Dr. Susan Brownell
Final Abstract for URS Program
At the turn of the 20th century, a new generation of American women began to make their mark on the male-dominated industry of classical music. The sexist policies which historically barred women from entering music conservatories had loosened, offering greater access to formal music education and producing America’s first great wave of professional female composers, performers, and conductors. Today, very few of these women would find their work exalted in the canon of western classical music, much of it having gone critically unappraised, underperformed, and haphazardly preserved. This thesis examines the life and music of Hazel Felman (1892 - 1974), a composer and arts patron from Chicago who between 1916 and 1945 maintained a vibrant career in the classical music industry, collaborated with many notable 20th century literary and musical personalities, produced hundreds of compositions, and yet remains virtually unknown today. Included in this thesis are the first-ever biography of the composer and an annotated catalogue of her surviving music. In the absence of an existing biography of Felman, biographical information was synthesized from primary source materials – letters of correspondence, newspaper articles, and performance reviews. In addition to the biography and catalogue, the project includes a live performance of several of Felman's surviving compositions, to be featured at the Undergraduate Student Research Symposium. Some of these pieces were never published, and most have not been performed since the 1930's. This research fills a gap left by the historic suppression of female creativity and highlights the need for music historians to shift their attention to the neglected corners of the classical genre, which are cluttered with minority-created music unduly forgotten as ephemera.
Available for download on Thursday, February 20, 2223