Calendar of Events

Musicology Lecture: “Naming and Counting Whiteness:   Fred Astaire, Stephen Sondheim, and Race in the American Musical” - Dr. Todd Decker

  1. Friday October 22 5:00pm

Todd Decker (Ph.D., University of Michigan, 2007) is the Paul Tietjens Professor of Music, American Culture Studies, and Film and Media Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

Racial segregation pervades the American stage and screen musical from its origins to the present. And while the black-cast musical is usually named as such, the necessary complement on the other side of the color line—the white-cast musical—is typically granted the unmodified moniker “the musical.” (Eliding race in this way is, of course, a classic expression of whiteness.) This talk names the white-cast musical as such by identifying aesthetic, structural, and industrial forms of whiteness in the output of two major figures: Fred Astaire and Stephen Sondheim. Drawing on forthcoming work on both men, I use a variety of methods to identify and describe Astaire’s and Sondheim’s distinct and particular types of whiteness. Adding precision to this inquiry, I draw on digital humanities methods that quantify the extent to which whiteness dominates the history of the American musical. 

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