Doctoral Colloquium (Music) | Marta Beszterda
The Doctoral Colloquium is open to all.
Doctoral Colloquium: Marta Beszterda, PhD candidate - Musicology
Title: "Female Exceptionalism, Lineage, and Labor: The Role of Women in the Career of Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969)"
Biography: Marta Beszterda is a PhD candidate in Musicology and Feminist Studies at McGill University. Her doctoral dissertation explores the relationship between music labor, gender, identity, and agency under state socialism in postwar Poland. The project is supported by Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC). Marta presented her work at many international conferences, including the annual meetings of the American Musicological Society, the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, and the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies. In 2021, she received the second prize in the yearly competition organized by the Société Québécoise de Recherche en Musique (SQRM) for her conference paper “Women in Polish Postwar Musical Culture: The Case of Zofia Lissa.” In 2022, Marta co-organized the first international conference “Women and Gender in Art Music of the Eastern Bloc” with the support of the Royal Musical Association (UK).
Abstract: Over fifty years after her death, the legacy of Polish-Lithuanian composer and violinist Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) has been primarily addressed within the framework of female exceptionalism. Yet, to date, the fact that she was an isolated case of success as a Polish woman composer throughout 1950s and 1960s has not led to a critical examination of the politics of gender in the postwar Polish compositional scene. This paper complicates existing interpretations of Bacewicz’s career, shedding light on the interconnectedness between the composer and the women in her life: her teacher Nadia Boulanger, mother Maria Modlińska, and sister and a de facto administrative assistant Wanda Bacewicz. First, I trace overlaps between Boulanger’s and Bacewicz’s practices of self-fashioning as a hardworking and exceptional woman. Next, I consider the Warsaw positivism movement provenience of Modlińska’s values around work and womanhood as influential in shaping Bacewicz’s extraordinary dedication to work and her perseverance in pursuing a composing career as a woman. Finally, I turn towards the importance of emotional, domestic, and administrative support of Bacewicz’s mother and sister throughout the composer’s career, revealing the ubiquity of women’s hidden work in music history. Here, I follow Samantha Ege’s work on female relationships and support networks as factors that have a tangible effect on the growth of a woman composer’s career. Drawing on feminist approaches by Ege, Rachel Lumsden, Kimberly Francis, and Ellie Hisama, this paper is a case study on women and gender in musical modernism, interwoven with Polish mid-century debates around nation, music, and gender.