Seminars for 2019 Annual Conference
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Music and Sound in Horror Media

Coordinators: Kendra Preston Leonard and Paul Allen Sommerfeld

This seminar seeks to encourage exploration of the use of music and sound in horror media–broadly described–and including but not limited to music within the concert hall, literature, film, radio, television, and online formats.
As scholarship by Deaville and van Elferen demonstrates, music that explores the concept of social horror–the breakdown of the government or other systems, the loss of personal freedoms, and/or other dystopias–in particular has received increased notice in the twenty-first century. Operas including Macbeth and The Turn of the Screw, bands such as GWAR, and the soundtracks for media like The Handmaid's Tale, Black Mirror, mother!, and The Babadook present multiple shades of physical and psychological trauma. Recent operatic treatments of The Shining by Paul Moravec and composer Brooke deRosa's The Monkey's Paw likewise testify to the long reach of horror in music. The Society for American Music's Horror Studies interest group, founded in 2016, notes that while academic treatment of horror genres has been popular since the 1970s, horror is today "central to the elaboration of psychoanalytic film criticism, to feminist criticism, and, more recently, to affect studies," all of which intersect with musicological approaches of study.

Indeed, past musical tropes engaging with horror play a significant role in current music and musical projects, both in evoking and discarding past sonic contexts. Anthologies edited by Lerner and Hayward speak to how previously used signifiers for horror induce nostalgia, otherness, humor, irony, revulsion, shock, or danger. They are freely invoked within scores to communicate danger, strength, death, survival, and other tropes in innovative ways. Cumming and Wlodarski cite the affect of horror and the realities of the Second World War in Reich's Different Trains. Reich musically considers the trains he rode as a child in America and those he might have been forced on had he been in Europe during the Shoah. Outside of the concert hall, Nathan Barr, an established composer for horror films, uses similar approaches in which the familiar is made alien in the soundtrack for The Americans. The show's introductory theme recalls music by Shostakovich, referencing a creative life lived under the horrors of the Stalin regime. The montage juxtaposes images of Soviet Cold War warriors in their home environments and infiltrating quintessential American activities: baseball, cook-outs, and meeting Santa Claus. Similarly, Hirsch details music's ability to both punish and use to incriminate through its sonic and lyric qualities.

Knowing that horror is often in the mind of the perceiver, we welcome papers that focus on any kind of music for horror across various media, particularly the analysis of unexpected or new uses of music to express horror in the diverse guises it takes shape.

American Music and the Construction of Race: American Revolution to the Civil War

Coordinators: Rhae Lynn Barnes and Glenda Goodman

Racial ideology is baked into the cultural and musical history of the United States. The expectation that the newly formed nation would consist of white citizens was explicit and implicit in the era of the Revolution and was not fully laid aside with the end of the American Civil War. A hierarchical understanding of race shaped daily life in America and was central to its musical life. From the pious educational goals of Lowell Mason, to exoticized depictions of Native Americans, to the use of yellowface to lampoon Chinese Americans, music was powerfully influential in the construction of racial ideologies. While the interrelated relationships among race, modernity, and U.S. music is of enduring interest to scholars–especially those focused on the twentieth century to today–this seminar session is dedicated to tracing these long-term themes throughout the decades between the American Revolution and the Civil War, while integrating the multimedia revolution that underpinned race, citizenship, and American music in a broader sense.

Americans who lived in the early nineteenth century were confronted with a bewildering set of changes in their lifetimes. Beyond the many shifting flags under which they lived (Britain, French, France, Native rule, the Confederacy, and the United States), the proliferation of new technology, urbanization, transportation, and the expansion of slavery in U.S. held territories, transformed and circulated public perceptions of racial categories and representation, American citizenship, and emerging ideas of American culture, celebrity, and music entertainment. In the midst of this remarkable flux, U.S. music cultures and related industries helped create, sustain, and reinforce categories of race in an era when new Americans developed a cultural fascination with self- presentation.

A key example, and one that is well studied, is the monumentally popular blackface minstrelsy tradition, which rapidly spread around the globe–circulating through the same global trade and transportation networks that fostered American immigration, slavery, and exchange–and became part of a toxic hybrid of stereotypes and understandings of "Americanness." By the 1840s, blackface was fashioned as America's first authentic cultural export. Although blackface minstrelsy remains the limit case of racialized musical representation, it did not exist in a vacuum. Exoticist and sentimental depictions of native peoples, which were typical in eighteenth-century genteel entertainment, morphed into to new forms with the expansion of the entertainment industry. The arrival of new immigrant groups further churned the waters of American culture, troubling the ethnic and racial hierarchies that music co-constituted.

This seminar seeks to provide a space for the cultivation of new areas of inquiry into the intersection of race, music, and U.S. cultural history. We encourage papers using a wide variety of sources, including ethnographic work, material artifacts like historical instruments, sheet music, theatrical ephemera, photography, journals, and all forms of print media.