Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Women Making Music

MUSIC 14N
FEMGEN 13N

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.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Heather Hadlock

Heather Hadlock, associate professor of music and director of the Program in Feminist Studies, has taught at Stanford since 1996. She received her Ph.D. in musicology from Princeton in 1996, and her B.A. in music and history from Duke in 1988. She is a feminist music historian and critic of 19th-century French and Italian Romantic opera. Her book, Mad Loves: Women and Music in Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann, explores the literary sources and social meanings of this fantastical French Romantic opera. Her second book, Pants Parts, studies "trouser roles" (female singers cast as men) in opera from the end of the Classic period through the modern era. By examining cross-dressed female performers in such masculine roles as the lover, the warrior, the pageboy, and the sidekick, she traces changing depictions of gender, sexuality, authority, and love on the operatic stage.