Tekla Babyak is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in musicology at Cornell University, which awarded her a Master's Degree in January 2007. She received a 2003 Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies, and is a recipient of the Jacob Javits Fellowship for 2004-2008. Her research focuses on musical aesthetics, specifically representation of music in philosophy and literature. Ms. Babyak has taught piano for 10 years. In the Fall 2007 semester, she taught a Freshman Writing Seminar at Cornell, "Representing the Other: Exoticism in Western Music."
Essay on Music and Memory: "MUSIC MINUS MEMORY": POPULAR MUSIC, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND MEMORY IN MILAN KUNDERA by Tekla Babyak
During the Fall 2007 semester, she taught a Freshman Writing Seminar at Cornell, "Representing the Other: Exoticism in Western Music. Western music is replete with evocations of exotic locales and peoples. These evocations are a form of what Edward Said calls Orientalism - Western discourse about the East. The Freshman Writing Seminar, Representing the Other--Exoticism in Western Music, explored the ways in which Orientalist music represents racial and geographical difference. The course asked students to engage with secondary literature, evaluate interpretive strategies and develop their own readings of Orientalist musical works. Works studied include Bizet's Carmen, Verdi's Aida, and Puccini's Madame Butterfly.
Babyak's dissertation explores gender and sexuality in Nietzsche’s musical aesthetics. In his 1888 polemic The Case of Wagner, Nietzsche condemns Wagnerian opera as a perverse spectacle of hysteria and decadence. As was typical of much 19th-century music criticism, Nietzsche cites very few specific examples to illustrate his polemic. In her dissertation, Babyak identifies characters, scenes and musical features that may have motivated some of Nietzsche’s generalized observations about Wagnerian opera.