Susan McClary

Fynette H. Kulas Professor of Music | Head of Musicology

Haydn Hall 102

Other Information

Classes: Music history, music theory, and early-music performance practices

Degree: Ph.D, Harvard, 1976

Specialty: Musicology

Susan McClary (Harvard PhD, 1976; Professor of Music at Case Western Reserve University) teaches courses in music history, music theory, and historical performance practices. Her research focuses on the cultural criticism of music, both the European canon and contemporary popular genres. In contrast with an aesthetic tradition that treats music as ineffable and transcendent, her work engages with the signifying dimensions of musical procedures and deals with this elusive medium as a set of social practices. She is best known for her book Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality (1991), which examines cultural constructions of gender, sexuality, and the body in various musical repertories, ranging from early seventeenth-century opera to the songs of Madonna.

McClary is also author of Georges Bizet: Carmen (1992), Conventional Wisdom: The Content of Musical Form (2000), and coeditor with Richard Leppert of Music and Society: The Politics of Composition, Performance and Reception (1987). In her more recent publications, she explores the many ways in which subjectivities have been construed in music from the sixteenth-century onward. Modal Subjectivities: Renaissance Self-Fashioning in the Italian Madrigal (2004) won the Otto Kinkeldey Prize from the American Musicological Society in 2005, and its sequel — Desire and Pleasure in Seventeenth-Century Music — appeared in 2012. A collection of her most influential essays was commissioned from Ashgate with the title Reading Music: Selected Essays by Susan McClary (2007). An edited collection, Structures of Feeling in Seventeenth-Century Expressive Culture, appeared in 2013.

Before arriving at Case Western Reserve University in 2011, McClary taught at the University of Minnesota (1977-91), McGill University (1991-94), University of California, Berkeley (1993), and UCLA (1994-2011). She won university-wide teaching awards at University of Minnesota (1987) and UCLA (1997). In addition to numerous keynote addresses on six continents, she has delivered the Bloch Lectures at Berkeley, the Grout Lecture at Cornell, the Hooker Lectures at McMaster, the Huang Lecture in Hong Kong, the Alfred Hook Lecture at University of Sydney, the Centre CATH Lectures in Leeds, the Faculty Research Lecture at UCLA, and the Curry Lecture at the University of Michigan; she has held a five-year professorship at the University of Oslo (2007-12) and served as the 2010 Music Theorist in Residence in the Netherlands. In June 2010 she directed a seminar at the Mannes Institute for Advanced Studies in Music Theory. Her work has been translated into at least seventeen languages.

McClary has chaired the Board of Directors for the American Council of Learned Societies and served on the editorial boards of SignsPerspectives of New MusicBlack Music Research JournalWomen and MusicECHOMusica Humana, and Music and the Moving Image. While living in Minneapolis, she wrote and produced a music-theater piece, Susanna Does the Elders (1987) (Translation available here). From 2007 to 2010 she held the post of Associate Vice Provost in the UCLA International Institute. McClary received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (a “genius grant”) in 1995.

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