Nancy Murphy, assistant professor of music theory, has recently published a research article in Music Theory Online, a journal of the Society for Music Theory. Titled “Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Self-Expressive Voice,” the article explores how Sainte-Marie’s flexible hypermeter and vibrato techniques add layers of expressive impact to her performances and help to position Sainte-Marie as an innovator in the singer-songwriter tradition.
The abstract states:
Buffy Sainte-Marie is a Cree singer-songwriter who emerged in the folk-inspired Greenwich Village coffeehouse scene in the mid-1960s. From her positionality as an Indigenous woman, Sainte-Marie wrote protest music (“activist songs”) on topics including antiwar themes and issues facing Native Americans. Her provocative 1966 activist song “My Country ’Tis of Thy People You’re Dying” is an anthem to decolonization that aims to educate her listeners about acts of genocide against Indigenous communities in the United States and Canada. The song’s lyrics, however, are only one aspect of its significance. In this article, I draw on studies of voice and flexible meter to explore Sainte-Marie’s self-expressive vocal rhetoric in three extant recordings of “My Country ’Tis of Thy People You’re Dying”—two from 1966 and one from 2017.
Murphy’s 2023 article “Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Self-Expressive Voice” is open access and is available online.