December 15, 2008

Jacqueline Macri ’09 Explores Unsung Women Composers

Music and psychology major writes about her work as an EXCEL Scholar with Jennifer Kelly, assistant professor of music

Jacqueline Macri ’09 (Malvern, Pa.), a double major in music and psychology, is working as an EXCEL Scholar with Jennifer Kelly, assistant professor of music, on research for a forthcoming book on underappreciated female composers.

In most of the projects I’ve worked on in my college career, I’ve had an easy time in the research stage; the process of gathering information has often led me to more sources than I know what to do with. Having had this experience, I expected more of the same to come from my work assisting Dr. Kelly with her research on contemporary female composers and their musical intentions.

To my surprise, though, I found a great dearth of information on these women, which has left me pleading with newspaper archives for just a simple mention of a name on our list of unsung musical innovators. Though I have been digging up short bios and general interviews, it is the exception that the information goes any deeper. As I pass through the personal websites of these women, listening to audio clips here and there, documenting their compositions and recordings, I am struck by how little is known about the truly moving and innovative music they have written—and, comparatively, how little of it is even recorded, let alone deeply analyzed by critics.

Dr. Kelly’s project seeks to un-shroud the mystery surrounding these women by putting her research and personally conducted interviews toward a book that will feature about 30 female composers. In addition, she currently plans to create a companion DVD, in which each woman will be given five minutes to fill however she wishes.

The latter element strikes me as vital to the complete package; what better way to reveal the complete pictures of these women than by letting them decide how to show their audience who they are? Not only will this do justice to their work and personalities and give them rightful attention, but it will also contribute to a larger understanding of their creative motivations and musical intentions, which will hopefully lead to more informed performances of their works.

Kelly’s subjects are composers of not only concert music, but of jazz, electro-acoustic music, and musical theater—to name a few. As a young woman with aspirations in musical theater myself, this project sheds light on the fact that this male-dominated genre can gain greater diversity by the potential contributions of such women. With a new awareness of the unique voices of these women, I look forward to what is to come.

  • Music
  • Psychology
  • EXCEL/Undergraduate Research

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