Date of Submission
Music; Medieval Studies
Project Advisor 1
Over the past four years, I have had the privilege of answering the question, “what is your major?” My reply exists in various degrees of specificity. I am a Music major. I am a Classical Voice major. I am a voice major who is concentrating in Medieval Studies. Layer upon layer is added. The more specific I am, the more niche it all seems to become. Yet, that which I love exists in these niches, the in-between spaces where different areas of academia come together to create something new. Something that I have always appreciated about art, in general, is its fluidity. Art does not try to exist in a vacuum. Music takes its influence from all aspects of the world: nature, literature, mythology, history, even math. I have loved being able to explore these spaces, bringing together the different aspects of my study as opposed to keeping them isolated from one another.
There is, in particular, a strong overlap between music, literature, and Classics; three of my most frequent studies at Bard. This became the prompt for my first concert, as well as an overall guiding theme of my repertoire. Tell Me A Story is a program constructed around the tales of my childhood, the ones that inspired me and guided me to the path I am on. From stealing my mother’s copy of the D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths to trying to read Shakespeare sonnets in Third grade, I have been driven by a love of stories, how they change, and the many ways in which they are told. I was beyond thrilled to discover that pursuing a study of music would allow me to embrace all those in-between spaces, and more so, bring new color and light to the books and poems that brought me so much joy in my youth.
Diving deeper still, I am passionate about Early Music. Anything before 1750 AD is where I find my greatest satisfaction. I love the challenge the music gives, often a puzzle one has to put together, whether it is filling in figured bass, determining how to set the verses of your text, or, when all else fails, digging through digital archives to find facsimiles of the manuscripts these songs come from. It is also amazing to see the innovations that occur, the drastic developments to Western music composition, shifting landscapes immensely. It also just so happens that much of Early Music borrows from the Classics in terms of narrative. It also just so happens that all sacred music was composed in Latin. It also just so happens that these topics keep overlapping the more niche we become. It just so happens that I do not have to choose between what I love, and instead have found where each aspect meets.
All this being said, I still look at music and stories of the past with a critical eye, as should every scholar. Lessons I have learned include: old does not equal good, tradition does not validate bias, and art exists to be challenged, not propped up on a pedestal. In particular, I have been struck by the treatment of women in Western music, both as composers and characters. This resulted in my second program, Hell Hath No Fury, a concert dedicated to the disrespected and maligned female voice. All of these women, in one way or another, have been undermined, underestimated, or underappreciated by the patriarchal structure in which we live. Nevertheless, the female characters express their desires, contemplate their hardships, find their own strength, and are honest to themselves about their experiences. The composers, against all odds, pushed forth their music, preserved it, and proved they were just as talented as the men, exploring the depths of praise, love, sorrow, loss, and grief. These women are not niche, not a subset; they are a part of the whole of music, literature, and classics, and, as a result, do not deserve to get lost in the in-betweens. While I am happy I found them in my exploration, it is my desire to bring them up into the light for everyone to love.
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Gilman, Alexandra Hobart, "Tell Me A Story; Hell Hath No Fury: A set of voice recitals on the overlap of Music, Literature, and Classics, and their treatment and depiction of women" (2020). Senior Projects Spring 2020. 228.
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