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Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
Women Making Music
Where are the women in the worlds of music? They are uppity blues women, divas, folksingers, prima donnas, concert pianists, courtesans, and chanting nuns. Women have composed symphonies, operas, chamber music, and songs. This seminar surveys women's musical activities across times and cultures, and examines how ideas about gender shape the environments in which people create, perform, and hear music. The class is designed for students interested in social history, cultural studies, and gender studies as well as music.
We will examine how gender shapes musical practice in traditional cultures and learn how American blues women and the Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum became voices of their people. We will study the "secret music" of Renaissance nuns, Japanese geishas, and Indian courtesans: women whose music was considered so seductive that it was heard only by select audiences, sometimes behind closed doors. Our discussion of divas and sexual politics in opera will include a field trip to see an opera. We will examine how contemporary female composers and pop artists manipulate traditional images of femininity, masculinity, and sexuality. You will contribute to the seminar's musical content, posting songs and videos relevant to each week's topic on the course website so we can listen to and discuss each other's contributions in class.