Delve deep into ‘Music & Erotics’ with presentations and performances


Looking for something a little different to do this weekend? How about the Department of Music’s conference on Music & Erotics?

“The goal of the conference is bringing together speakers from various related disciplines to have a conversation on a topic — erotics — that is always present in our research but rarely addressed head-on,” Steven Moon, one of the conference’s organizers and a graduate student in ethnomusicology, said via email.

Anna ElderThe event, which was organized by graduate students, begins at 1 p.m. Feb. 22 with a variety of presentations throughout Friday and Saturday, and concludes with a performance by soprano Anna Elder at 5 p.m. Feb. 23 in the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium. The presentations and the performance are all open to the public. Find a full schedule here.

“When we began planning this a year ago, I worked with my colleague Woody Steinken (graduate student in musicology) to decide on a theme that was relevant to what is happening in our fields of historical musicology and ethnomusicology, as well as other disciplines where scholars deal with music,” Moon said.

“Gender studies is continuing to become central to a lot of musical scholarship, so we chose ‘Music and Erotics’ because it is broadly applicable to work, regardless of geographic area and time period, and it allows for a lot of interesting interpretations (gender/sexuality, identity, violence, etc.) while remaining topical.”

Deborah WongThe keynote address at 6 p.m. Feb. 22 will be given by Deborah Wong, an ethnomusicologist at the University of California, Riverside, who specializes in the music of Thailand and Asian America.

For the call for papers, submissions were received from the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and China. A panel of five graduate students narrowed it down to 16 presenters.

Topics include:

  • “The Only Real Magic: Historicizing Music’s Erotic Powers” by Zachary Loeffler, a postdoctoral fellow in University of Chicago’s music department

  • “The Dangers of Sex Work: Researching Musical Erotics in Sumatra” by Jennifer Fraser, associate professor of ethnomusicology and anthropology at Oberlin College

  • “A Woman Who Has Never Been Satisfied: Women of Color and Gendered Hierarchies in ‘Hamilton: An American Musical’” by Hannah Young, a graduate student in critical & comparative studies in the University of Virginia music department

Elder will perform songs selected from more than 20 submissions.

“We asked for two types of submissions: a completed piece for Anna Elder (may have been previously performed) and a written proposal explaining the piece and its connection to the conference theme or a proposal for a new work for Anna Elder directly connected to the theme,” Moon said.

The four works selected (all are commissioned new works, except the one by Whitely) are:

  • “[   ] [  ] [ ] []” by Steven Whiteley, exploring the deconstruction of words, investigating relationships between phonetics and semantics, taking the form of a kind of melodrama where the performer is addressing a lover

  • “House of Incest” by Singer Joy, set to a selection from Anaïs Nin's "House of Incest."

  • “His Mind & What He Heard in Central Park in the Late 90s” by Anthony Green, exploring a black gay man cruising in Central Park in the late ‘90s

  • “Speed Dating” by Michele Cheng, about Asian-American image and online dating culture.

  • “We would love to see the Pitt community at this event and contribute to the interdisciplinary environment we are hoping to foster,” Moon said.

Anyone who would like to attend can email to let the organizers know.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.