Assistant Professor of Musicology Maria Ryan researches and writes about how African and African-descended people in the Americas theorized, performed, and listened to music with European origins in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She holds the B.A. degree from the University of Nottingham, the M.Mus. degree from King’s College London, and the Ph.D. in musicology with a certificate in Africana studies from the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Ryan’s current project investigates the relationship between racialization and music in the British colonial Caribbean, exploring the many ways that African-descended musicians and listeners engaged with music with European origins. Sometimes this engagement functioned as a way to assert their intellectual and aesthetic capabilities, while simultaneously learning, theorizing, and subverting the music of those who enslaved and subjugated them. Early work from this project can be seen in the article “‘The influence of Melody upon man in the wild state of nature”: Enslaved Parishioners, Anglican Violence, and Racialized Listening in a Jamaica Parish” in the Journal of the Society for American Music (forthcoming, Summer 2021).
In addition to her work on music in the British colonial Caribbean, Dr. Ryan is interested in Black feminist theory, the intellectual history of Black music, and book history and archive studies. Dr. Ryan is a Junior Fellow in Critical Bibliography at the Rare Book School for 2020–2022, where she focuses on methods for recuperating Black listening practices from sources created under colonial logics.
Dr. Ryan’s work has been supported by grants and fellowships from ACLS/Mellon, American Musicological Society, American Historical Association, Society for American Music, and Library Company of Philadelphia.
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