Julie Ford: A Non-Genre-Biased Choir?

20th-century musicologist Carl Dahlhaus tackles the problematic of what constitutes a music genre by framing it as a complex of expectations.  For instance, take the string quartet genre: one expects to hear two violins, a viola and a cello playing together, each instrument played by an individual musician who has spent time specializing in playing that instrument and its given part.  One expects those instrumentalists to be reading music “notes” displayed on a music “stand” in front of an attentive audience.  Moreover, the music that seated audience politely listens to would probably sound like “classical music.”  With that scenario in mind, imagine the challenge facing choir conductor Julie Ford at Saint Mary’s College of California: create a non-genre-biased choir.  Julie’s academic mission is to liberate the student choir she directs from the prejudiced burden of genre.  No, her singers will not kowtow to audience expectations; group singing should be an objective, science-based endeavor that will not let presumption define the performance.  But what if her choir doesn’t really intend to become “genre-neutral?”  What if her students sign up for her course because they want to shine on stage in their Sunday best as they sing from an expensive new critical edition of Beethoven’s Mass in C Major, Op. 86?  Come welcome Julie to our show for a provocative discussion about what really makes the choir sing!

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