Susan McClary, an award-winning UCLA musicologist who specializes in the cultural criticism of music from the European canon to contemporary popular genres, will discuss her scholarship in UCLA’s 92nd Faculty Research Lecture.
McClary will present her lecture, “Evidence of Things Not Seen: History, Subjectivities and Music,” at 3 p.m. on April 4 in UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall. There is no admission charge, but seating is limited (parking on campus is $6).
McClary, who received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1995, is known for taking a leading role in a new view of musical scholarship.
In contrast with a scholarly tradition that views music as inexpressible and transcendent, McClary deals with the medium as a set of social practices and treats musical compositions as historical documents. Whether focusing on 17th-century opera or contemporary popular songs, her work examines music for what it reveals about cultural values.
“In the lecture, I plan to explore several examples of music — a Renaissance madrigal, a Schubert string quartet, and a popular song,” McClary said. “I want to talk about the kinds of subjective qualities that music conveys at different moments in European and North American history and demonstrate how music helps shape human experiences of selfhood.”
The scholar is best known for her 1991 book, “Feminine Endings: Music, Gender and Sexuality” (University of Michigan Press), which examines issues of gender, sexuality and the human body in music ranging from early 17th-century opera to the songs of Madonna.
McClary is also the author of the 2000 book, “Conventional Wisdom: The Content of Musical Form” (University of California Press); the 1992 cultural history, “Georges Bizet: Carmen” (Cambridge University Press); and co-editor with Richard Leppert of the 1987 essay collection, “Music and Society: The Politics of Composition, Performance and Reception” (Cambridge University Press).
Her more recent publications explore the many ways in which “subjectivities” — cultural notions of selfhood, of how emotions “feel” and other related issues — have been construed in music since the 16th century.
McClary’s current activities include work on two books, “Modal Subjectivities: Renaissance Self-Fashioning in the Italian Madrigal” and “Power and Desire in Seventeenth-Century Music.” She is also collaborating with hip-hop agent Leila Steinberg to edit and publish the lyrics of the late rap artist Tupac Shakur.
Before arriving at UCLA in 1994, McClary taught at the University of Minnesota (1977–91) and McGill University (1991–94). She won university-wide teaching awards at University of Minnesota (1987) and UCLA (1997).
Since 1993 she has delivered several prominent public lectures, including the Bloch Lectures at Berkeley, the Grout Lecture at Cornell, the Hooker Lectures at McMaster, the Rayson Huang Lecture in Hong Kong and the Alfred Hook Lecture at University of Sydney. She was a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar throughout the United States in 1999–2000. Her work has been translated into 12 languages.
McClary is a member of the board of directors for the American Council of Learned Societies, co-chairs the editorial committee of the University of California Press, co-edits the Music/Culture Series at Wesleyan University Press and serves on the editorial boards of Signs, Perspectives of New Music, Black Music Research Journal, Women and Music, and ECHO: a music-centered journal.
For more information about the UCLA Faculty Research Lecture, call (310) 794-3226.