Sean Gower


Fourth Year Graduate Student in Musicology

103 Lerner Center

My research explores the interplay between artistic creators and the communities to which they belong. Focusing primarily on French and francophone contexts, from the nineteenth century to the present, I am interested in groups such as the Parisian romantics of the 1840s and the New Wave film movement of the 1960s; in urban dynamics in Paris, Dakar, and Philadelphia; and in collaborative spacessuch as the salon, the opera theater, and the film studio. I have concentrated on individuals from Pauline Viardot and Frédéric Chopin in the nineteenth century, to Robert Wilson in late-twentieth-century opera, and Djibril Diop Mambéty in Sénégalese film. I question how these individuals craft unique voices as they shape and are shaped by the networks surrounding them. While grounded in music studies, my work dialogues with other areas including the sociologies of music and the arts, network theory, literary studies, and philosophies of community.

My current project investigates the “art worlds” of the singer and composer Pauline Viardot. I seek to understand how the oft-mentioned power of her voice was not only a phonocentric phenomenon, but was formed by the social circles through which she moved, and by her ability to mediate and transform creative forces from a variety of places across Europe. In particular, I focus on Viardot’s early song publications, which framed her voice through collaborative relations and helped shape the identity of an emergent circle in Paris. This facet of her music positioned Viardot as a nexus and a crucial actor for network formation among her contacts.

As a performing pianist, I am currently engaged in a recording project of the music of Pauline Viardot. I maintain an interest in engaging public audiences, and have presented lectures and recitals at venues such as the Maryland Public Libraries and the Music in the Pavilion series at Penn’s Kislak Center. Before coming to Philadelphia, I attended the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where I earned an MA in Musicology, and a BA in Music with concentrations in Piano Performance and Musicology. I have studied classical piano with Alon Goldstein, Michael Chertock, Elaine Leung-Wolf, and Robert Durso. I am also active as a French translator, and I previously served as the editorial assistant to the Journal of the American Liszt Society (2018-2019). I am currently a Shapiro Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.