Knox Professor Wins Award for Scholarship on Women in Music

November 21, 2012

by Rana Tahir '13Sarah Day-O'Connell

Winning the 2011 Pauline Alderman Award was "a shot in the arm" for Knox College Associate Professor of Music Sarah Day-O'Connell.

The award, given by the International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM), evaluates "outstanding scholarship on women in music" based on "quality and significance of research, clarity, persuasiveness, and utility as a model for future scholarship," according to the IAWM website.

Day-O'Connell, a member of the Knox College faculty since 2005, was recognized for her article, "The Composer, the Surgeon, His Wife, and Her Poems: Haydn and the Anatomy of the English Canzonetta," which appeared in the journal Eighteenth Century Music published by Cambridge University press.

"I felt very honored to receive this award, especially when I read the names of the adjudicators and their comments," she said. Day-O'Connell (in photo at right) was praised for the interdisciplinary nature of her work, her "radical combination of analytical methodologies," and the elegance and clarity of her writing.

The description of her work as "interdisciplinary" comes as no surprise to Day-O'Connell. "Teaching at a small liberal arts college definitely fuels my interdisciplinary way of thinking," she said. "It influences my writing style, too: My audience is not just a narrow band of specialists. I want my audience to be people from different fields who are curious about music."

Day-O'Connell added, "Interdisciplinary thinking also informs my teaching. I want my students to ask questions about how music engages the things we care most about and that affect us all the time, like (in this case) gender roles and relationships of power."

"I've always been interested in ways music is significant to people beyond being a series of artfully arranged pitches, timbres, and rhythms," she said. "This leads me to look at the cultural contexts of the musics I study."

Day-O'Connell's award-winning research project, which was partly funded by the Knox College Office of the Dean, dealt with the relationship between 18th-century poet Anne Hunter; her husband, a famous surgeon; and music by 18th-century composer Joseph Haydn.

"When I looked into the life of the woman who wrote the song texts, I found a fascinating story that took me in directions that might seem remote from the music itself - directions like the history of medicine and anatomy," said Day-O'Connell. "Broadening my focus allowed me to tell a new story about the meaning of familiar songs, and how to perform them."

Past winners of the Pauline Alderman Award have been influential scholars of music, including Suzanne Cusick (New York University), Macarthur Foundation "Genius Grant" winner Susan McClary (University of California at Los Angeles), Marcia Citron (Rice University), and Elizabeth Leach (Oxford University).