Paper Session
Nov 11, 2021 03:00 PM - 03:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211111T1500 20211111T1550 America/Chicago Considering Childhood AMS 2021
“Der Jugend und allen liebhabern Catholischer Religion zu gutem”: Mobilizing Children’s Song in the German Counter-Reformation
Individual Paper 03:00 PM - 03:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 21:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 21:50:00 UTC

As distinctive confessional churches began to consolidate themselves in Germany by the mid-sixteenth century, Lutherans as well as Catholics faced challenges in indoctrination. Much of the early Lutheran musical repertoire was accordingly catechetical or edificatory in intent, and song would become a vital tool for the Lutheran _Hausvater_, who bore responsibility for the domestic spiritual instruction of his household. But adults were often slow or recalcitrant to internalize the new teachings, leading pastors across confessional lines to institute formalized catechism increasingly aimed at children. By the late sixteenth century there was a growing awareness of the potential of song as a vehicle for the catechetization of children, who readily absorbed doctrinal precepts but also helped to indoctrinate their elders.

Distinctive in Catholic practice was the public and demonstrative mobilization of children, who sang catechetical precepts in ostentatious urban processions and in quasi-theatrical productions. By the 1580s the Jesuits had enjoyed remarkable success in teaching children through song, and various accounts make claims for children's catechism song spilling into homes, workshops, and fields. Numerous Catholic hymnals of the early seventeenth century, inspired or created by Jesuits like Friedrich Spee (1591–1635), provided repertory directed explicitly at children, whether in the form of simple musical catechesis or more "baroque" emotionalized narratives. Evidence from cities like Cologne, Würzburg, and Mainz demonstrates that singing children were to be visible and audible to all as they processed through urban streets, and in Cologne they performed public catechism plays celebrating the Virgin Mary, Eucharist, and the saints, notably the recently-canonized (1622) Saints Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier. In deploying singing children the Jesuits imitated successful models from missionary efforts in east Asia and New Spain, and strong parallels are evident as well to contemporary practices elsewhere in Europe. But in the contested religious geography of Germany in the run-up to the Thirty Years War, the sight and sound of singing children would have had the potential to powerfully shape confessional space, reinforcing Catholic identity, provoking Protestant bystanders, and demonstrating that doctrinal "truths" had fully captured a new generation.

Alexander Fisher
University Of British Columbia
The Black Childhood Imaginaries of Jamila Woods: Popular Music Aesthetics and the Case for Twenty-First-Century Abolition
Individual Paper 03:00 PM - 03:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 21:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 21:50:00 UTC

"Line up to see the movie, line up to see the act / The officers are scheming to cover up their, cover up their… / Ask me no more questions, I'll tell you no more lies / Your serving and protecting is stealing babies' lives." In Chicagoan poet and vocalist Jamila Woods' "VRY BLK," from her freshman album HEAVN (2016), she riffs on "Miss Lucy" the Black girls' hand-clapping game which is sung in various iterations throughout the Americas (Gaunt 2006). It uses enjambment (the overflow of an idea from one line of prose to the next) to transgress taboo; words considered profane for children, such as "hell" or "ass," are revealed in subsequent lines to be "hello" and "ask," although the rhythmic emphasis is such that the profane intent is clear. This semantic spillover from one line to the next gives a plausible deniability to children whose punishment for saying dirty words would require adults to utter the very same profanities, thus removing the willed patina of childhood innocence. Often with the song, the child and the adult know that a taboo is being transgressed, but the illogic of the social transgression makes it unenforceable. This cunning exploitation of childhood innocence takes another form in Woods' "VRY BLK" where the profane is not in curse words but in the Chicago Police Department's breaking the social contract and killing children with no accountability. This is a different type of taboo altogether-and one with life-or-death consequences. The song's effectiveness comes in part from its exploitation of white notions of childhood innocence, notions that became the dominant concurrently with the nineteenth-century abolition. Taking racialized histories of childhood and popular music into account, how have Jamila Woods and her contemporaries used popular music aesthetics to imagine Black childhood as joyful, capacious, and free within a social context that renders Black childhood "both unimagined and unimaginable" (Dumas and Nelson 2016:28)? Taking "VRY BLK" as a starting point, this paper explores the aesthetics and politics of Black childhood in popular music to make a case for twenty-first-century abolition.

Presenters Kyle DeCoste
Columbia University
Youth is Fleeting: Positioning Children in Puccini's Operas
Individual Paper 03:00 PM - 03:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 21:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 21:50:00 UTC

In the late nineteenth century, composers featured children in opera more than ever before. Of the approximately nineteen major works that feature children from the late 1860s through the 1920s, Italian operas make up over half of this repertoire, with Austro-German and French works trailing behind. Puccini, more than any other Italian composer, incorporated children into his operas. While scholarship focused on the role of children in late nineteenth-century Italian opera (and opera, generally) is sparse at best, literary and cultural historians have examined the figure of the child in Italian culture at this time. Such historians have observed that this period between Italian Unification and fascism constituted Italy's "childhood." Texts ranging from scientific discourses to verismo novels suggested that the nation must develop just as its children must grow up (Truglio 2017; Stewart-Steinberg 2007). Inspired by this comparison of maturation, authors of Italian children's literature featured melancholy and longing as prominent motifs around the turn of the century (Truglio 2017).

Though the role of children in Puccini's operas remains understudied, musicologists have explored the similar themes of nostalgia and longing in the composer's repertoire, offering perspectives on the material (Campana and Morris 2016), the temporal (Schwartz 2016), and the geographic (Schwartz 2016; Senici 2006). Augmenting these discussions, I argue that children in Puccini's realist operas manifest an embodied form of longing that responds to contemporary Italian conceptions of maturation and disillusioned subjectivity. With discussion of scenes from _La bohème_, _Tosca_, and _Il tabarro_, I show that children not only contributed to holistic realist soundscapes through their unique voices, youthful melodies, and suggestive references across works, but simultaneously acted as antidotes to operatic realism throughout Puccini's repertoire, offering ephemeral glimpses at irretrievable, idealistic pasts. By showing how Puccini's musical children complicate scholarly ideologies of verismo, I ultimately introduce new ways to centralize discourse around characters that have long existed on the periphery of opera studies.

Jane Sylvester
Renbrook School
University of British Columbia
Renbrook School
Columbia University
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