Myron Gray

Myron Gray is a doctoral candidate in music history at the University of Pennsylvania. The recipient of a Doctoral Fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, he has presented internationally on topics ranging from pantomime ballet to recording practice. Myron’s dissertation considers French aesthetico-political practice in 1790s Philadelphia.



"French Music in Federal Philadelphia"

After the fall of the Bastille and the rise of the slave rebellion in Saint Domingue, a multitude of French men, women, and children sought refuge in America’s new capital city. As a result, Philadelphian architecture, celebration, cooking, dance, dress, furniture, manners, music, print, speech, and theater withstood Gallic influence throughout the 1790s. Emphasizing the connections of French-American music to other cultural categories, this paper follows it from the home to the tavern and the street, from the fête and parade to the dance-assembly and theater, and from the instrument retailer to the printer’s shop. Had music remained aloof from the political schism that emerged in Philadelphia (and elsewhere) during the 1790s, I might only document an unusually French aesthetic moment in American history. But partisan sentiment has rarely run higher than it did during the Federalist | Antifederalist disputes of this period. For its part, French-influenced music participated in the construction of the Francophilic and more or less radical ethos of the Democratic-Republicans, just as it was absorbed into the articulation of the Francophobic and more or less conservative view of the Federalists.

Touching on a range of genres (e.g., cotillons, marches, overtures, pastiche operas, and revolutionary songs), this paper articulates common musical sounds to early American politics. In Federal Philadelphia, I argue, routine musical exchange acquired a political immediacy that has since become difficult to imagine.

My Speakers Sessions

Friday, March 23

4:00pm EDT