Associate Professor of Musicology and Liberal Studies
Situated at the intersection between the history, historiography, and aesthetics of music, Chowrimootoo’s research seeks to complicate assumptions about a twentieth-century “great divide” between high and low culture. To date, this has involved reviving the mid-century concept of the middlebrow to offer new insights into the music of Bernstein, Britten and Copland, among others. It has also meant studying “middlebrow” processes of mediation—music pedagogy, marketing, and criticism—and their reciprocal impact on twentieth-century composition. These concerns come together in his first monograph, Middlebrow Modernism: Britten’s Operas and the Great Divide (University of California Press, 2018), which uses Britten’s operas as a case study for the wider ways in which composers, critics, and audiences worked together to mediate the “great divide.”
Chowrimootoo’s new book project, provisionally entitled Sacred Secularism, will bring discussions of middlebrow eclecticism, ambivalence, and duplicity to bear on questions of twentieth-century secularization. Focusing on key works by Stravinsky, Messiaen, Poulenc, and Bernstein, it will explore the persistence of “spiritual” registers in the supposedly secular spaces of the twentieth-century concert hall and opera house. Paying attention to critical and audience responses as well as compositional or theological intention, it will excavate a broader cultural understanding of religious experience. By redrawing the boundaries of sacred music, the project aims not simply to put pressure on entrenched narratives of secularization but also on the rigid oppositions upon which they rest: sacred versus secular, theology versus aesthetics, metaphysics versus materialism.
Representative Publications, Performances, and Creative Work
- Co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Music and the Middlebrow (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2021)
- Co-editor of "Musicology and the Middlebrow," a special colloquy for the Journal of the American Musicological Society 73, no. 2 (forthcoming, 2020).
- "Copland's Styles: Musical Modernism, Middlebrow Culture and the Appreciation of New Music," Journal of Musicology 37, no. 4 (forthcoming, 2020).
- Middlebrow Modernism: Britten's Operas and the Great Divide (University of California Press, 2018)
- "Bourgeois Opera: Death in Venice and the Aesthetics of Sublimation," Cambridge Opera Journal 22, no. 2 (2011), 175-216. - winner of the 2012 Jerome Roche Prize of the Royal Musical Association - winner of the 2013 Kurt Weill Article Prize from the Kurt Weill Foundation