“New Music,” Identity, and Exclusion: A Woman’s Place in a Masculine Space

By: Anna Rose Nelson


Early-career academics frequently experience feelings of exclusion and uncertainty as they transition from student to professional. But what happens when those commonplace feelings are compounded with those of exclusion based on one’s identity and its complex relationship to an exclusive area of research? In this auto-biographical essay, I grapple with how my identity as a white, cisgender woman conflicts not only with the field of music theory generally, but also the subculture surrounding European modernist music, aesthetics, and philosophy (“New Music”)—my chosen topic of study. Responding to regularly occurring statements of disgust regarding my research, I take the reader through a process that mirrors my tormented inner monologue, illustrating the tensions at play as I work towards acceptance: for my research, for the music I love, and for myself.

It’s Saturday night, and I’m standing in a dimly lit hotel lobby, drowning in a sea of people and a din of indistinguishable chatter. There’s an overpriced glass of sickly-sweet white wine warming in my hands. I’m not sure if I should drink it, but given how awkward I feel, it’s a small comfort to know what to do with my arms. I feel out of place. I scan the room for familiar faces. My friend catches my eye—they shoot me a grin and a covert, knowing eye roll. I start in their direction, but they look away and continue chatting with someone who looks important. I should probably know who it is, but I don’t.

With a sharp breath to bolster my courage, I meander instead towards a group of men, happily conversing, who I recognize from an evening session on modernist music. Some of these scholars have published ideas I engage with in my own work (or, at least, their article is waiting not-so-patiently on my “to be read” list). I squeeze into the circle with a smile on my face, trying to convince them—and myself—that I belong there. I make a comment about how I absolutely loved this man’s paper, offering a tiny detail from what I remember of his talk. The other men in the circle, all smiling, agree, offering similar praise to the speaker. He thanks me politely, then jokes about how he’s grateful that at least a few people came. The men laugh, I join them.

The audience in that room an hour ago was small and scattered. This, in stark contrast to the rooms surrounding ours, where, through the paper-thin walls, we could hear fragments of Beethoven, Schumann, and Menken followed by thunderous applause. But scholarship on modernist music isn’t terribly popular at U.S. conferences, so we strain to hear the Carter, Lachenmann, and Cage. Though only tangentially related to one another, these talks were relegated to this late-evening session because, since there were so few papers on “New Music”Joan Arnau Pàmies, “New Music Is Not (Necessarily) Contemporary Music,” New Music USA, June 10, 2016, https://newmusicusa.org/nmbx/new-music-is-not-necessarily-contemporary-music/ accepted this year, they had to be haphazardly smashed together. Despite the hour and the not-so-coherent session theme, the music I love was being discussed, and I wanted to be a part of the conversation.

After our forced laughter dies down, another, younger man in the circle asks me about my dissertation. I’m flattered he’s asked—he’s given me the “in” I need to work my way towards belonging in this space. I’m prepared. My mind quickly flips through the versions of the “elevator pitch” I’ve sketched out: a 30-second, 2-minute, and 10-minute version. Knowing that my work aligns with this group’s interests but also remaining cognizant of this social setting, I choose the 2-minute spiel.

As I’m rattling off the well-rehearsed abstract and trying to gauge my listeners’ reactions, I’m becoming more aware of my gender identity. I stick out. I’m a cisgender, femme-presenting woman in a group composed exclusively of men. I’m wearing heels, makeup, and I keep nervously adjusting my long hair over my shoulders. They’re all looking at me. Stop touching your hair. Stand up straight, don’t stick your hip out. You want them to take you seriously, don’t you?

I get to the point in my elevator pitch where I explain that my dissertation’s case studies traverse a century of “difficult” modernist music, concluding with a chapter on the “fragment-form” music of Brian Ferneyhough—the so-called “father of the New Complexity School”—and the men all react with a pinched, knowing face. Instinctively, I respond to their obvious disapproval with a joking comment about how I know that, even in modernist circles, Ferneyhough’s music is a taste that might be difficult to acquire. “But,” I counter with a smile, “he’s my favorite composer!” One groans, “Oof, that’s tough!” The younger man, with disgust, sneers, “Ew, why?” I recoil, and that short-lived sense of belonging reverts to anxiety. I feel out of place once again.

Over the course of an academic career, research topics become a calling card, a large part of one’s personal identity. An academic’s research is uniquely—sometimes toxically—tied to a sense of self, of self-worth.Sarah Peterson, “Your Job Is Not You,” Inside Higher Ed, January 30, 2017, https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2017/01/30/academics-can-and-should-stop-equating-their-identity-work-essay In professional or networking settings, asking someone about their research topic is the first—and sometimes only—way academics start the work of trying to relate to one another.

At music theory conferences, it’s “Oh, you’re a pop scholar!” “Are you a Schenkerian?” Or, for those with the bandwidth to ask more general, probative questions: Do we have any ideas in common? Do you know the same literature, the same music, the same people? If those conversations go badly—you and your interlocutor have no research interests in common—it’s rare for the conversation to continue. Not only could this be detrimental to one’s professional opportunities (it’s all about who you know, right?), it just feels… bad.

A disgusted reaction to one’s research topic, like that in the scenario detailed above, hits home. “Ew, why?” feels like a personal attack. Although I’m not a confrontational person, internally, I sense myself getting defensive. Why does working with music I love warrant such disgust? And I can’t help but ask myself, Why am I, the only femme-presenting person here, the only one whose research was met with disapproval?

In response to this regularly expressed disgust, I’ve done the work of trying to uncover its origins, hoping that the reaction is not about me doing my work, but rather the work in general. Therefore, I’m acutely aware of the arguments made against the ethics of modernist music.

Perhaps the most obvious, recurring critique levied at New Music can be summed up in one word: elitism. The music doesn’t exist for the average listener—in fact, quite the opposite. You’re supposed to feel uncomfortable, to question your understanding of the music, and maybe not understand it at all. Milton Babbitt writes, in an essay (erroneously) titled “Who Cares If You Listen?,”

…the composer would do himself and his music an immediate and eventual service by total, resolute and voluntary withdrawal from this public world to one of private performance and electronic media, with its very real possibility of complete elimination of the public and social aspects of musical composition. By so doing, the separation between the domains would be defined beyond any possibility of confusion of categories, and the composer would be free to pursue a private life of professional achievement, as opposed to a public life of unprofessional compromise and exhibitionism.Milton Babbitt, “Who Cares If You Listen?” [“The Composer as Specialist”], reprinted in The Collected Essays of Milton Babbitt, ed. Stephen Peles, Stephen Dembski, Andrew Mead and Joseph N. Straus (Princeton University Press, 2003 [1958]), 53.

The idea that composition that is truly forward-thinking or somehow speaking to some universal socio-historical truth will never—and should never—be accepted or understood by the uneducated masses has been used equally by people on both sides of the moral divide to either justify or decry the creations of this aesthetic philosophy. Champions of this music have felt no hesitation publishing this sentiment over the course of a century. Even Arnold Schoenberg, in “How One Becomes Lonely,” wrote,

My works were played everywhere and acclaimed in such a manner that I started to doubt the value of my music. … Either the music or the audience was worthless.Arnold Schoenberg, “How One Becomes Lonely,” in Style and Idea: Selected Writings, trans. Leo Black (London: Belmont Music Publishers, 1975 [1937]), 51.

That Schoenberg, one of the first composers writing in the complex, atonal style now associated with modernist music, felt that audience appreciation—to say nothing of understanding—was detrimental to his “duty of developing [his] ideas for the sake of progress in music” is telling.Schoenberg, 52. For those invested in this sort of “progress,” it’s a fact: this music, while supposedly speaking to some unspoken or underlying social issue, shouldn’t be enjoyed by anyone other than those who’ve had access to extensive (and expensive) training.

And for those who reject either this “progress” or the means towards it, the rebuttal to that attitude is obvious. Many who view this idea as unethical tie the music and its creators to accusations of elitism and classicism. If the audience cannot understand it, who is it for? Is it a worthwhile endeavor to undertake at all? Given the hurdles that a listener invested in understanding this music would have to face—financial or otherwise—New Music’s detractors say no. And it’s not just elitism and classism that creates hurdles, either: it’s racism and sexism as well.

The fact of the matter is that most of the composers of this music were/are almost exclusively white. Most of the people widely considered to have started the trend towards modernist music in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries are from central Europe and North America. And given where New Music currently finds its safe haven—the “ivory tower”Timothy Jacob-Owens, “Whiteness in the Ivory Tower,” European Journal of Legal Studies 13, no. 1 (2021): 1–13. https://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/71276/JACOB-OWENS_2021.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y (thanks, in part, to the beliefs expressed by Babbitt above)—its practitioners remain overwhelmingly white.

Now, because genre and era boundaries are often blurred, quantitatively proving New Music’s whiteness would be impossible. However, if one were to try, perhaps the best place to look for demographics based on popular knowledge and avoiding bias would be everyone’s favorite scholarly resource: Wikipedia. Every single one of the 51 people listed on Wikipedia’s “dynamic list” of composers of modernist music is white.“List of Modernist Composers,” Wikipedia, last modified September 9, 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_modernist_composers Of course, there are many historical reasons for this majority. Not only is there a demonstrable historical supremacy of European and American music in the art-music canon generally, modernism, which is art’s reaction to modernity, focuses specifically on reacting to a historical break in the Western world that correlates with the period of industrialism and world wars in the 19th and 20th centuries.See Victoria Lindsay Levine, “Music, Modernity, and Indigeneity: Introductory Notes,” in Music and Modernity Among First Peoples of North America, ed. Victoria Lindsay Levine and Dylan Robinson (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2021), 1–12. Despite these Eurocentric circumstances, however, it would be false to claim that modernist music was—and is—written only by white men. However, it is significant that those invested enough in this aesthetic to edit a Wikipedia page chose only to add only white faces to the list of representative creators, a fact that has a ripple effect as it relates to the demographics of current New Music spaces.

The demographics of modernist composers, either historical or contemporary, is not the only factor leading to the common opinion that modernist music is a white art form. The accepted narrative of the modernist movement is one of negation, of pushing past tradition and critically confronting the modern situation. The danger of such a narrative is that that the music itself (the structures/systems/compositional methods underlying the music), or at least, the mindset of its creators, can be seen as providing the alternative to the socio-historical situation. This mindset can lead to the idea that individualized socio-cultural environments are subsumed under one epoch, such that any sense of culture is erased and replaced with something universal.

Thus, the New Music aesthetic is rife with the possibility of cultural and artistic appropriation. Lloyd Whitesell, in “White Noise: Race and Erasure in the Cultural Avant-Garde,” argues that there’s little room in New Music for non-white influence. On one hand, Whitesell contends, composers of modernist music attempting to reach past its white framing by incorporating non-Western musical traits could be accused of the European colonizers’ “insatiable appetite for appropriation,”Lloyd Whitesell, “White Noise: Race and Erasure in the Cultural Avant-Garde,” American Music 19, no. 2 (2001): 169. a common accusation for any artifact or policy enclosed by the ivory tower of academia and their performative DEI initiatives.Sara Ahmed, On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2012). Or, more insidiously, on the other, that the music, in being portrayed as “universal,” opens a Pandora’s box of problematic interpretations, including that which puts white creators in a position of hero, and non-white creators or art in a position that is marked, othered. As Whitesell writes,

the avant-garde rhetoric of negation is expressed abstractly, as a fascination with nothingness, with little attempt to relate the aesthetic to a historical or social context … The color white often stands in for emptiness and colorlessness; thus it is a recurrent symbol in the avant-garde discourse of negation. … This follows from the assumption of a white world, where whiteness is normal and merely part of the backdrop, not a salient feature. According to this attitude, white people are just people, not members of a race with a character of its own.Whitesell, 170, 183.

The un-marking of cultural objects—especially ones that are purported to be speaking towards a pessimistic human experience as justification for their inaccessibility—can be alienating and dangerous. If the unspoken program of this art is supposedly one that should speak to human experience in a brutal late-capitalist world, but some listeners’ experiences don’t seem to align with it, it is, at best, not doing its job. At worst, this mindset serves to exclude certain groups, and demonstrates that the “universality” of its approach is actually only applicable to those with degrees of access to whiteness, a specific and narrow type of education, and capital—put simply, far from the “universal” human experience.

I want to pause here to situate the reader as I continue down this rabbit hole a bit longer: I’m, personally, in a position of financial privilege, and that has enabled me to gain some access to New Music spaces. I was raised with frequent access to art music, extensive private training on my primary instruments, and was never too concerned with the financial toll this activity could take on me or my family. I was lucky enough to attend a private college to study music theory and composition, and I’ve been able to survive for nearly a decade on low pay as I slog through two more graduate degrees. Thus, despite the feelings of exclusion I’ve personally experienced, and despite the ways that modernist attitudes have served to reinforce inaccessibility for so many, I want to be clear that, as it relates to classist barriers, I am not one of those who would generally be left out of the conversation.

Further, I’m white. I’ve never gone into a rehearsal or a concert hall and felt othered by my skin tone. In fact, despite myself, I’ve found myself noticing non-white people in these spaces, highlighting just how monochromatic the activity is. So, despite how all of the expressed critiques above stick in my gut, I, a financially privileged white person, should feel welcomed in these circles, right? So, what’s happening? What could be causing this disgusted reaction in conversations about my work? Perhaps the answer can be found by digging around in an aspect of my identity that does stick out in these spaces: my gender.

Returning to my search for answers, I realize that shedding light on the problematic framing of the aesthetics of (New) Western art music as “universal” in scholarship began many decades ago. Perhaps the most provocative critics of the idea that (Western concert) music (written by men) is a “universal language” came to be known as proponents of the “New Musicology.” In the late 1980s/early 1990s, the rather young field of music theory—that strain of scholarship associated with Babbitt, Schoenberg, and Forte; with rigorous, quantitative analyses of musical structures and patterns; with set theory and Schenkerian analysis; with viewing the musical work as a lifeless corpseTheodor W. Adorno, “On the Problem of Musical Analysis,” trans. Max Paddison, Music Analysis 1, no. 2 (1986): 171. Even in 1969, when this lecture was given, the view that music analysis (what we might now label “theory” in the U.S., was prevalent. “The word ‘analysis’ easily associates itself in music with the idea of all that is dead, sterile and farthest removed from the living work of art. One can well say that the general underlying feeling towards musical analysis is not exactly friendly. The musician’s traditional antagonism to so-called ‘dead knowledge’ is something that has been handed down of old, and continues to have its effect accordingly.” for analysis—came “under attack,” according to some practitioners.Kofi Agawu, “Analysis Under the New Musicological Regime,” Music Theory Online 2, no. 4 (1996). https://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.96.2.4/mto.96.2.4.agawu.html

Alongside the many voices calling for a critical re-examination of analytical practiceSome foundational texts in the field of the “new musicology” might be Joseph Kerman’s “How We Got into Analysis, and How to Get Out,” Critical Inquiry 7, no. 2 (1980): 311–331; Kerman’s Contemplating Music: Challenges to Musicology (Harvard University Press, 1986); and Lawrence Kramer’s Music as Cultural Practice: 1800–1900 (University of California Press, 1993). was the feminist scholar Susan McClary, who published strong, confronting opinions about Western music scholarship, the male-oriented listening practices of the academy, and the music prized by that institution. While most known for her 1991 book, Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality, which sharply disparages much conventional music scholarship as constructed for and by the male gaze (ear, mind, experience), this famous feminist scholar had lots to say about the New Music world, as well.

In “Terminal Prestige: The Case of Avant-Garde Music Composition,” McClary reiterates the conventionalized ways the composer/theorists of the 1950s/60s participated in the elitist segregation of New Music from society. She goes further, arguing that, if the university is the safe space for such (anti-) cultural production, contemporary music that does not toe the “party line” of modernism could be seen as a different sort of anti-hegemonic: A music of the people. She writes,

[Modernist] music is an endangered species, the last remnants of which are being carefully protected in university laboratories. Because to anyone who has not been trained in terms of the modernist partyline, it is quite obvious that the twentieth century has witnessed an unparalleled explosion in musical creativity. … this unruly explosion in the twentieth century is the coming to voice of American blacks and latinos, of the rural and working classes, of women, and (in the case of those we might call postmodern) of those whose training in those creepy institutions did not quite take.Susan McClary, “Terminal Prestige: The Case of Avant-Garde Music Composition,” Cultural Critique 12, “Discursive Strategies and the Economy of Prestige” (1989): 63–4.

For McClary, those outside the ivory tower who dare to create something other than avant-garde music were more authentically engaged in social critique: one that included not just white, male academics. Importantly, alongside racial and economic categories, she includes “women” as one of those groups left out by modernist music.

Using a similar methodology as that found in Feminine Endings to confront much of the Western canon and the methods commonly used to dissect it, McClary outlines a dichotomy: modernism’s “hard-core” masculinity as a retreat from the “softer,” more “feminine” acts of art making. The complex wall of sound that characterizes modernist music confronts the ear, batters, and attacks; whereas the sentimental and idyllic beauty of “pretty” music lulls and comforts. The parallel here is clear: Modern music = masculine, while accessible or pleasing music = feminine.

But what’s more, McClary points out, much of the subject matter and ways of talking about systems and logics of modernist music comes at the expense of the feminine. She writes,

… the retreat to the boy’s club of modernism was not simply a matter of sloughing off soft, sentimental, “feminine” qualities for the sake of more difficult, “hard-core” criteria. Littering the path of this retreat are countless mutilated representations of women—the self-conscious defacements of what had previously been upheld in art and society as “the beautiful”—which have been protected from critical scrutiny by modernist appeals to autonomy, objectivity, abstraction, artistic liberation from bourgeois constraints, stylistic innovation, and progress.McClary, “Terminal Prestige,” 72.

And it’s true: In a practical sense, any music one might encounter at a concert of modernist music that has some program (many don’t) often portrays women as one of three things: a victim of horrible violence (Berg’s Wozzeck), a femme fatale (Berg’s Lulu), or a madwoman (Schoenberg’s Erwartung). Any scrutiny of the lives of female characters in modernist opera or art song (that is written by men) shows the pattern: They exist as the villain or as the victim of the story. There are very few other archetypes that appear in women’s roles throughout this repertoire. If ever there was a red flag, this is it.

And so, despite—or, perhaps, because of—this extensive research into uncovering the logic behind the disgust I’m so often confronted with, I’m back where I started. The philosophy and aesthetics of modernism scream it from the rooftops: women, people of color, and people who don’t have access to the ivory tower don’t belong in New Music. It’s dangerous for me. Once again, I feel out of place.

At this point in my tormented inner monologue, I usually seek sanctuary in a simple fact, an apologetics: I love this music. The music I study is not just a dissertation topic to me.Roz Ivanič, Writing and Identity: The Discoursal Construction of Identity in Academic Writing (John Benjamins Publishing, 1998). These pieces have shaped who I am. They’ve gotten me through tough times, they allow me to focus and listen when I’m overstressed, and they’ve inspired me when I felt stuck. What could be so wrong about learning more about a human art form you love?, I ask myself defensively.

I find solace in scholarship on music loving. Though a primary take-away in this line of inquiry might be a call for a more humane, human-oriented type of analysis (as opposed to the positivist, mechanical data collection the field had recently been accused of), the engagement with music modeled in this scholarship reminds me that music has a strange type of life, too—we imbue it with its own subjectivity. In her call for a more descriptive, musical music analysis, Marion Guck, in “Music Loving, Or the Relationship with the Piece,” writes,

It is common in music scholarship to speak of pieces as if they were artifacts, entities having material form, which we can study and discuss separate from ourselves. … This is an illusion: sounds do not become music until they have entered a person, until they have been heard or imagined and attended to. Music exists only in the interaction between sound and the body-and-mind of an individual.Marion Guck, “Music Loving, or the Relationship with the Piece,” Music Theory Online 2, no. 2 (1996), https://mtosmt.org/issues/mto.96.2.2/mto.96.2.2.guck.html.

Or perhaps more directly, in her chapter on the ways in which sexuality and engaging in music relate, Suzanne Cusick, in “On a Lesbian Relationship with Music,” writes,

…if music might be for some of us, or for all of us sometimes, in the position sometimes called “significant other,” then one might look for scrambling and shifting of roles with it, for funny power relationships with it, moments when it is the lover—that is, the active, pleasure-giving partner—and moments when it is the beloved—the partner who somehow receives pleasure or empowerment.Suzanne Cusick, “On a Lesbian Relationship with Music: A Serious Effort Not to think Straight,” in Queering the Pitch, ed. Phillip Brett, Gary C. Thomas, and Elizabeth Wood (New York & London, 1993), 73–74.

Once music becomes a subject in/through/via human interaction, we are able to develop bonds with it. We can fall in love with it. And just like a friend, a lover, or even one’s self-reflection, it can be a complex assemblage of good and bad—it is not one-dimensional. And if we humans can love other humans with good and bad sides, can’t we, as listeners, love music with good and bad sides?

My defensive side says yes. My love for this music persists despite both the guilt I feel as a result of the charges of harm levied against it and the ways that the philosophy, aesthetics, and systems of New Music spaces have excluded people—myself included. That love protects me from the disgust hurled at me and my research. I wrap myself in it to shield myself from shame. For another moment, at least, it softens the blows.

The rosy hue fades to grey again when, in reading more recent scholarship in music loving, I realize that, just like a person, despite our love, music can cause damage. There are, of course, extreme examples of the ways that sound can be used to intentionally harm,On the topic of music and sound and their use in torture, see Suzanne Cusick, “Musicology, Torture, Repair,” Radical Musicology 3 (2008) http://www.radical-musicology.org.uk/2008/Cusick.htm. but I speak here not of sound as torture, but the reminder of exclusion on the basis of music. Is the music I love… a bully? Should I try to fall out of love with it, should I try to hate it? Am I defending something that causes harm, something fundamentally based on maltreatment? What does that make me?For an enlightening perspective on this feeling, see William Cheng, Loving Music Till It Hurts (Oxford University Press, 2019); William Cheng, “Gaslight of the Gods: Why I Still Play Michael Jackson and R. Kelly for My Students,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 15, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/article/gaslight-of-the-gods-why-i-still-play-michael-jackson-and-r-kelly-for-my-students/?cid2=gen_login_refresh. The love I had been hiding behind falters and my sense of safety dissolves at this realization.

When I observe colleagues and scholars speak lovingly and excitedly with one another about the beautiful (or fun, or provocative, or intricately designed) music they study, all sharing in the joy and admiration I once felt, I stay silent. I feel out of place.

Despite my best efforts over many grueling weeks to come up with some neat solution, reason, or call to action to close out this essay, I have none. All of the above, which really equates to a tortured, fruitless search for validation, brought me back to the same emotional place I was when that man’s “Ew, why?” socked me in the gut and knocked the wind out of me. Maybe worse: I still feel out of place, and now, alongside defensive anger, I feel burning shame.

Starting this process of inner turmoil over once more, I review the points in a vain attempt to understand, perhaps even to rationalize my discomfort. If my beloved New Music is founded on principles of exclusion based on class and access to the ivory tower, I should hate it for its elitism. If that specific type of elitism pushes people of color out of the room, I should hate it for its racism. If its emphasis on positivism, rigor, and the philosophies of dead, white men make it only a space for men in that lineage, I should hate it for its sexism—for my own exclusion. If my love for this music, at best, only serves as a flimsy shield to hide myself behind, and at worst, tricks me into defending something harmful, I should try to fall out of love with it, I should hate it.

I want to express all of this coherently, concisely, and in a manner acceptable for scholarly conversation. I want to “Write and rewrite each sentence until its meaning is shiny, polished, and pristine with a hint of antiseptic.”Vivian Luong, “Feeling Like a Theorist,” Engaged Music Theory [blog], June 13, 2022, https://engagedmusictheory.com/tag/music-theory/#endnote11 I want to construct a rigorous, “tidy” argument, stated confidently, and one that answers what’s supposed to be the scholar’s primary question: Why should anyone care? But I can’t. My feelings for this music, for my interlocutors, for my research—it’s messy. It’s difficult. And it hurts, it burns in my throat like obstinately fighting back tears.

In some strange way, though, I know that the salve I’ll need to soothe that burn will be the very thing that caused it. Tonight, once my work is finished and I’ve reached my breaking point with anger, defensiveness, disgust, rage, and shame, I’ll turn on Brian Ferneyhough’s Second String Quartet. I’ll connect my computer’s audio to my good speakers, lay on the floor, close my eyes, and transport back to the time I first heard this piece, when I didn’t know all the terrible feelings I’d experience because I allowed myself to fall in love with it that day many years ago. I’ll focus on the way the four players interact to create one super-instrument, on the fluttering, gestural texture, and on the way the sound drops above and below the surface of silence. There, I feel like I belong.


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Ahmed, Sara. On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2012.

Babbitt, Milton. “Who Cares If You Listen?” [“The Composer as Specialist”]. In The Collected Essays of Milton Babbitt, edited by Stephen Peles, Stephen Dembski, Andrew Mead and Joseph N. Straus, 48–54. Princeton University Press, 2003 [1958].

Borwick, Susan. “Review: Reclaiming Gender in Modernist Music.” NWSA Journal 15, no. 3 (2003): 189–196. 

Cheng, William. “Gaslight of the Gods: Why I Still Play Michael Jackson and R. Kelly for My Students.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 15, 2019. https://www.chronicle.com/article/gaslight-of-the-gods-why-i-still-play-michael-jackson-and-r-kelly-for-my-students/?cid2=gen_login_refresh.

———. Loving Music Till It Hurts. Oxford University Press, 2019.

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Ivanič, Roz. Writing and Identity: The Discoursal Construction of Identity in Academic Writing. John Benjamins Publishing, 1998. 

Jacob-Owens, Timothy. “Whiteness in the Ivory Tower.” European Journal of Legal Studies 13, no. 1 (2021): 1–13. https://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/71276/JACOB-OWENS_2021.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y 

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Maus, Fred. “Masculine Discourse in Music Theory.” Perspectives of New Music 31, no. 2 (1993): 264–293.

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Peterson, Sarah. “Your Job Is Not You.” Inside Higher Ed, January 30, 2017. 	https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2017/01/30/academics-can-and-should-stop-equating-their-identity-work-essay 

Pàmies, Joan Arnau. “New Music Is Not (Necessarily) Contemporary Music.” New Music USA. June 10, 2016. https://newmusicusa.org/nmbx/new-music-is-not-necessarily-contemporary-music/

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Wikipedia. “List of Modernist Composers.” Last modified September 9, 2022. 	https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_modernist_composers