My primary research area is the transnational culture and networks of concert music in the twentieth century, particularly in the United States and France. Within that sphere, my interests include:
- Exile and migration
- Disability studies
- Biography and autobiography
- Reception history, particularly at the local level
- Intergenerational conflict, dialogue, and reinterpretation
So far, most of my scholarly work has centered around the composer Darius Milhaud (1892–1974), whose life and career touched on each of the topics listed above. My 2016 dissertation presented the first full-length study of Milhaud’s time in the United States, including both his period of wartime exile (1940–47) and the years he spent dividing his time between Paris and California (1947–71). My more recent work on this topic has focused on Milhaud’s complex relationship to the postwar avant-garde, in which he functioned simultaneously as a living legend, as an outmoded reactionary, and as a voice of mediation.
You can read abstracts of my dissertation and conference papers here, and the full text of my dissertation is available through the open-access Carolina Digital Repository. My article on Milhaud for Oxford Bibliographies in Music (subscription required) was published in 2017.
I have also written an article (Musical Quarterly, 2014) on Black Ritual, Agnes de Mille’s 1940 adaptation of Milhaud’s La Création du monde for a cast of black women dancers. In contrast to the creation story of the original ballet, de Mille’s scenario depicted a human sacrifice in an imaginary “primitive” Afro-Caribbean culture. The reception was shaped by expectations about race and genre: for white dance critics such as John Martin and Walter Terry, Black Ritual was neither a true ballet nor “authentic” black dance, but their counterparts in African American newspapers celebrated it as a contribution to racial uplift. Although the performers have been dismissed as amateurs, the majority of the cast came to the production with a variety of dance training and professional experience, including Maudelle Bass, Lawaune Kennard, and Lavinia Williams, and some joined Katherine Dunham’s dance company shortly after Black Ritual.
In 2011, I completed a Master’s thesis on the controversy surrounding the introduction of electronic amplification into Drum Corps International competitions beginning in 2004. At that time, supporters of amplification viewed it as a way to expand creative possibilities and make drum corps more viable in the twenty-first century, while many opponents considered it a threat to the future of drum corps as a unique activity with a strong connection to its history and traditions. In this thesis, I situate the controversy in the history of technological change and resistance in drum corps, examine the ideology and values behind the amplification ruling and the varied responses to it, and consider intersections between ideological and practical issues in the way this technology has been implemented.
I returned to scholarship on drum corps in 2018 with a paper I presented at an AMS Mid-Atlantic chapter meeting, titled “Gender and Narrative in Drum Corps International, 2017.” This paper offered a critique of gendered messages in four shows from the 2017 competition season, drawing on recordings, my own experience as a spectator, and promotional material and social media. I continue to work on analyzing drum corps shows through the lens of gender, and I hope to share my research more widely in the near future.