Allison Brooks-Conrad


Sixth Year Graduate Student in Historical Musicology

103 Lerner Music Building

My research examines the intersection of gender, labor, and socialist policy in different scenes of musical production in the Soviet Union. More specifically, I ask how women living in Soviet Russia used music and sound in their attempts to conform to and diverge from Soviet state policy, social expectations, and gender roles during the late Socialist era in Soviet Leningrad. Furthermore, by placing questions of gender, state socialist policy, and cultural production in conversation, I offer new interpretations of domestic space, privacy, musical circulation, femininity, genre, and the complicated relationship between unofficial music and the Soviet state. I ask how a state socialist context calls for different forms of musical labor and how this state socialist context renders musical labor and gender inextricably linked. In 2022, I redefined the scope of this project to consider the same questions, but in the context of former Soviet cities Tallinn, Estonia; Tbilisi, Georgia; and Riga, Latvia.


My previous research focused specifically on musical production, circulation, and political action in Soviet-occupied Estonia. I studied music written and performed by Estonian progressive rock musician Alo Mattiisen that was central to the Estonian independence movement from the Soviet Union, known as the Estonian Singing Revolution. In an attempt to dismantle some of the mythology surrounding the event, I analyzed Mattiisen’s musical output through the lens provided the contemporary Estonian popular music scene, the Estonian musical historical context, and theories relating to genre and collective and individual identity.


Other areas of interest include Eastern European state socialisms and musical inscription, production and circulation; music and the Global Cold War; and inscription and circulation more broadly.


Before coming to Penn, I graduated from Lawrence University in 2018 with a BA in History and a B.Mus. in Cello Performance, minoring in French and Francophone Studies. In 2018, I was the recipient of the William F. Raney prize in History and the Paul C. Hollinger award in Music History.


During the 2022-2023 academic year, my research is supported by the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies Stephen F. Cohen–Robert C. Tucker Dissertation Fellowship as the recipient of the inaugural Women’s and Gender Studies Fellowship.