"Preface" to the scholarly critical edition of Maria Stuart by Amy Beach, co-authored with Liane Curtis and published by The Women's Philharmonic Advocacy
The Ugly Virtuosa
In August 2019, music critic Manuel Brug reviewed a Salzburg Festival performance of Jacques Offenbach’s 1858 opera Orphée aux enfers as full of “fat women in tight corsets [who] keep spreading their legs.” After significant social media condemnation, Brug further asserted that if a woman “shows her body on stage she has to deal with being described like that.” This practice of empowered male critics focusing on the performing female body and sexuality, rather than producing assessments of women’s musical contributions, has persisted for centuries. The Ugly Virtuosa fuses scholarly research and writing with public performance art to explore derogatory descriptive language at the critical historical moment when early modern women began appearing on the public stage as professional musicians in Italy, England, and France. While many were praised for their beauty and chastity, my project evaluates the lived experiences of and pejorative discourses surrounding early modern female performers deemed “ugly” due to their 1) physical features, 2) gender non-conformity, 3) perceived sexual immorality, and/or 4) ethnicity.
expandingthemusictheorycanon.com (site forthcoming)
Western music theory textbooks and score anthologies nearly always contain musical examples composed exclusively by the white men who have come to be regarded as canonical. Although these works are certainly worthy of study, they do not present a complete picture of the wealth of musical compositions written by composers whose voices have historically been suppressed. Many have justified this exclusion by arguing that women and people of color were prevented from the educational opportunities that would enable them to compose prior to the twentieth century. Yet this is simply not the case, as we have thousands of pages of surviving scores by composers from under-represented groups. This comprehensive database of musical examples is pedagogically geared towards the core undergraduate music theory curriculum and includes more than 300 examples of works by women, BIPOC, LGBT+, and composers from other under-represented groups. Concepts are organized from fundamentals through formal analysis, and examples illustrating concepts from early in the curriculum do not contain chromaticism or other concepts from later in the curriculum. Links to biographical information about each composer is also provided.
Check out my blog for fascinating insights into rockstar women on the early modern stage in France, Germany, Italy, and England. Additionally, I have regular composer/piece features from expandingthemusictheorycanon.com.