful and prayerful singing was said to accompany the angel choirs in heaven, but when they disobeyed their prelates, they could even attract demons. This talk focuses on the richly musical space within colonial Mexican convents, the choir, or coro, where much of this singing took place. It brings to light some rarely performed music that once resonated within this architecturally unusual choir structure. The coro was a grated threshold between the private and public within which nuns could be heard singing by the laity in the main body of the church, but they were not visible to them. Convent musicians were aptly allegorized as angels because they were physically positioned above the ground floor, because parishioners in the church could not see them, and because nuns were idealized as virgins, a status that the grates symbolically guarded—even if some of the nuns had lost their virginity. This was the quintessential location where agency was negotiated through nuns’ efforts to please God, themselves, and their convent patrons with music and thus a fitting place to begin learning about the musical lives of nuns in colonial Mexico.
Cesar Favila is a native of Northern California and holds a BA in music from UC Davis and a PhD in music history and theory from the University of Chicago. His publications include pieces in Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies and the Journal of the Society for American Music. Favila’s current book project, Immaculate Sounds: The Musical Lives of Nuns in New Spain, addresses sacred music and its intersections with urban culture, gender, race, mysticism, and other fine arts in colonial Mexico.
He is Assistant Professor of Musicology at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and serves on the faculty advisory committees for the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, the Center for 17th– & 18th– Century Studies and William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, the Chicano Studies Research Center, and LGBTQ Studies. He is a member-at-large of the American Musicological Society and the American Guild of Organists.
Fall Quarter 2019
Dr Lisa Cooper Vest (University of Southern California), “Bogusław Schäffer vs. the Polish Composers’ Union: Defining Avant-Gardism in Postwar Poland,” 10 October 2019
Dr Amy Bauer (University of California, Irvine), “World in Constant Motion: Thomas Adès’s In Seven Days,” Thursday 24 October, 4pm
Dr David Kasunic (Occidental University), “Chopin’s Piano Technique in the Context of the Romantic Ballet Technique,” Thursday 5 December 2019
Spring Quarter 2019
Dr Stephan Hammel (University of California, Irvine), “Red Musicology: The Concept of Style and the Materialist Conception of Music History,” Thursday 25 April, 5pm, CAC Conference Room, first floor
Professor Lee Rothfarb (University of California, Santa Barbara), “Taking Hanslick at His Music-theoretical Word,” Thursday 9 May 2019, CAC Colloquium Room 3201, third floor
Professor Andrea Lindmayr-Brandl (Universität Salzburg/University of California, Irvine), “Schubert the Successful,” Thursday 30 May 2019, 4pm, CAC Colloquium Room 3201, third floor
Winter Quarter 2019
Dr Alexandra Monchick (CSU Northridge), “The Craft of Paul Hindemith’s Electronic Compositions,” Thursday 24 January 2019, 5pm, CAC Conference Room 1021
Dr Leonora Saavedra (UC Riverside), “Whose Canon?” Thursday 14 February 2019, 4pm, CAC Colloquium Room 3201
Dr Andrew Aziz (San Diego State University), “Merging the Sonata and the Concerto: Analysis of ‘Compositional’ Improvisation in the High Classical Sonata,” Thursday 28 February 2019, 4pm, CAC Colloquium Room 3201