Interdisciplinary Study at Brandeis Enables Musicologist to Pursue Novel Exploration of Mahler Symphonies
Photo Credit: Simon Goodacre
March 9, 2018
Lauren Bernard examines music from the turn of the century to the present, applying interdisciplinary methods to the study of both classical and popular music. She came to Brandeis from the University of North Texas and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Musicology as a 2017 Diversity, Excellence and Inclusion Scholar (DEIS).
“My research explores musical constructions of identity, the complex relationships between music, politics, and social interactions, and the global hip hop diaspora,” says Bernard. “In particular, I’m looking at musical constructions of identity and the reification of alterity in Gustav Mahler’s symphonic compositions.”
Bernard applied to Brandeis at the encouragement of her undergraduate thesis advisor, Dr. Robert Pearson, who received his own Ph.D. in Musicology from Brandeis in 2011. She has found Brandeis to be a welcoming environment that supports her interdisciplinary work.
“What I really enjoy about Brandeis is that I’m not restricted in what I’m able to study,” says Bernard. “I very much enjoy analyzing music from a multitude of perspectives using different methodologies, and I’ve been privileged to receive support from professors outside of my department,” says Bernard. “We have a lot of freedom and autonomy here that’s allowed me to explore a wide range of topics. I’m sure the students in the Heller School are wondering what I’m doing in their seminars.”
This flexibility led directly to Bernard’s current exploration of Mahler. “As I took more diverse seminars and increased the breadth of my knowledge I became able to identify innovative ways to approach the music I’ve always loved to hear, play, and study,” she says. “For my thesis, it just so happened that I was taking a seminar on Mahler and a seminar in the humanities. I immediately drew connections between the two subjects and developed a means of exploring Mahler’s prolific symphonic output in a way that hadn’t yet been done.”
Bernard has also found the community at Brandeis to be very supportive not only in her own department, where she works closely with Dr. Paula Musegades, but also outside of it, both at the Heller School, where she works with Dr. Rajesh Sampath, and also with the DEIS cohort. “I’ve had a great time being a member of the DEIS cohort. Everyone has been very welcoming and supportive,” says Bernard. “I’m extremely privileged to have been a part of this program. I’ve also made some really great friends!”
Bernard hopes to continue onwards to a doctoral program. “Last year was application season. So I’m now in that tremendously stressful period between submitting applications and bracing for potential acceptances or rejections. I applied to several doctoral programs, as well as for a Fulbright scholarship to teach in Serbia. Ideally, I’ll get into all programs and my greatest stress would be trying to decide which of my many options I should choose!”