Middlebrow Musical Misogyny

Rebecca Erickson | University of Amsterdam | Middlebrow Musical Misogyny | Supervisors: Julia Kursell, Barbara Titus | 2017-2021

Between 1945 and 1970, film musicals ranged among the most popular film genres made in the United States of America. The stereotypical consumer of this music was the “middle brow” American, as caricatured for Life magazine by Russell Lynes (1949). I claim that these musical films were purveying an explicit agenda by musically portraying womanhood as a very specific from of femininity. My question is how this body of films relates to the second wave of feminism, which occurred in parallel to the heyday of the genre. With three main theoretical concepts – female otherness as proposed by Simone de Beauvoir, structures of feeling as conceived by Raymond Williams, and individuation as conceived of by Simondon –and using a set of empirical and musicological methods— I will reassess the genre in order to analyze how music contributes a specific layer of meaning to the art forms it is contained in. Using the case of middlebrow misogyny in musical film, I intend to introduce a new approach to musicology that combines empirical analysis to hermeneutic interpretation, and to make genuinely musicological research available to a broader community in cultural analysis.