Most of my current research centers on the maternal – whether you think of it as relating to the mother, or father, or the parental instinct in any person. The focus is on our inner desire to nurture, comfort, and supply peace to another.
Other strands relate to research on the Great American Songbook, particularly the songs of Broadway and Hollywood musicals.
Project: Women Songwriters of Tin Pan Alley.
I am researching and analyzing the American popular songs written by women during the period of about 1895 to 1955. I have identified almost two hundred women who made major contributions to the Great American Songbook, who between them wrote thousands of songs.
I have a book in contract with the publisher Rowman and Littlefield for publication in 2023, tentatively called Forty Famous Songs, and the Women Who Wrote Them.
Project: Sad Clown and Torch Singer: Symbols of the Maternal in Classic Hollywood Movies.
The “sad clown” hides their suffering to give the audience a happy, laughter-filled time. The “torch singer” expresses their suffering to give the audience a heart-opening catharsis. Both are desiring to give from their heart, to help the audience, the way a parent wants to help a child. I am analyzing Hollywood movies of the nineteen-twenties through fifties, examining how those clichéd characters are used again and again. Examining their roots in the mythology of the ancient world and in nineteenth-century Romanticism increases our appreciation of their how profound they are.
Project: The Lullaby
I am pursuing a review of literature, surveying psychological and ethnomusicological research on lullabies and lullabying. This will feed in to my teaching of the Lullaby Workshop and my collecting of oral histories about people’s life experiences with story time and lullabying.
Project: The Popularity of Songs in the Tin Pan Alley Era.
Although reference books focus on what songs had best-selling recordings, they ignore other signs of popularity. With the help of digitized databases of Variety and Billboard, I am working to identify songs that were popular through live radio broadcasts, sheet music sales, nightclub performances, and in requests to dance band leaders.
Project: The Interaction of England and America in Making the Great American Songbook.
Many of the great popular songs of the nineteen-twenties through forties were creations of British songwriters, or of American songwriters writing while in England, or of collaborations between the two. I am exploring the extent of these international relationships and the resultant repertoire.