"Eve ... Blowing in Our Ears"? toward a History of Music Scholarship on Women in the Twentieth Century

By Cusick, Suzanne G. | Women & Music, Annual 2001 | Go to article overview

"Eve ... Blowing in Our Ears"? toward a History of Music Scholarship on Women in the Twentieth Century


Cusick, Suzanne G., Women & Music


The origin of this article was a talk I was invited to give in Toronto at the conference Musical Intersections 2000, a millennial joint meeting of fourteen societies devoted to the scholarly study of music. Writing on behalf of five societies' Committees on the Status of Women, Judy Tsou proposed to me the daunting task of somehow surveying the music scholarship on women, gender, and sexuality that had been produced in the twentieth century. Intrigued and terrified in equal measure by the challenge, I accepted. Despite my fears I welcomed the opportunity to think about a subject I did not know well--the history of this scholarship, as both a form of feminist activism and a form of musical behavior in the range of activities Christopher Small has dubbed "musicking." (1) Knowing that I could not write a credible historical narrative in the few weeks available to me (nor even in a few months), I wrote instead a rather loose, informal text. I share revised fragments of that text here, as if they were fragments of a research prospectus on the subject as I would approach it--given who I am, a musician, music historian, and feminist who was been professionally (and politically) aware, on and off, for the last thirty years of the twentieth century.

Memory

History is not the same as memory. According to the Italian historian Anna Rossi-Doria, "memory" is an interrogation of the past that seeks "to fill the abyss between past and present ... to remember what happened so as not to lose it." (2) By contrast, "history" as she defines it is a "search for a time separate from the subject ... an effort to codify the separation from past and present." Women's historians often blur the distinction between them, Rossi-Doria argues, because "memory" is so consonant with the traditionally feminine work of sustaining social relationships; thus, the implicit objectivity of "history" often feels wrong to women writers. The urge to write "memory" rather than "history" is especially strong among feminists, she adds, because writing "memory" is intentionally political. "Memory" tries "not to lose" the ancestors, veterans, comrades in struggle, so as to "not to lose" the struggle itself; the writer of "memory," like her readers, uses "memory" as a ground for her social and political identity.

It is in the spirit of memory more than in the spirit of history that I want to begin my fragments of a prospectus by naming names. In this, as in many other moves, I follow the footsteps of Susan McClary: in the summer 2000 issue of Signs she named Catherine Clement, Susan Cook, Ellen Koskoff, Judith Tick, and Elizabeth Wood as exemplary figures of the extraordinary scholarship on women, gender, and sexuality that flooded music studies in the 1990s. Applauding McClary's choices, I want to add the names of other scholars who--like the women she named--contributed to the field before 1990, in a time when to do such work was to prevail over ridicule, professional displacement, and the insidious intrasubjective effects of cultural and institutional forces aimed at silencing women's musicalities. I name them as ancestors, veterans, comrades in struggle, so as not to lose them. Whether their stories and their work would end up serving the themes of an eventual "history" or not, these are some of the people who created the possibility of a twentieth-century scholarship on women, gender, and sexuality. I honor them.

Sophie Drinker
Doris Silbert
Christine Ammer
Edith Boroff
Barbara Garvey Jackson
D. Antoinette Handy
Marcia Herndon
Patricia Adkins Chiti
Miriam Stewart Green
Sylvia Glickman
Matilda Gaume
Deborah Hayes
Josephine Wright
Jane Bernstein
Leonie Rosenstiel
Barbara Jepson
Ann Carruthers Clement
Carolyn Raney
Nancy Reich
Adrienne Fried Block
Carol Neuls-Bates
Marcia Citron
Jeannie Pool
Judith Rosen
Diane Jezic
Roberta Lamb
Helen Metzlaer
Eva Rieger
Jane Bowers
Barbara Hampton
Linda Whitesett
Anthony Newcomb
Howard Brown
Bea Friedland
Julie Cummings
Bernice Johnson Reagon
Pamela Susskind
Victoria Sirota
James Briscoe
Ellen Rosand
Philip Brett
Judith Vander
Catherine Parsons Smith

Framing (Theorizing about Gender, "Musicology," and the "Short Century")

In the last year of the chronological twentieth century, pundits of the U. …

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