Conference Agenda

The Online Program of events for the 2023 AMS & SMT Joint Annual Meeting appears below. This program is subject to change. The final program will be published in early November.

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Session Overview
Representing Racialized Selves and Others in Czech Music
Thursday, 09/Nov/2023:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Kelly St. Pierre
Location: Plaza Ballroom D

Session Topics:
Opera / Musical Theater, Jazz, Popular Music, 1900–Present, Judaica, Race / Ethnicity / Social Justice, AMS, Roundtables

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Representing Racialized Selves and Others in Czech Music

Chair(s): Kelly St. Pierre (Wichita State University)

Discussant(s): Michael Beckerman (New York University)

Presenter(s): Tina Frühauf (City University of New York), Brian Locke (Western Illinois University), Tereza Havelková (Charles University, Prague), Christopher Campo-Bowen (Virginia Tech University)

Across the long twentieth century, composers in the Czech lands have frequently featured representations of people identified in scores and performances as racialized non-Czech outsiders. As viewed from within the “White frame,” the heightening of verbal, visual, behavioral, or musical differences implicitly or explicitly exclude such individuals or groups from the dominant narrative of Czech nation building and its presumed ethnic homogeneity. Whether intended for Prague’s National Theatre or the popular music marketplace, these compositions demarcate cultural and sonic space between Czechs and Jews, Roma, Africans, and African Americans in ways that echo widespread European and Euro-American practices of racialized representation. What sets the Czech scenario apart is their own discourse on collective identity as one of exclusion amid the larger populations of Central Europe—an imagined insularity that has long allowed Czech artists and scholars to refrain from fully engaging with histories of racial injustice.

Our roundtable discussion draws its inspiration from Michael Beckerman’s 2021 article, “Is Czech Music White?” in which the author considers Czech efforts to delineate their own ethnic difference (via tropes of “nationalist style”) within Germano-centric Romanticism alongside the same composers’ depiction of racialized others, be they local or abroad. The scholars of our panel seek to engage with Beckerman’s concept of Czech music as a type of Schrödinger’s cat—imagined as both inside and outside the “White frame”—and apply it to case studies ranging from the 1920s to the present. Our first panelist discusses the music and critical reception of the Czech-Jewish composer Jaromír Weinberger in the contexts of interwar anti-Semitism, Jewishness, and nationalism in the Czech lands. The second panelist provides a discursive analysis of E. F. Burian’s Jazz (1928)—one of the first full-length books on jazz in any language—situated at the crossroads of popular music exoticism and Czech interwar cosmopolitanism. Our third panelist examines the composition and performance of Otmar Mácha’s opera Jezero Ukereve (1966) amid the complexities of (post-) colonial politics in East Central Europe. The final panelist unpacks Regietheater metaphors of tradition and Whiteness in the 2022 Prague National Theater production of The Bartered Bride.

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