Paper Session
Nov 20, 2021 01:00 PM - 01:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211120T1300 20211120T1350 America/Chicago Women and Popular Music AMS 2021
Don’t Lie to Me: Sentimentality and Political Protest in the Music of Barbra Streisand
Individual Paper 01:00 PM - 01:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 19:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 19:50:00 UTC

In 2018 Barbra Streisand released _Walls_, her 36th studio recording. The release attracted significant media coverage and very positive reviews. Critical reception focused especially on the album's disapproval of President Trump's cruel and divisive politics, the literal and figurative "walls" he tried to build. The politics of _Walls_, however, is more complicated than critics have suggested: the music is romantic rather than strident and the lyrics only glance at political specificity. The politics of the album are best understood not through conventional understandings of "political" popular music (lyrics, for example, that protest societal injustices) but instead through Streisand's deployment of what literary scholars Jennifer A. Williamson, Jennifer Larson, and Ashley Reed call the "sentimental mode," a discursive and rhetorical approach that seeks "political engagement through emotional, cross- boundary identification." _Walls_ uses the overt emotionality of the music to instruct listeners in identifying with the suffering of people around the world. Scholars have mostly glossed over Streisand's sentimentality, focusing instead on other key components of her music and persona such as her Jewishness, her gender play, and her status as a queer icon. Drawing on the work of scholars who have theorized feeling and sentiment in pop-Mitchell Morris, Emily Gale, Jacqueline Warwick, Simon Frith and others-I will argue for the centrality of the "sentimental mode" for understanding not just the politics of _Walls_ but Streisand's long professional career.

Andrew Berish
University Of South Florida
Narrative vs. Inclusion: Eva Ybarra and the Role of Women in Texas-Mexican Conjunto
Individual Paper 01:00 PM - 01:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 19:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 19:50:00 UTC

The patriarchal structure of Texas-Mexican culture has historically restricted female participation in _conjunto_ music. Few women have found regional success, participating as fans and organizers, but rarely as musicians. Those who do perform within the genre typically do so through the more culturally acceptable role of singer. Yet, the historiography of conjunto music in this regard– particularly by scholars like Manuel Peña and Américo Paredes– does not fully represent reality.

Born in 1945, Eva Ybarra is perhaps the most well-known female accordionist in the history of Texas-Mexican conjunto. Born into a musical family in San Antonio, she somewhat atypically received encouragement from her family to play music. However, she has struggled throughout her career to schedule enough performances to make a living, instead relying on itinerant performances at local restaurants. She has also struggled to keep a band together, blaming conservative (male) musicians who refuse to take orders from a woman.

This paper explores the historical male dominance in Texas-Mexican conjunto, tracing hybrid musical performances of Ybarra as a counterbalance against historiographic narratives of– not only– conjunto as Texas-Mexican identity, but, specifically, conjunto as _male_ Texas-Mexican identity. Following scholars like Deborah Vargas, this paper examines a notion that the lack of female participation in conjunto is– in part– a misconception caused by the exclusion of women from the literature, dismantling former understandings of genre as sociocultural identity. Furthermore, female artists like Ybarra function similarly to inter/national musicians situated outside of the primary geographic and sociocultural communities, following artists like Flaco Jiménez in inserting nontraditional musical characteristics, but rarely pursuing new methods of stylistic innovation. This interpretation implies that female conjunto musicians retain close stylistic proximity to more culturally secure artists. In other words, the lack of innovation and general reluctance to stray too far from accepted practices in female performances suggests that women must assert their positionality within the Texas-Mexican community through adherence to the globalized pursuits of more prominent male musicians.

Erin Bauer
University Of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Sonic Intimacy and White Femininity in Taylor Swift’s _Folklore_
Individual Paper 01:00 PM - 01:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 19:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 19:50:00 UTC

This paper analyzes the construction of white femininity in singer-songwriter Taylor Swift's music. I contend that her album Folklore (2020) makes use of recording technology to create a sense of white femininity built through sonic markers of intimacy, domesticity, and isolation. In the track "Exile," Swift vocally constructs a white and feminine persona that relies on sonic conventions and extramusical tropes of white-coded indie music. By emulating a private in-person performance setting that has not been altered by recording technology, Swift's vocal placement depicts her as a neutral subject devoid of racial markers. This persona allows her to align with other white indie artists who have built their artistic identities through narratives of intimacy, isolation, and exile into nature. I draw on studies of whiteness in indie music (Delciampo 2019; Hsu 2019) to link the "cabin-in-the-woods" imagery at play in the music video with Swift's aesthetic rebranding as an indie artist. Building on previous scholarship that analyzes musical representations of femininity (Hisama 1999, 2001; Heidemann 2014, 2016; Malawey 2020), this paper demonstrates how white womanhood, a hegemonic identity that is often depicted as natural or unmarked (Rowe 2008; Butler 2013), is constructed through sound. 

Michèle Duguay
Indiana University, Jacobs School Of Music
University of South Florida
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Indiana University, Jacobs School of Music
Westminster Choir College of Rider University
No attendee has checked-in to this session!
Upcoming Sessions (Local time)