Nee Chucherdwatanasak presents at AMS Midwest

Last weekend, the fall meeting of AMS Midwest Chapter took place at Wayne State University in Detroit. SMR member Nee Chucherdwatanasak participated on panel on a Saturday afternoon to present her paper, “Live from Orchestra Hall: The Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Concert Livestreaming” (see below for abstract), which examined the DSO’s webcast series and its impact on the digital strategies of other American orchestras. 

Wayne State’s signature building, Old Main, where the conference took place
credit: Wayne State University

Abstract: “Live from Orchestra Hall: The Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Concert Livestreaming”

To ensure their vitality in the twenty-first century, several American orchestras have adopted digital technology to attract audiences, particularly by livestreaming concerts. While many orchestras livestream their concerts only occasionally, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) offers free, regular HD webcasts—Live from Orchestra Hall—virtually every week throughout the concert season. How does the DSO’s webcast series operate? In what ways does it contribute to the organization? And given how critical this digital strategy has been to the DSO’s turnaround after its near-disastrous strike in 2010–11, why have other orchestras not adopted this livestream approach?

This paper examines the DSO webcast series, the first—and so far, the only—free, regular classical concert livestreaming service in the United States. My research combines an archival approach, based on local newspaper coverage and DSO material, with an ethnographic study including interviews with the administrative executives, staff, and musicians about the impetus, strategy, and impact of the orchestra’s webcast series. Helping the DSO to prevail in the new century, the Live from Orchestra Hall series has brought about innovative changes without compromising the organization’s artistic goals. Although the webcast strategy brings no direct financial profit to the orchestra, its long-term, indirect benefits to the DSO’s image and revenues could be influential.

SMR Members at Annual AMS Meeting

A reception hosted by the University of Michigan (credit: William van Geest).

Recently, SMR members attended the Eighty-third Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society in Rochester, NY. Members attended the usual line-up of paper sessions, keynotes, and receptions. In addition, one SMR member, Vivian Luong, presented a paper at a session entitled “Intellectual Roots Reviewed” (see abstract below). Congratulations and nice work, Vivian!


feminism session
A standing-room-only crowd at the Women and Gender Endowed Lecture (credit: William van Geest).



Philosophies of the Body in Feminine Endings: The Feminist Roots of Music Theory’s Embodied Turn
Vivian Luong (University of Michigan)
Alongside musicology’s material turn (Dolan 2015; Watkins and Esse 2015), bodies—such as listeners’ bodies, performers’ bodies, and sonic/musical bodies—have become key music-theoretical objects of study in recent decades. Beginning with Suzanne Cusick’s feminist critique of music theory’s mind/body problem (1994), accounts of embodied musical experience continue to proliferate across diverse areas of scholarship from performance and analysis (Fisher and Lochhead 2002) to music cognition (Kozak 2015) and music and disability studies (Lerner and Straus 2006). While Cusick’s article and other feminist music-theoretical texts are often referenced in embodied music theory (Hasty 2010; Mead 1999), both music theorists and musicologists have yet to consider a historical account of the feminist-philosophical context out of which these influential writings on the body emerged.

My paper illuminates the philosophical orientations that color one such text, Susan McClary’s Feminine Endings (1991). While a significant contribution to new musicology, I argue that McClary’s book also opened a space for bodily inquiry in subsequent feminist and embodied music-theoretical scholarship. Drawing on philosopher Elizabeth Grosz’s history of feminist approaches to the body (1994 and 2011), I contextualize Feminine Endings in relation to three categories of feminist thought: egalitarian feminism, social constructionism, and sexual difference. Specifically, in contrast to McClary’s critics who understand her work as an imprecise borrowing of écriture féminine (Higgins 1993; Sayrs 1993–94), I demonstrate how the observed inconsistencies in McClary’s feminist project arise out of two factors: 1) an underlying tension between her investments in egalitarian feminism and social constructionism; and 2) the historical moment in which her text emerged as theories of sexual difference by Grosz, Judith Butler (1990 and 1993), and Donna Haraway (1991) were taking hold. The vacillation in McClary’s writing from the socially-contingent body to the biologically-sexed body, I argue, perfectly encapsulates the contentiousness of talking about the body during this moment in feminist philosophy. In contextualizing McClary within the history of feminist thought and the emergence of embodied music theory, this paper provides a model for understanding the philosophical investments that informed and continue to inform approaches to music-theoretical bodies today.

Renaissance singing
Singing from Renaissance notation with Valerie Horst (credit: William van Geest).