Dr. Kassandra Hartford
Assistant Professor, Music
What does a musicologist do? In Ellen T. Harris’s words, a musicologist might study “how music works or the work music does.”
In my classes, we do both. We consider the ways that music is put together in forms and structures tied to particular historical eras and cultural contexts. We learn to listen attentively—an invaluable skill not only for music majors, but for all liberal arts students—and to develop a vocabulary for talking about music that allows us to communicate with other educated listeners, musicians and scholars.
We also examine what roles music fulfills in a culture. Often, students assume that music reflects broader artistic trends or historical events. In my classes, however, we also consider the way that music, musical performances and audience reactions to them shape society.
In my courses, I try to give students opportunities to engage in work that is both scholarly and creative: We play maracatu in Musics of Brazil; write compositions in Music History II and explain their relation to other musical traditions since the Second World War; propose stagings of operas; and integrate musical analysis and primary source research.
Research, Scholarship or Creative/Artistic Interests
I am primarily a scholar of 20th century-American, French and Brazilian music. Specifically, I examine the influence of transnational exchanges of musical works and their influence on understandings of racial and national identity in the era between the two World Wars. I have presented on these topics at the American Musicological Society, the Society for American Music and at international conferences.
My work also extends on either side of the interwar era: I have an article on Aaron Copland’s Old American Songs and their cold-war context that appears in The Musical Quarterly, and have presented on African American composer James Reese Europe’s work in France during the First World War at the American Musicological Society.
I have also published on music history pedagogy.
In addition to my work as a scholar, I am an active musician. I have sung with the New England Conservatory Camerata under Lorna Cooke de Varon and the Stonewall Chorale, and studied samba with Manhattan Samba and Samba New York. I play alfaia, a rope-tuned bass drum in the Afro-Brazilian dramatic dance maracatu, with Maracatu New York.