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FA-58054-14
Musical Migration and the Global City: New York, 1947-1965
Brigid Cohen, New York University

Grant details: https://securegrants.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx?f=1&gn=FA-58054-14

“Music History and Cosmopolitanism, or Musical Cosmopolitics in Cold War New York" (keynote) (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: “Music History and Cosmopolitanism, or Musical Cosmopolitics in Cold War New York" (keynote)
Abstract: New York crystallized as an archetypal “global city” under the pressure of the early Cold War, when the U.S. asserted heightened economic and military dominance, while absorbing unprecedented levels of immigration in the wake of the Holocaust, decolonization movements, and the internal Great Migration. During this period, the city built a cultural infrastructure that benefitted from, and sought to match, the nation’s enhanced geopolitical and economic power. This talk examines the role of musical “migrant mediators” who navigated new patronage opportunities that arose in this setting, helping to reinforce transnational art and music networks for generations to come. With attention to concert music, jazz, electronic music, and performance art—and figures ranging from Yoko Ono to Vladimir Ussachevsky—I highlight creators’ wildly disparate enactments of national citizenship and world belonging in the arts of the Cold War “global city,” their different cosmopolitanisms in counterpoint and contestation with one another.
Author: Brigid Cohen
Date: 6/4/2016
Location: Fourth Sibelius Academy Symposium on Music History, Helsinki, Finland

“Varèse and Mingus at Greenwich House, 1957,” February 2016. (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: “Varèse and Mingus at Greenwich House, 1957,” February 2016.
Abstract: In 1957, Edgard Varèse led a series of improvisation sessions in Greenwich Village with jazz musicians, including Charles Mingus, Art Farmer, Don Butterfield, Teo Macero, Ed Shaughnessy, and others. Little scholarship has explored this episode, a lacuna speaks to a wider, racially inflected rift in historiographies of jazz and non-jazz musical avant-gardes. Against this tendency, I bring new light to these sessions as a messy and fleeting exchange characterized by mutual curiosity and crossed signals, drawing from analysis of sessions recordings, original interviews, and archival research. Within a larger ensemble of musicians, I ultimately focus on Edgar Varèse and Charles Mingus in order to tell a larger story about race, citizenship, and the arts in downtown New York during a period of postwar, self-proclaimed American cultural ascendency and national canon formation. I also ask what it means to grapple with to the laden silences that characterize our archives and historiography.
Author: Brigid Cohen
Date: 3/4/2016
Location: University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA.

"Varèse and Mingus at Greenwich House, 1957" (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: "Varèse and Mingus at Greenwich House, 1957"
Abstract: In 1957, Edgard Varèse led a series of improvisation sessions in Greenwich Village with jazz musicians, including Charles Mingus, Art Farmer, Don Butterfield, Teo Macero, Ed Shaughnessy, and others. Little scholarship has explored this episode, a lacuna speaks to a wider, racially inflected rift in historiographies of jazz and non-jazz musical avant-gardes. Against this tendency, I bring new light to these sessions as a messy and fleeting exchange characterized by mutual curiosity and crossed signals, drawing from analysis of sessions recordings, original interviews, and archival research. Within a larger ensemble of musicians, I ultimately focus on Edgar Varèse and Charles Mingus in order to tell a larger story about race, citizenship, and the arts in downtown New York during a period of postwar, self-proclaimed American cultural ascendency and national canon formation. I also ask what it means to grapple with to the laden silences that characterize our archives and historiography.
Author: Brigid Cohen
Date: 4/14/2016
Location: Music Department, Northwestern University

“Ono in Opera, 1961" (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: “Ono in Opera, 1961"
Abstract: Yoko Ono has increasingly found recognition as a founding mother of 1960s performance and conceptual art movements and a key mediator of transnational avant-gardes. Yet little scholarship has addressed the earliest works that established her career in New York in 1961. This lacuna partly arises from the ephemeral nature of those pieces, which confound disciplinary expectations. While most critical literature on Ono is written from an art historical angle, remarkably few visual traces remain from her early career. Moreover, Ono’s first performances eschewed formal scores and tape recording, discouraging musicological methods of interpretation. Ono designated her first extended piece “AOS-for David Tudor” (1961) as an “opera.” Her use of this traditional term may seem surprising given the radical nature of the work, which involved the juxtaposition of animal sounds with human voices, a dehumanizing pile-up of human bodies, primal screaming, and amplified playback of speeches by Hitler and Hirohito. Blending archival research with a critical reading of Ono’s intermedial poetics, this paper follows Ono’s lead to consider how “opera” clarifies her earliest legacies. The term speaks to her aspirations as a dramatist accessing a heightened affective register. It also indicates her desire to “operate” in the world. To appreciate Ono as an “operatist/operator” is also to apprehend how strongly her work diverged from the Cagean circles in which she then traveled. Meant to be spread “by word of mouth,” Ono’s dramas signaled a critical moment in the politicization of the 60s avant-garde, raising questions that haunt contemporary critical practice.
Author: Brigid Cohen
Date: 2/26/2015
Location: Opera Seminar of the Mahindra Center for Humanities at Harvard University

"Musical Migration and the Global City: Greenwich Village, 1957" (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: "Musical Migration and the Global City: Greenwich Village, 1957"
Abstract: In 1957, Edgard Varèse led a series of improvisation sessions in Greenwich Village with jazz musicians, including Charles Mingus, Art Farmer, Don Butterfield, Teo Macero, Ed Shaughnessy, and others. Little scholarship has explored this episode, a lacuna speaks to a wider, racially inflected rift in historiographies of jazz and non-jazz musical avant-gardes. Against this tendency, I bring new light to these sessions as a messy and fleeting exchange characterized by mutual curiosity and crossed signals, drawing from analysis of sessions recordings, original interviews, and archival research. Within a larger ensemble of musicians, I ultimately focus on Edgar Varèse and Charles Mingus in order to tell a larger story about race, citizenship, and the arts in downtown New York during a period of postwar, self-proclaimed American cultural ascendency and national canon formation. I also ask what it means to grapple with to the laden silences that characterize our archives and historiography.
Author: Brigid Cohen
Date: 3/2/2015
Location: Newhouse Center for Humanities, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA


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