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Professor Paula Musegades is listening

By Albert Reiss

Section: Features

September 16, 2016

For people like Prof. Paula Musegades (MUS), music is more or less a part of her daily life. As a postdoctoral fellow in the music department, Musegades studies the intersection of music and film. In fact, this semester Musegades is teaching Music in Film, a course that explores how music plays a pivotal role in filmmaking.

Musegades became a Brandeisian during her graduate studies. She obtained her M.A. as well as her Ph.D. in musicology from Brandeis. After finishing her Ph.D., she taught at Emerson College and then returned to Brandeis as a Kade Fellow.

The Kade Fellowship is a special two-year fellowship offered jointly by the Brandeis Music and American Studies departments. The program allocates a salary as well as a research stipend for each participant.

Musegades wrote her dissertation on the role of composer Aaron Copland in Hollywood film. “I look[ed] at his film scores and his impact on the Hollywood sound,” Musegades described. The dissertation was turned into a book this year. In the book, she looked at other topics such as “the way Copland has shifted sound from the Hollywood golden age to a more experimental one,” said Musegades.

In discussing more recent film scores, Musegades noted the growing trend in films to have less composed music and instead more sound effects. “Now that we have so much more sound technology, we have so much more to deal with. There are so many layers of sounds effect and music that get mixed together,” Musegades said.

This “mixing” can make it difficult to “hear the music,” she explained. In other words, with more recently made films, it is increasingly important for the viewers to be attuned to the music in addition to other elements of the movie. “Even though there might be very good music being composed for films, it may be very hard to hear it,” she said about the difficulty in understanding more modern film music.

In regard to her academic experience at Brandeis, Musegades has had a positive experience with students. “I think that the student engagement here is very fantastic. All of the students are so enthusiastic about the classes,” she explained.

Musegades is also fond of the flexibility that Brandeis affords her in teaching classes. For example, while she is teaching Music in Film this semester, in the spring she will teach a class on the history of rock and roll. Last semester, she taught a class on protest music. “I am getting to teach a lot of courses that I am really enthusiastic about,” she noted.

Musegades’ work also focuses on the underrepresentation of minority groups in music. In her class on protest music, this issue was often discussed and Musegades sought to facilitate a conversation by including these underrepresented artists in her class discussions.

When asked if she has any advice for students, Musegades suggested that students consider studying music. “I think in a depressed economy, music is a critical part of our culture. You can learn a lot about history and society by looking at music.”

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