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Carolyn Abbate was appointed a tenured professor by the Department of Music at Harvard University in 2005 and held the first Radcliffe Alumnae Professorship. She came to Harvard from Princeton University, where, in addition to her primary appointment in the Department of Music, she was affiliated with the Program in European Cultural Studies and the Program in Media and Modernity.
Spanning opera from Monteverdi to Ravel, as well as film music and sound technology, Abbate’s work crosses over into the disciplines of literature and philosophy. Her most recent writings have advanced the argument that the analysis of musical works in the abstract—common in traditional scholarship—bypasses music in its ephemeral, phenomenal form as performance. As part of a book she is completing on aesthetic experience, Abbate will research music in German silent-film production and German cinema from 1918 to 1933.
Abbate is the author of In Search of Opera (Princeton University Press, 2001) and Unsung Voices (Princeton University Press, 1991) and a coauthor of a forthcoming edition of The Penguin History of Opera (W. W. Norton). Her honors include National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) summer seminar directorships and the Dent Medal of the Royal Music Association. She has also been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and of an NEH Fellowship for Independent Study and Research, among others. Abbate received a bachelor’s degree from Yale University, attended Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, and earned her doctoral degree from Princeton University.