"To Look After and Preserve": Curating the American Musical Past, 1905-1945
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CitationCallam, Katie. 2020. "To Look After and Preserve": Curating the American Musical Past, 1905-1945. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines public histories of American music crafted during the early twentieth century. It does so through case studies of four individuals engaged in presenting the musical past to broad audiences. I argue that experiential music histories produced by non-academics enjoyed a significant presence and impact during this period. Historiographers of music in the United States, however, have valued written narratives published at this time. Decentralizing these written histories, which largely focus on white male composers, I demonstrate that their public counterparts often provided an outlet for asserting narratives focused on contributions of women and nonwhites. To account for the diversity of approaches undertaken by individuals who were not trained historians, I contend that approaching them as curators of the musical past is a productive way to explain their work. This project relies on a wide range of archival material, including newspapers, letters, music journals, and objects, and seeks to draw musicology into conversation with history and art history.
The first pair of chapters focuses on two vocalists who presented programs featuring music of the past. White soprano and children’s performer Kitty Cheatham (Chapter 1) situated African American spirituals as vital to the musical heritage of the United States, but did so from a racially fraught position. The operatic dreams of Atalie Unkalunt, a mixed-race, classically trained Cherokee soprano (Chapter 2), went unfilled; instead, she navigated meeting white audience demand and promoting Native culture in her concerts of Indianist music. The second pair of chapters probes the careers of two individuals who displayed exhibits of musical objects. White playwright Leonidas Westervelt (Chapter 3) organized exhibits of souvenirs and memorabilia related to the U.S. tour of nineteenth-century Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, positioning a female performer as significant to the development of American music. African American pianist and scholar Maud Cuney-Hare (Chapter 4) advocated for the rich music history of African Americans by gathering objects as evidence of their achievements and displaying them for mixed-race audiences. Together these case studies reveal that many nuanced ideas of what and whose music qualified as American circulated outside of academic circles during this era.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365803
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