2021-2022 Dean's Essay Prize Winners

First Prize: Hester Bell-Jordan
Essay: “Mesdemoiselles Erard: Gender, Music Publishing, and Self-Dedication in Nineteenth-Century Paris””
Prize: $1,000.

The Erard family and their famous piano and harp company have been extensively researched (Adelson et al 2015), yet a successful musical venture undertaken by female members of the family—the publishing company Mlles Erard—has received little attention. Founded around 1800 and run by the Erard brothers’ two nieces, Marie-Françoise Bonnemaison née Marcoux (1777-1851) and Catherine-Barbe Delahante née Marcoux (1779-1813), Mlles Erard was part of a rich legacy of women-run music publishing houses in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Paris. Save for foundational work by French scholars (Milliot 1968; Devriès/Lesure 1979) and passing mentions in studies of women and music, not only Mlles Erard but the broader role of women and gender in music publishing remains underexplored. My research addresses the erasure of gender in histories of music publishing and the Erard family by considering the contributions and strategies of Mlles Erard as women music publishers.

My article investigates the sisters’ use of self-dedication in a collection of five works from between 1801 and 1817 by composers including Daniel Steibelt and Johann Baptist Cramer. The title pages of these pieces inscribe “Mlles Erard” or the sisters’ married names several times over, recording their roles as publishers and dedicatees. By accepting or eliciting dedicated pieces scored for piano or harp—feminized instruments which the sisters themselves played—they appropriated connotations of the high-status woman dedicatee. I argue that this use of the paratextual space of the dedication serves both as a means of self-fashioning for the sisters as women music publishers and as a gendered promotional strategy for selling their products (Green 2019; Garritzen 2020). Self-dedication provides a doubled endorsement of a piece and elevates the dedicatee(s) to a position of authority. Unlike their male competitors, such as Ignace Pleyel, the Marcoux sisters could not draw on public, professional authority as musicians or composers to bolster their company’s reputation. Self-dedication thus functioned as a means of asserting authority as women music publishers through an existing model of feminine power.

Second Prize: Luke Riedlinger
Essay: “Hearing beyond Jazzmasculinity in the Intra-ensemble Interaction and Reception of the John Coltrane Classic Quartet”
Prize: $500.

This paper reflects on the values associated with the John Coltrane Classic Quartet as a canonical jazz ensemble, unpacking themes of synchronicity, flexibility, and spirituality that circulate around the critical reception of this iconic group. I begin by evaluating critical narratives harnessed by jazz critics Zita Carno, Ben Ratliff, and Ashley Kahn to appraise and historicise the group. Synthesizing the Carno, Ratliff, and Kahn narratives reveals two broad themes that have been employed to explain the success of the ensemble and their resultant canonical status in the jazz tradition: the synergy narrative and the flexibility narrative. I suggest that these narrative discourses of difference (flexibility) and sameness (synergy) imply certain ways that gender was put to work in the real time collaboration of the quartet and has been used as an identity construct through which to critique and historicise the group in the years since. Stemming from Rustin-Paschal’s definition of jazzmasculinity as a ‘kind of space’ enables the performance of jazz as self-making, I propose reconfiguring jazzmasculinity as a multi-modal infrastructure in which individually gendered jazz musicians emerge through participation in a gendered ensemble. The main goal of this model is to acknowledge the ways that jazzmasculinity is not a neutral zone in which sameness is fetishized, rather it is a kind of framework that requires different techniques and aesthetics to participate in for each musician mediated through their associated instrumental trope, as well as discursive ideas circulating in and around the ensemble to which they belong. I ultimately forward the proposition that teaching jazz students to hear and negotiate gender simultaneously at the level of the individual, the instrumental trope, and the ensemble is vital component in producing graduate and professional musicians that are more reflexive about their own positionality within jazz as a gendered discourse.

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