Most of my research to date has focused on the interaction between music and politics during the Cold War, specifically as it shaped classical music in the United States. I have published a book and a number of articles on this topic in books and academic journals (see Publications). Areas of interest to me in this scholarship include musical nationalism, cultural diplomacy, musicians’ work with government and governments’ work with musicians, music and protest, and the political associations of music-stylistic choices.
I also study the ways in which music and national identity interact with the politics of race. Of particular interest to me is the African American composer Ulysses Kay. My 2013 publication on his 1976 opera Jubilee won the Kurt Weill Prize and the ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award.
I am now beginning a new project that examines the role of music in El Salvador’s Civil War (1979-92) refugee camps. Folk music fulfilled numerous functions for refugees from this conflict, many of whom fled to Honduras. Music bore witness to horrific atrocities; it reinforced shared nationalist sentiments; it served as a tool of political protest, promoting alternatives to oligarchical rule; and it aided psychological recovery after intense trauma. Working with an international team of scholars from a range of disciplines, including Media Studies, History, and Psychiatry, and a large group of grassroots Salvadoran collaborators, my work on music will contribute to an accessible history of the camps built on collaborative workshops with former residents of the camps.
A video of me talking about my research on US music to a non-expert audience can be found here.