Location

King Building 127

Start Date

4-27-2018 11:00 AM

End Date

4-27-2018 12:20 PM

Abtract

The purpose of this project is to examine the connection between formal systemic oppression in musical theater songwriting and inclusivity within the genre. Since its inception, musical theater has been an Anglo-American (white) genre. With primarily white, cis, (sometimes gay) Jewish men as gatekeepers of the genre, the stories examine white problems for a white audience. This structure systematically prevents people of color, women, trans folk, and differently abled people from composing a musical, and thus, fairly representing themselves on the stage. This is particularly evident in the “I Want” song. Defined by Lehman Engel as the song at the beginning of the musical where the protagonist lays out their mission or goal, the “I Want” song appears in almost every musical from the last 50 years. With few exceptions, there are no “I Want” songs written for characters of color. Thus, if we consider these songs as spotlight moments, the composers of musicals formally deem the goals, and aspirations of people of color unimportant. Using a comprehensive musical framework by Arnie Cox, I will examine the musical affect and sonic fact of musical theater to specify the means whereby white desire is constructed, portrayed, perpetuated and, thus, used as a means of exclusion.

Keywords:

musical theater, theater, music theory, songwriting, systemic oppression

Notes

Session I, Panel 2 - Musical | Affect
Moderator: Arnie Cox, Associate Professor of Music Theory

Major

Musical Studies

Advisor(s)

Arnie Cox, Music Theory

Project Mentor(s)

Arnie Cox, Music Theory

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Apr 27th, 11:00 AM Apr 27th, 12:20 PM

Oppression in Musical Theater Songwriting: How the “I Want” Song Illuminates Formal Dilemmas

King Building 127

The purpose of this project is to examine the connection between formal systemic oppression in musical theater songwriting and inclusivity within the genre. Since its inception, musical theater has been an Anglo-American (white) genre. With primarily white, cis, (sometimes gay) Jewish men as gatekeepers of the genre, the stories examine white problems for a white audience. This structure systematically prevents people of color, women, trans folk, and differently abled people from composing a musical, and thus, fairly representing themselves on the stage. This is particularly evident in the “I Want” song. Defined by Lehman Engel as the song at the beginning of the musical where the protagonist lays out their mission or goal, the “I Want” song appears in almost every musical from the last 50 years. With few exceptions, there are no “I Want” songs written for characters of color. Thus, if we consider these songs as spotlight moments, the composers of musicals formally deem the goals, and aspirations of people of color unimportant. Using a comprehensive musical framework by Arnie Cox, I will examine the musical affect and sonic fact of musical theater to specify the means whereby white desire is constructed, portrayed, perpetuated and, thus, used as a means of exclusion.