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Series on silent film music at NewMusicBox

I’ve written a series of articles for NewMusicBox on music for silent film, the Silent Film Sound and Music Archive, performance practices, and more. The first of the four articles in the series is out today at “New Music for a New Art Form: Photoplay Music.”

Upcoming topics include the creation, adaptation, and use of cue sheets; scoring silent films with music from the past; and new music for silent films.

Notes from Project Spectrum: Responding to Microaggressions

I was honored to be part of the first Project Spectrum symposium, which took place 31 October and 1 November 2018 in San Antonio at the Institute of Texas Cultures as a pre-conference for the AMS/SMT meeting there. This morning I facilitated discussion about microaggressions in academia. Here are the notes I used, for anyone who missed the session. I also provide additional resources at the bottom.

Microaggressions Workshop outline

Part 1: Defining Microaggressions

Introduction and thanks
Thanks especially to Catrina Kim for putting together this session.

This is a safe space; what a safe space is and means.
Wikipedia: safe space refers to an autonomous space created for individuals who feel marginalized to come together to communicate regarding their experiences with marginalization.
Merriam-Webster: a place (as on a college campus) intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations.

What is a Microaggression?
Catherine Wells: “Microaggressions are subtle verbal and non-verbal insults directed toward non-Whites, often done automatically and unconsciously. They are layered insults based on one’s race, gender, class, sexuality, language, immigration status, phenotype, accent, or surname.”

Microaggressions are 
defined 
as 
“brief 
and
 commonplace 
daily 
verbal,
 behavioral
 and environmental 
indignities,
whether 
intentional
 or
 unintentional,
 that
 communicate hostile,
 derogatory or 
negative 
racial
 slights 
and 
insults
 that
 potentially
 have
 harmful
 or
 unpleasant 
psychological 
impact
 on 
the 
target
 person
 or
 group.”
 (Solorzano,
 Ceja,
 and 
Yosso,
 2000)

Microinsults are 
behaviors,
 actions,
 or
 verbal
 remarks 
that 
convey 
rudeness,
 insensitivity,
 or
 demean 
a 
person’s 
group 
or 
social
 identity 
or 
heritage.
 (Sue,
 et.
 al.
 2007)
Microinvalidations are 
actions 
that 
exclude,
 negate,
 or 
nullify 
the psychological
 thoughts,
 feelings
 or 
experiential
 reality 
of 
people
 who 
represent 
different
 groups
 (Sue,
 et.
 al.
 2007).

Examples of Microaggressions from research and contributed to workshop:

I am a native Spanish speaker, but I am perfectly fluent in English. When interviewing in this university, a senior scholar part of the musicology faculty asked me twice in our one on one interview if I was sure about studying musicology since it would imply “writing a dissertation in English.” My initial response was simply to say I was confident that I could write in English, and would also not hesitate to get help from native speakers for editing and English usage if that would be the case. When he framed the question differently and said that since I was likely to write about topics in the “Spanish speaking world” then I might consider studying in a Spanish speaking country so that my research would be read by people interested in it. My response was a timid “It is something I will consider.” The school did accept me in the end, but I chose not to attend. For years I have imagined myself having the courage to answer differently and say that it was precisely because classical music had such a long history in the Spanish speaking world and that some people still thought this was something of interest only to Spanish speakers that it would be important to do my work in another language.

A male professor in a class I was taking once made a joke about how “everything has calories, so it’s better to not eat at all.” The class was majority women. At least two people in the class have eating disorders. Nobody said anything.

Attending as a student an AMS conference I was asked by one of the members of the membership committee or the diversity committee (I can’t remember) if I had considered applying to some of their travel grants. At the time I had good support from my school so I hadn’t felt the need, so I answered no. The response left me speechless: she said “Oh you should. You are multicultural right?” To which I witty responded “wait, aren’t we all?” I understand that the coded intention was to say “you are not white” and AMS wants to diversify, but this stroke me as extremely clumsy on their part.

A (white male) colleague in a social situation made a disparaging joke about conjugating the verb “to be” in AAVE. I (white female) tried to engage him and cited some linguistic research about AAVE being just as sophisticated grammatically, to which he responded that in his experience this was false. I disengaged.

A (white male) professor consistently assumed the one Black scholar in our class was asking more basic questions than he was. Usually he [the student] would clarify quickly, but none of us were sure when/if/how to bring up this pattern.

My first year of my Ph.D. program, an older male colleague persistently initiated conversations or interrupted conversations I was having with other people to give me unsolicited advice on everything from teaching to studying.

A (male) colleague made a joke about women’s leg hair, not realizing that I didn’t shave mine (and had been avoiding showing any part of my legs at work for over a year to avoid judgment).

Part 2: Bystander/Victim/Aggressor Training

What is Bystander Training?
Why Bystander Training?(From the CDC)
The bystander approach offers several clear benefits:
–Discourages victim blaming
–Offers the chance to change social norms
–Shifts responsibility to men and women and non-binary people instead of just one gender
–The term bystander conjures up many, and sometimes conflicting, images. For some
the word connotes a passiveness, an innocent bystander who could not, or did not, do anything in a dangerous situation. For others the term includes more engagement such as someone who witnesses a car crash and calls for help or someone who “stands by” a friend when he or she is being harassed.

When to Intervene?
–Notice the event
–Consider whether the situation demands you act
–Decide if you have a responsibility to act
–Choose how to assist
–Know how to intervene safely

Reasons People Give for Not Getting Involved:
–It is not my problem.
–It is not my job.
–It is not my responsibility.
–I just don’t want to go there.
–I don’t want to make things worse.
–I don’t feel safe.
–I don’t know what to do or say.
–I don’t want to be a snitch.
–I don’t get into other people’s business.
–I believe in the rights of the individual.
–My position is precarious.

Overcoming these Reasons:
–The person involved is someone I care about
–Someone helped me once
–I’m doing what I’d want someone to do for me
–It’s the right thing to do given my personal values

Also:
–Encourage help-seeking behaviors.
–Adopt policies to encourage engagement.
–Celebrate the actions of bystanders.

Putting it in Practice
Ask for questions from participants. Ask for stories.
Discuss different kinds of microaggressions: racist, sexist, ableist, gender.

For individual incidents (from Carnegie Mellon, https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/teach/classroomclimate/strategies/microaggression.html):

  1. Take a deep breath: collect your thoughts before responding.
  2. Acknowledge: know and recognize that the other person’s perspective is their reality and truth.
  3. Inquire: Give students the benefit of the doubt. First, ask the student to clarify, elaborate or further explain. This will give you more information about where s/he is coming from, and may also help the speaker to become aware of what s/he is saying.
    “Could you please say more about that?”
    “Can you elaborate on your point?”
    “It sounds like you have a strong opinion about this. Could you please tell me why?”
    “What is it about this that concerns you the most?”
  4. Reframe: Create a different way or perspective from which to view at a situation.
    “Could there be another way to look at this?”
    “Let’s reframe this to explore other perspectives/interpretations. Consider for moment that…  What if…?”
    “I’m wondering what message this is sending and how it’s being received. Do you think you would have said this/drawn this conclusion if…”
  5. Identify: Directly respond to student comment as problematic. Calmly and politely explain which specific words or phrases you experienced as disrespectful (or that someone else might have). Use an “I” statement to express feelings, as appropriate, rather than commenting on or labeling the speaker.
    “Saying ___ often comes up in popular culture. Some might find it problematic because of ___”
    “When you said X, I felt like Y. In the future, please…”
    “This seems like a good time to revisit and remind ourselves about the guidelines for discussion that we agreed upon as class.”
  6. Diffuse to allow productive re-engagement: Sometimes, a hot moment can get out of control.
    Ask students’ to pause and write individually for moment about what just happened and how they feel about it.
    Use this time as an opportunity to formulate a strategy for re-engaging the hot moment in a productive, inclusive way.

Remind your students which discussion guidelines are relevant to the situation.

  1. Revisit: Sometimes one is caught by surprise, misses an opportunity, or wishes s/he could have a do-over in response to a microaggression or “hot moment”. Even if the moment has passed, it’s ok to go back and address it later in class. Research indicates that an unaddressed microaggression can leave just as much of a negative impact as the microaggression itself.
    “I want to go back to something that was brought up in our class.”
    “Let’s rewind ___ minutes.”
    “I think it would be worthwhile to revisit something that happened ____.”
  2. Check in: in person, talk with the targeted student(s) after class. Let them know that you value their experiences and perspective, and see if they have any suggestions about how to better support them in class.

When microaggressions are harassment
How to address harassment: experienced yourself/witnessed

Part 3: How we can educate our peers/students
Broadly:
–Calling attention to microaggressions:
–Speaking about microaggressions in private.
–Stating your feelings when someone commits a microaggression.
–Making suggestions for language that does not use microaggressions.
–Developing curricular activities that educate, such as student union meetings, mentor groups, etc.
–Hold anti-bias training in your department or group.
–Report incidents to woke chairs, department heads, deans, provosts, and ombudsmen.
–Model behavior.
–Nurture cross-racial and cross-class professional relationships and areas of contact.
–Avoid using sarcasm and being snide.

Closing remarks and thanks

Additional Resources
About microaggressions: https://www.minitex.umn.edu/Training/DisplaySessionHandout.aspx?Title=Identifying%20and%20Responding%20to%20Microaggressions&SessionID=580

From Catharine Wells, “Microaggressions in the Context of Academic
Communities,” Seattle Journal for Social Justice 12, no. 2 (2012): 319–48.
https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1692&context=sjsj:

“‘Microaggressions are subtle verbal and non-verbal insults directed toward non-Whites, often done automatically and unconsciously. They are layered insults based on one’s race, gender, class, sexuality, language, immigration status, phenotype, accent, or surname.’ And they give the following examples—‘being ignored for service, assumed to be guilty of anything negative, treated as inferior, stared at due to being of color, or singled out in a negative way because of being different.’ Most authors recognize that microaggressions can cause substantial injury. For example, Professor Tayyab Mahmud considers them ‘affronts to human dignity and self-respect . . . [they are] [b]ehaviors that impact not only the social existence of the victims, but also potentially leave scars on their psyche.’” (326)

“The ‘micro’ in ‘microaggression’ suggests that microaggressions inflict only minor pains and bruises; in some cases, this is true. For example, I hear the following types of comments, and their effect on me is quite minimal: ‘We shouldn’t lower the standards by recruiting women and minorities.’ ‘She reminds me of my mother in law.’ — A comment made by a colleague as an explanation for his negative vote on a female candidate. ‘Is there any way a white male can get into teaching?’ — A comment made by a student who attended a school where 92 percent of the faculty was white and male. To me, these comments betray ignorance and confusion; they are irritating but do not constitute a particular threat to my sense of well-being. There are other comments, however, that cause real pain. Here is a description reported by an African-American male who was contemplating applying for tenure: When I entered my colleague’s office, I was already deeply in pain. It was a very rough beginning. I was battle weary, bone tired. And when he began to talk, I sank into my pain which embraced me with rough, razor sharp arms. As he talked, I sensed that invisible cuts would hasten my death. I wondered if he saw my pain. He did not. As he continued to talk, I felt small and unsure. [….] It is only ‘micro’ in the sense that privileged members of the community will regard it as trivial, if they notice it at all. This makes such a remark truly dangerous.” (328–29)

“For example, I would frequently be asked for a ‘woman’s perspective’ on some particular issue. Or worse, a colleague would ask me to explain the reaction of a female student who had taken offense at a sexist comment, usually with the expectation that I would agree with him that she was oversensitive. This would leave me in the awkward position of defying his clearly communicated expectations, or undermining the female student by delegitimizing her ‘feminist’ response.” (336)

“It can be difficult to recognize microaggressions. First, if you are not part of the target class, they will not be apparent to you. We have seen that microaggressions often remain invisible to those who are not affected. In addition, there is no general rule that applies in all cases. Microaggressions need not mention race or gender. They may not even be negative in tone. ‘You have beautiful eyes,’ written on a teaching evaluation, is despite the fact that it is a positive appraisal of a characteristic that seems unrelated to the gender of the professor. Thus, avoiding microaggressions requires more than just keeping our feet out of our mouths; it requires us to think more deeply about our relations with people of different races and genders. In this connection, the following questions are worth considering.” (342)

A. Ask: How Would I Feel if Someone Said This to or About Me? (342)
B. Ask: Would You Say This to Someone Who Shared Your Race and Gender? (343)
C. Treat Each Person as an Individual Rather than as a Member of a Racial or Gender Group (345)
D. Take More Time; Be More Observant (347)

Examples
From https://chroniclevitae.com/news/775-dear-white-academics:
–“Wow, you’re so articulate.”
–“Are you the cleaning lady?”
–“Do you have a PhD.?”
–“James? What’s your real Asian name?”

Microaggressions in the Classroom, University of Denver:
–Failing to learn to pronounce or continuing to mispronounce the names of students after they have corrected you.
–Scheduling tests and project due dates on religious or cultural holidays.
–Disregarding religious traditions or their details. (Ex. Impacts of fasting)
–Setting low expectations for students from particular groups, neighborhoods, or feeder patterns.
–Calling on, engaging and validating one gender, class, or race of students while ignoring other students during class.
–Assigning student tasks or roles that reinforce particular gender roles or don’t allow all student flexibility across roles and responses.
–Anticipating students’ emotional responses based on gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity.
–Using inappropriate humor in class that degrades students from different groups.
–Expressing racially charged political opinions in class assuming that the targets of those opinions do not exist in class.
–Using the term “illegals” to reference undocumented students.
–Hosting debates in class that place students from groups who may represent a minority opinion in class in a difficult position.
–Singling students out in class because of their backgrounds.
–Expecting students of any particular group to ‘represent’ the perspectives of others of their race, gender, etc. in class discussions or debates.
–Denying the experiences of students by questioning the credibility and validity of their stories.
–Assigning class projects or creating classroom or school procedures that are heterosexist, sexist, racist, or promote other oppressions, even inadvertently.
–Using sexist language.
–Using heteronormative metaphors or examples in class.
–Assuming the gender of any student.
–Continuing to misuse pronouns even after a student, transgender or not, indicates their preferred gender pronoun.
–Assigning projects that ignore differences in socioeconomic class status and inadvertently penalize students with fewer financial resources.
–Excluding students from accessing student activities due to high financial costs.
–Assuming all students have access to and are proficient in the use of computers and applications for communications about school activities and academic work.
–Assuming that students of particular ethnicities must speak another language or must not speak English.
–Complimenting non-white students on their use of “good English.”
–Discouraging students from working on projects that explore their own social identities.
–Asking people with hidden disabilities to identify themselves in class.
–Forcing students with non‐obvious disabilities to “out” themselves or discuss them publicly.
–Ignoring student‐to‐student microaggressions, even when the interaction is not course‐related.
–Making assumptions about students and their backgrounds.
–Featuring pictures of students of only one ethnicity or gender on the school website.
–Having students engage in required reading where the protagonists are always white.

From The Microaggression Translation Chart for Academics (https://chroniclevitae.com/news/775-dear-white-academics)
What gets said to scholars of color and How it comes across:
From a white doctoral student to a biracial Ph.D. student:
“I can’t tell from your writing that you aren’t white.”
“I can’t tell that you’re not as good as me.”

From a white college student to a job interviewer:
“I want to teach in an urban setting because I want to make a real difference.”
“I want to save the little brown children and feel good about myself.”

From a white Ph.D. student in a cultural-history course to a multi-ethnic peer:
“This assignment will be easy for you.”
“You already know this material. I have to work hard to learn about your people.”

From a white female student to a black female classmate:
“You are such a strong person. I could never express myself like you.”
“You’re so black and hostile that you don’t know how to express yourself appropriately.”

From a professor to a biracial colleague:
“We need real diversity in this department.”
“Your happy yellow ass isn’t black enough. We need black people.”

From a faculty member trying to make conversation with a Latina Ph.D. student:
“My gardener is from Puebla, Mexico.”
“Aren’t all Latinos Mexican? And don’t you all know each other?”

From the chair of a hiring committee to a black female candidate:
“Tell me how you handle conflict and what it’s like when you are angry.”
“Are you an angry black woman? Are you loud or confrontational? Are you going to sue us?”

From a math student to an Asian classmate:
“You’re so smart! I want you on my team.”
“I have no clue if you’re smart. I’m just assuming you’re good at math because you’re Asian.”

From various colleagues to a black female colleague with a new hairstyle:
“Did you do something different with your hair?”
“Deep down, I’m wondering if that’s a weave, but I’m too afraid to ask. Since you probably lie.”

From a program director, about an Asian co-worker with a Korean accent:
“I guess we won’t have Dr. Namgoong making phone calls, ha ha.”
“I have no respect for cultural differences, and you can bet I make similarly offensive comments like these about you to others.”

From a professor to an African-American graduate student:
“Do you understand how to cite a paper using MLA style?”
“You got through high school and college, but I still think you’re illiterate.”

From the chair of a search committee who can’t pronounce an “ethnic-sounding” name:
“Whoa, that’s hard. Is there anything else I can call you?”
“I can’t be bothered to learn to say your name.”

From a white student to his minority professor:
“Do you really have a Ph.D.?”
“Are you really, truly qualified to teach here and at this level? Prove it!”

From a white campus police officer to a black female professor:
“Excuse me, miss! There are only faculty offices down that hall.”
“Stop! You are clearly trespassing and have no right to be here.”

From a white student filling out a course evaluation for a black professor:
“This professor takes herself and her subject too seriously.”
“How dare she think what she has to say or has to teach should merit any respect? Who does she think she is?”

From a white faculty member to a black professor:
“Of course you write about black women.”
“What else could you possibly be expected to or qualified to write about?”

From a white faculty member to a black professor:
“You got into Princeton for your doctorate? Whoa!”
“How on earth did you manage to get into that school?”

From a white student taking a course taught by a black female professor:
“This professor does not make me feel comfortable in class.”
“This professor makes me think about race and doesn’t console me in class and treat me like a ‘mammy’ would.”

From a white colleague who is tired of talking about race:
“Let’s not make everything about race.”
“Why are you bringing up this thing that only impacts you as if we need to care about it.”

Karen Wiegand Leonard, 1940-2018

My mother died last Wednesday at home, peacefully and comfortably. Here is her obituary, which appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times on October 20, 2018. My family will hold a service and a children’s book drive in her memory in the spring.

Karen Wiegand Leonard, 78, died at her home in Asheville on October 17, 2018. She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 31, 1940, the daughter of Anita Steinruck Wiegand and Louis Wiegand.

Karen was a graduate of the elite Katherine Gibbs School for executive assistants in New York City in 1959. After moving with her immediate family to Asheville in 1981, she worked for George H. V. Cecil and his son Jack F. A. V. Cecil at Biltmore Farms, Inc. for 24 years until her retirement in 2005. But she will be remembered best in Asheville for her activism and commitment to gifted education, serving as the President of the Asheville chapter of the Parents Association for Gifted Education, and as the founder and director of the Super Saturday program at UNC-Asheville. The innovative Super Saturday program, which still continues, enables advanced middle and junior high school students from the area to take courses in topics not available at their schools, with classes ranging from Classical Mythology to German, Robotics, and Filmmaking.

Karen was herself a lifelong learner, taking courses in education, literature, and other areas at UNC-Asheville and at Mars Hill University. She attended lectures at Oxford University in England through the Oxford Experience program, took courses at the John Campbell Folk School, and took private art lessons with Asheville artists. She was, as she put it, “an omnivorous and indiscriminate reader,” although she frequently returned to her favorites, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Cynthia Voight’s Tillerman series. Following her retirement, she was a volunteer with the Asheville-Buncombe Library System, reading to children and teaching children to read.

Karen is survived by her husband Winston Leonard, their daughter Kendra Preston Leonard (Karl Rufener), and her two step-sons, Keith Leonard (Robin Rice) and Mitch Leonard (Ann Leonard); three granddaughters, Sarah Hannah Lundgren (Lance Lundgren); Lindsay Hayes, and Ashley Hayes; her brother, Ken Wiegand, and his family. A memorial service will be planned for the spring of 2019.

San Francisco Performance of Louise Talma’s Three Madrigals

On Thursday, 18 October 2018, the San Francisco Girls Chorus will be performing Louise Talma’s Three Madrigals. I believe this is the first performance since the songs were premiered in 1930. The performance will be reviewed for the Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music. The singers will be using my edition of the songs from The Art Songs of Louise Talma.

Here’s what I wrote about the songs in Louise Talma: A Life in Composition (p. 45-56):

[Talma’s] Three Madrigals (1929, texts by Sir Thomas Wyatt) and songs
“La Belle Dame Sans Merci” (1929, John Keats); “Late Leaves” (1934, Walter
Savage Landor); and “Never Seek to Tell Thy Love” (1934, William Blake) are
love songs whose texts speak of a lover’s despair over the beloved’s disinterest.18
Talma’s manuscripts indicate that the Madrigals were composed in New York,
and performances of them, as well as “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” all of which
were written to fulfill a commission by the Women’s University Glee Club in
Manhattan, conducted by Gerald Reynolds, took place there.19 It is unknown
whether Boulanger ever saw or heard them, although it is likely, given Talma’s
desire to woo Boulanger by all available means. She followed Boulanger’s musical
instruction and tastes closely, and abandoned her earlier experiments with key and
meter in an attempt to gain her teacher’s approval of her work and, by extension,
her self.

In the Three Madrigals, Talma composed her first examples of autobiographical
testimony that can be unquestionably linked to her own experiences, in this case
her emotions for Boulanger. Of women’s autobiography, Julia Watson has written
that, “many fictions of female development structure the incorporation of sexuality
as the internalization of the only sexual identity to be spoken—that of female
heterosexuality defined as the other of heterosexual masculinity. In autobiography,
which as a genre has functioned as the keeper of the ‘law’ of patriarchal identity,
women’s sexuality has usually been presumed as heterosexual except when spoken
otherwise.”20 These works are “out-law” in that they frankly express same-sex desire
on the part of the composer for her friend and mentor.

In these pieces, a male narrator, whose role is assigned to female singers (rather
than the traditional men of early madrigal practice), addresses an unrequited desire
of a woman, and the cruelty of a woman who spurns this desire. By setting multiple
texts traditionally associated with a male narrator for women, Talma does exactly
what Kaplan, Smith, and Watson suggest female writers of autobiographical prose
do: she establishes her identity as being outside of the heteronormative orthodoxy
presumed by society, and negotiates her own place within her personal and social
history. By reading Talma’s early compositions in this manner, as Watson puts it, “we may trace a trajectory of naming an unspeakable,” namely, same-sex love and desire among women.21 And because her works were meant to be quite public—she
submitted the Three Madrigals to a composition contest and agreed to have them
published by J. Fischer and Bros. as a result of winning the contest, after which they
received several performances in New York and later won Columbia University’s
Joseph H. Bearns Prize—they were without question designed to provide audiences
with Talma’s perspective.

While it was rare at the time for a composer to write works in a way that
indicated the love of one woman for another woman by setting songs with clearly
male protagonists for women’s voices, it nonetheless recalls both the seventeenth-century
practice of women writing love poetry for one another using either a male
or female point of view,22 and the contemporary practice in popular music in which
women in lesbian bars, sometimes in transvestite dress, perform songs originally
written for a male singer and about his relationships with women, changing the
male “I” of these first-person narratives to a feminine one.23 In expressing samesex
desire for Boulanger through the songs, in particular by claiming the masculine
“I” for female voices and thus female narratives, Talma made a stand for her own
sexuality, addressing her sexual identity and desires through the medium of the
works, and confirmed her position by allowing the songs to be published and
performed publicly.

In writing these songs for public consumption, as well as performing her
devotion to Boulanger through her own personal actions, Talma constructed an
identity for herself apart from the encumbrances of society’s expectations. This
act constitutes the creation of an autobiographical manifesto as defined by Kaplan:
Talma was negotiating her identity and the degree to and means with which she
was comfortable at this period of her life. By composing love songs that the
general public would recognize as being sung by a woman to another woman and
which her close friends would recognize as reflective of her desired relationship
with Boulanger, Talma testified to her experiences using the text and its setting to
locate herself as the unrequited lover. Talma’s manuscripts indicate that the songs
were composed in New York, and performances of them took place there, but it
is unknown whether Boulanger ever saw or heard them. However, the Madrigals
depart somewhat in form and style from Talma’s earliest works, which were
much more experimental, abandoning the idea of stable key areas and meter. The
Madrigals, in contrast, are written using common-practice period harmonic and
rhythmic language and conventions, adoptions Talma made only after studying
with Boulanger and which she may have used to try to draw a favorable reception
from Boulanger. Nonetheless, they use several of Talma’s common compositional
hallmarks, including the use of non-developmental blocks to structure a piece;
using the minor and/or major second to indicate emphasis, often distress; and her practice of dis/continuity, in which she maintains continuity through some
compositional elements while creating simultaneous discontinuity with others.

Talma sets three of Wyatt’s poems in her Madrigals.These poems, “The Appeal:
An Earnest Suit to his Unkind Mistress, not to Forsake him,” “Revocation,” and
“The Careful Lover Complaineth and the Happy Lover Counseleth,” present a
narrator who continually asks the beloved to affirm her loyalty and desire, implores
her to deny her apparent rejection, and ultimately finds her cruel. Talma set the songs
for women’s voices and string quartet or piano, changing the narrator’s gender from
male to female while retaining the female gender of the beloved, altering the context
of the poetry to make the same-sex desire Talma intended to express more apparent.
The narrative provided by the arrangement of the songs in this cycle corresponds
to Talma’s responses regarding her relationship with Boulanger. Just as their early
time together was characterized by closeness, albeit friendship, it was followed
by awkwardness caused by Talma’s and Boulanger’s differing ideas about the
relationship. The narrator of “The Appeal” is perplexed that the beloved, whom the
lover has “loved […] so long/In wealth and woe among,” has begun to cast off the
lover through a withdrawal of attention and affection: “wilt thou leave me thus,/And
have no more pitye/Of him that loveth thee?/Alas, thy cruelty!/And wilt thou leave
me thus?” The lover entreats the beloved to change her mind, repeatedly pleading,
“Say nay! say nay!” The text ends with the relationship unresolved: the lover yearns
for the beloved, who returns no encouraging response; indeed, there is no response
at all.

And wilt thou leave me thus!
Say nay, say nay, for shame!
—To save thee from the blame
Of all my grief and grame.
And wilt thou leave me thus?
Say nay! say nay!
And wilt thou leave me thus,
That hath loved thee so long
In wealth and woe among:
And is thy heart so strong
As for to leave me thus?
Say nay! say nay!
And wilt thou leave me thus,
That hath given thee my heart
Never for to depart
Neither for pain nor smart:
And wilt thou leave me thus?
Say nay! say nay!
And wilt thou leave me thus,
And have no more pitye
Of him that loveth thee?
Alas, thy cruelty!
And wilt thou leave me thus?
Say nay! say nay!24

While “The Appeal,” with its emphatic cries of “say nay!” could be set in a
declamatory way, interpreting the text so as to chastise the beloved and order her
to deny or reverse her rejection, Talma sets the text as a lament, signified by the
slow tempo (Andante non troppo; quarter note = 100) and the quiet dynamic indications.
Despite the exclamation points that follow each “nay,” the choruses of “say
nay”s are set to falling major second and always marked with hairpins indicating
diminuendos from “say” to “nay,” negating the emphasis given by the poet and
again creating a textbook example of a musical “sigh” as used in traditional
Renaissance madrigal practice and in works ranging from Bach to Mahler (Example 2.1)

Example 2.1 “The Appeal, mm. 1-8

“For shame” is set identically to “say nay” in the inner voices; again,
rather than a rebuke, it is instead almost wistful, echoing Talma’s dismay over
Boulanger’s lack of warmth as described in the correspondence examined above.
The “shame” is that the relationship is not proceeding, rather than that the
beloved should be ashamed for her actions. Nonetheless, the lover holds out some
hope: in contrast to the inner voices, the outer voices crescendo slightly on “for shame,” and the questions asked by the narrator end on rising tones, just as true
questions do in speech, whereas rhetorical ones move down in pitch. “And wilt
thou leave me thus?,” which rises through each iteration to forte, uses repetition
to counter disbelief, pushing the question over and over in long, slurred lines.
Contrasting modalities support the ambiguous outcome of the lover’s question.
The song initially outlines the Phrygian mode in the outermost voices and the
melody. At measure 21, when the voices state the query together and at forte,
the preceding tonality centered around E abruptly shifts with the introduction of
B-flat in contrast to the repeated B-naturals of the previous measures, briefly suggesting
a Lydian relationship based on the enharmonically spelled augmented fourth of
E–B-flat; Talma then cadences on an FM7. This tonal and modal discontinuity creates
a harmonic instability in the work that is resolved only with a formal change of
key at measure 27 from E Phrygian to F# minor.

The F# minor section begins with an extended passage on C#m7, further leading
to a sense of harmonic instability, finally cadencing on F# eight measures later at
measure 35. This section is marked Poco più mosso and although it begins with a
repetition of “And wilt thou leave me thus?,” it soon picks up the second stanza:
“That hath given thee my heart/never for to depart/Neither for pain nor smart.”
The slightly faster tempo here suggests that the lover is making one last urgent
attempt to convince the beloved that the lover is remains true, but the ritardando at
measure 43, transitioning back to Tempo I, and modulating back to E Phrygian by
again using the B-natural/B-flat dichotomy created earlier in the work indicates that this plea has not been successful, as indeed Talma’s pursuit of Boulanger was not.

The climax of “The Appeal” arrives at measures 55 and 56. After several
measures of the lover singing at piano, submissively asking for pity from the
beloved, the lover at last proclaims the beloved’s cruelty, rising dramatically to
forte over three measures that continue to include the sigh motif before cadencing
on E and A in the voices and an FM7 in the piano. This dissonance signifies the
emotional tenor of the work and the anguish on the part of the lover. Except in
cadences, all of which land on the first beat of a measure, Talma frequently avoids
using the fifth of any chord on a strong beat, preferring to add it in only fleetingly
on an off-beat either in a single voice or the accompaniment. This coyness of
establishing a tonal center in a more traditional manner reflects Talma’s own
sense of unease with the way the situation with Boulanger has been left without
solid resolution, leaving them in an uncomfortable, cautious friendship following
Talma’s overtures: the root and third are present, but the fifth, which would help
confirm the tonality/modality, is persistently absent. In the song’s coda, marked
Poco a poco più lento sino alla fine, there is a strong return to the E pentatonic of
the opening, suggesting that the emotions of the narrator have come full circle, as
do the inner voices, singing “say nay” on descending minor second. “Nay” is the
final answer.

“A Revocation” continues the narrative of “The Appeal” through its expression
of the lover’s anger at the rejection by the beloved, coupled with musical reminders
of the previous song, including the use of the descending minor second as a musical sigh and swiftly shifting tonal centers. The text provides the narrative that
the lover and the beloved have exchanged meaningful words and promises to one
another, but that the beloved has not been true to those assurances; Talma may well
have misread Boulanger’s friendship and their familiarity for such pledges and felt
that Boulanger had not honored them.

The concept of betrayal and doubleness runs throughout the poem, and
Talma represents this in her setting. The narrator first asks, “Should I be led/With
doubleness?” in the first stanza, and then repeats the conceit in almost every stanza
following, citing the beloved’s “double heart,” calling her actions “unjust,” and
decrying the acts that cause the lover to be “betrayed” by her. The lack of physical
contact between the lover and the beloved is made abundantly clear and emphasized
in the final stanza, in which the narrator abandons hope of reconciliation with
an abrupt, “Farewell, unkist!” As in “The Appeal,” the lover brands the beloved
cruel, here calling her “unkind” and “unjust.” Again, Talma’s letters support this
musical testimony as to what she seems to have decided was unfair treatment on
Boulanger’s part, despite the clear lack of interest from Boulanger.

What should I say?
—Since Faith is dead,
And Truth away
From you is fled?
Should I be led
With doubleness?
Nay! nay! mistress.
I promised you,
And you promised me,
To be as true
As I would be.
But since I see
Your double heart,
Farewell my part!
Thought for to take
‘Tis not my mind;
But to forsake
One so unkind;
And as I find
So will I trust.
Farewell, unjust!
Can ye say nay
But that you said
That I alway
Should be obeyed?
And—thus betrayed
Or that I wist!
Farewell, unkist!25

The song is structured in four blocks, each with a contrasting texture in the piano
while the voices provide continuity through their use of a rising three-note motif.
Although in “The Appeal,” each voice was treated equally, in “A Revocation,”
Talma singles out the second alto—her own preferred vocal position (Talma)—for
special treatment; aside from the introduction, it always enters before or after the
other three voices and usually provides contrasting melodic motion and rhythms.
“A Revocation” is angry, in contrast to the pleading quality of “The Appeal.” The
introduction, set in E major, is emphatic, at a quick tempo, and marked forte deciso.
It quickly establishes the key, a tendency to modulate to the dominant, and the motif,
after which the vocalists enter together with the first stanza’s series of rhetorical
questions, demanding, “What should I say?” Voices are frequently doubled in this
A section, both rhythmically and in pitch before launching into a counterpoint and
coming back together again for “Nay! nay! mistress.”

A more lyrical B section in C major follows, starting at measure 17. Accompanied
by a rocking tonic-dominant line in the piano, the lover recounts the promises she
and the beloved have made one another. The key change represents a different time
and space, and the top three voices are in rhythmic unison, indicating the close
relationship of the narrator and the woman she loves. However, the second alto
trails behind the top three and is more independent, providing motion when the
top voices hold pitches, a reluctant echo like the lone ascending voice that hopes
against hope in “The Appeal.” As the text moves from the lover’s recollection
of promises to her realization of the beloved’s doubleness and the necessity of
bidding the beloved farewell, the key modulates to G major and then back C major
as the narrator’s resolve to depart strengthens and her anger returns. The B section
cadences in C major, but the piano line descends chromatically, dragging the work
into a short C section in F minor, using D-naturals throughout to continue the major
second motif of the previous section. The tempo speeds up, and the upper and
lower voices are divided into pairs, the bottom more agitated than the top. The
piano line is syncopated and emphasizes the major second used to set the text
“Thought for to take” in the upper voices. This stanza, too, ends with farewell;
“farewell” and “unjust” are positioned against one another on a ii–I cadence that
indicates that the lover, while wishing to be finished, is not quite done addressing
the beloved; an emphatic cadence is avoided (Example 2.2).

 

Example 2.2. “A Revocation,” mm. 35-51

Talma modulates the song from F minor through A-flat major back to E major
over the course of two measures, returning to the material of the A section
and ending the song with emphatic statements of “Farewell, unkist!” and an
affirmative V/V–V–I cadence in the piano. Talma’s disappointment and anger over her treatment by Boulanger are plainly in view here, emphasized by the often
separate voicing of the second alto, and “A Revocation” stands as a declarative
document, supported by the epistolary evidence, of Talma’s own narrative.

“The Careful Lover Complaineth and the Happy Lover Consoleth” is the last
of Talma’s Three Madrigals. Spurned, the careful lover tells the happy lover of
her beloved’s unfaithfulness: “My Lady is unkind, perdie! She loveth another
better than me, And yet she will say no,” states the poem. Talma evidently saw
this as applicable to Boulanger, who, as Virgil Thomson, Léonie Rosenstiel, Jérôme  Spycket, and others document, had clear favorites among her students
and often set them in competition with one another, ostensibly to push them to
improve, but also to create drama in her life. The lover tells her happy friend, who is lucky in love and experiences “no such doubleness,” to be wary, for that
“women’s love is but a blast/And turneth like the wind.” In this song, Talma
selects a text that, given to female voices, follows Talma’s own path from her
times as Boulanger’s possible happy lover to the resigned, hurt, and careful lover.
Rather than addressing the beloved directly, “A Careful Lover” explores the idea
of discussing the failed romance with a third party. However, the careful lover
deems the happy lover naïve and deluded in the ways of women’s love, and insists
on their faithlessness. Talma’s setting of the poem as a sung conversation between
women could be read as a means of warning women new to Boulanger’s orbit
of Boulanger’s habits of playing favorites and preferring to encourage men over
women in composition careers.

Ah! Robin!
Joly Robin!
Tell me how thy Leman doth?
And thou shalt know of mine.
“My Lady is unkind, perdie!”
Alack, why is she so!
“She loveth an other better than me,
And yet she will say, no.”
RESPONSE.
I find no such doubleness;
I find women true.
My lady loveth me doubtless,
And will change for no new.
LE PLAINTIF
Thou art happy while that doth last,
But I say as I find;
That woman’s love is but a blast,
And turneth like the wind.
RESPONSE.
But if thou wilt avoid thy harm,
Learn this lesson of me;
At others fires thyself to warm,
And let them warm with thee.
LE PLAINTIF.
Such folks shall take no harm by love,
That can abide their turn;
But I, alas, can no way prove
In love, but lack, and mourn.

“The Careful Lover” begins with a dotted rhythm in the piano, representing the
light heart of the happy lover. The second soprano and second alto, serving as
the happy lover, call out salutes to “Joly Robin,” but their warm greeting ends
abruptly with the entrance of the first soprano and first alto, who voice the careful,
disappointed lover. At the entrance of the careful lover, the tempo slows from quarter note = 100 to 76, and Talma affects a sudden chromatic shift to distant G# minor.

Where Talma gave the happy lover short phrases with articulated notes, the
careful lover’s text is set in long, slurred sighs of unhappiness. The happy lover
responds in a slurred response, echoing the despair of the careful lover, albeit in
her previous mode. The exchange continues in these contrasting modalities, and
the careful lover has the last say, in which Talma uses some basic text-painting
techniques: the second time the careful lover sings “turneth like the wind,” the
melody is an inversion and transposition of the original statement. The careful
lover, embodied in Talma’s vocal ranges, knows her beloved to be untrue.

These songs constitute a significant document explicating Talma’s relationship
with Boulanger. The consistency of expression between these works and Talma’s
correspondence of the same period indicates that the songs were written with
Boulanger in mind and as a manifesto in which Talma is able to state her desire
for Boulanger and her despair over not being able to successfully court Boulanger.

The repetitive nature of the text Talma selected and the non-developmental
settings of the Three Madrigals speak to what Jennifer Rycenga has described
as the “ability to becloud and erase—through temporality—the lines between
experience and story, between experience and expression.”28 Rycenga suggests
that works by lesbian composers do not just engage in narrative, but also function
in ways involving the temporal, including time and memory. Equating the creation
of such music with lovemaking, which is also both experience and expression,
she writes that narrative, in the traditional sense of musical conflict, struggle,
and domination, or what she calls “the eventual transcendence and obliteration
of time,” can be jettisoned for the sake of lingering, cyclical pleasure.29 While
Talma moves the text and melody from key area to key area, none of the Three
Madrigals follows a conventional common-practice or neo-classical pattern of
progressions. Instead, as my analysis above notes, they recall and recycle key
areas and motifs—suggesting that, again, Straus’s concept of pattern completion
applies—as well as memories. Time is blurred: is Talma addressing the present,
the past, both? She is also placing hope in these works for future development
in her relationship with Boulanger, one in which her lovemaking might move
from the musical to the physical, solidifying Rycenga’s concept that lesbian
compositional process interacts as a whole with the material/tactile, the temporal, the erotic, and the genital.30 Talma hoped to use these works to make progress in
her courting of Boulanger. That the songs were composed for public performance
and consumption indicate that Talma’s desire was both outward and physical—a
pub(l)ic statement, as it were.

Notes
18 Louise Talma, Three Madrigals, (New York: J. Fischer and Bros., 1930).
19 Olin Downes, “Music: Adesi Chorus in Spirited Concert,” New York Times, April
16, 1930 (Madrigals); and “Women Composers Heard,” New York Times, December 17,
1929 (“La Belle Dame Sans Merci”); and Ammer, Unsung, 158.
20 Julia Watson, “Unspeakable Differences: The Politics of Gender in Lesbian and
Heterosexual Women’s Autobiographies,” in Sidonie Smith, ed., De/colonizing the Subject:
The Politics of Gender in Women’s Autobiography (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 1992), 130.
21 Ibid., 140.
22 Faderman, Surpassing the Love of Men, 68–9.
23 Faderman, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, 77.
24 Thomas Wyatt, “The Appeal,” The Oxford Book of English Verse, accessed February
7, 2013, www.bartleby.com/101/35.html.
25 Thomas Wyatt, “A Revocation,” The Oxford Book of English Verse, www.bartleby.
com/101/36.html. Accessed February 7, 2013.
26 Léonie Rosenstiel, Nadia Boulanger: A Life in Music (New York: W.W. Norton,
1998), 311, 357, 383; Jérôme Spycket, Nadia Boulanger (Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon
Press, 1992), 79; Virgil Thomson to Aaron Copland, November 26, 1931, John Kirkpatrick
Collection, Gilmore Music Library, Yale University.
27 Thomas Wyatt, “The Careful Lover Complaineth, and the Happy Lover
Counselleth,” The Poetical Works, www.bartleby.com/255/92.html. Accessed February 7,
2013.
28 Jennifer Rycenga, “Lesbian Compositional Process: One Lover-Composer’s
Perspective,” in Philip Brett, ed., Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology
(New York: Routledge, 1994), 284.
29 Ibid., 283.
30 Ibid., 281.

Visit to Minneapolis-St Paul

This week I’m at the University of St Thomas in Minneapolis-St Paul, where I’m a joint guest of the English and Music departments, thanks to the work of Dr. Olga Herrera and Dr . Shersten Johnson.

Yesterday I had a great time talking about grant proposals for research in the humanities with undergraduate students in the “Research is Me-search” session organized by Dr. Marty Warren and seeing undergraduate research posters, where I was especially impressed by Cassie Froese’s work on the function of magic on women’s agency in YA fantasy novels. I also had a wonderful time at the Luann Dummer Center for Women talking with Dr. Young-ok An’s graduate students about inter- and multi-disciplinary approaches to working with literature and my own experiences in multidisciplinary research, as well as how that benefits my creative work.

Today I’ll be doing two class visits. I’ll start off in Brit lit and discuss how film has developed an expected soundscape for films set in the medieval period, particularly in Britain. Tonight I’ll visit a music class and talk about the history of film music and various topics in scoring film.

Want me to come to your school for a visit? Let me know! I am always happy to do in-person and Skype talks!

My new role with the Composer Diversity Project

I am honored and delighted to take on the role of Director of Scholarship and Research for the Composer Diversity Project! Check out the Composer Diversity Database, the first component of the Project. Future proposed projects include additional databases and online resources for writing about composers of diversity, programming music by diverse composers, and using the work of a diverse body of composers to teach.

Some of my work will be building print/online resources and best practices guidelines for performers, scholars, journalists, and others. Please feel free to contact me with requests or suggestions.

Here is the complete administrative team:

Director & Founder: Dr. Rob Deemer
Director of Engagement: Jamie Leigh Sampson
Director of Development: Dr. Penny Brandt
Director of Scholarship and Research: Dr. Kendra Leonard
Director of Database Growth: Dr. Andrew Martin Smith
Master Database Builder: Christian Michael Folk
Research Fellow: Shawna Wolf
Research Fellow: Sierra Wojtczack
Research Fellow: Sean Penzo

Next week: Disparate Bodies: Research Tracks and Creative Endeavors

Disparate Bodies: Research Tracks and Creative Endeavors
Kendra Preston Leonard, PhD
October 2, 2018      6:15-7:30 pm
Luann Dummer Center for Women
University of St. Thomas

My brain is like a cat, constantly trying to catch multiple red dots. My brain is like a corvid, attracted to the shiny and new. My brain wants to DO ALL THE THINGS! Is your brain like mine? Or totally different? Either way, come to a discussion about how this has made my career one full of work in different disciplines and using different approaches, one that encompasses multiple kinds of theory and praxis, and one that involves both rigorous scholarly work and creative writing, and how your own work can be wider-ranging and more inclusive of all of the things you’re interested in than you might have thought. We’ll talk about the usefulness of inter- and multi-disciplinary study, disciplinary cross-theorization, balancing the creative with the scholarly, and whatever issues, questions, or ideas you bring with you. 

Musicology Now on Musicology & Sex

Today, Musicology Now posted an essay by Amber R. Clifford-Napoleone in which the author bewails the lack of material on music and sexuality. As someone whose own work is erased by this claim, I want to point out that musicology has, as a discipline, engaged with sexuality in a very robust manner over the last twenty years, if not longer. Contrary to Clifford-Napoleone’s statement that “If the subject is not a famous queer performance, or someone famous for being a queer performer, then it is not in the archives as ‘sexuality.'” I cannot think of a more erroneous proclamation. I encourage her–as well as anyone interested in music and sexuality–to begin with the following resources:

I hope that careful and critical reading of submitted essays by the Musicology Now staff will prevent the publication of such poorly-informed pieces in the future. Many recent posts have been excellent and, given the blog’s mixed history of success, we need the best scholarship we can get.