Congratulations to GC Music Theory student, Michèle Duguay, who has been awarded an SMT-40 Dissertation Fellowship for work on her dissertation, “Gendering the Virtual Space: Sonic Femininities and Masculinities in Contemporary Top 40 Music.”
Michèle Duguay (she/her) is a Ph.D. candidate in music theory at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she also completed a Certificate Program in Women’s Studies. She currently teaches music theory at the City College of New York. Her dissertation analyzes the intersection of vocal performance, virtual space, and gendered meanings in recorded popular music. Her forthcoming article in Theory and Practice models the pianist’s embodied experience of physical balance in contemporary piano music. Michèle received an M.A. in music theory from McGill University and a B.Mus. from the University of Ottawa. She is a co-founder of the Engaged Music Theory Working Group.
My dissertation examines the ways in which voices are spatially represented in twenty-first-century anglophone popular music. Through this work, I aim to answer the following question: What are the sonic hallmarks of femininity and masculinity in popular music? Using music information retrieval techniques, I develop a methodology for analyzing the location of a voice in virtual space—the sense of physical space created in a recording via reverberation, stereo placement, dynamics, and other sonic parameters. Focusing on a 113-song corpus from Billboard Year-end charts between 2008–18, I show how musical hits frequently juxtapose wide and reverberated women’s voices with narrow and centered men’s voices. I argue that these vocal representations construct a sonic gender binary, exemplifying one of the ways in which dichotomous conceptions of gender are reinforced through the technological mediation of the voice.
The SMT-40 Dissertation Fellowship Award, made possible by the donors to the SMT-40 campaign, is intended to recognize and foster excellent research in music theory by helping highly qualified Ph.D. students to complete their dissertations. Winners receive $3,500 and recognition at the Annual Meeting and in the SMT Newsletter. For further information about the award, please see: https://societymusictheory.org/grants/dissertation [societymusictheory.org]