Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 1987
Martha Feldman, the Mabel Greene Myers Professor of Music, is a cultural historian of European vernacular musics, ca. 1500-1950, with a concentration on Italy. Her projects have explored the senses and sensibilities of listeners, the interplay of myth, festivity, and kingship in opera, issues of cinema, media, and voice, issues of performance, and various incarnations of the musical artist. Running throughout her work are questions about how relationships between social, political, and artistic phenomena are mediated. Her first monograph, City Culture and the Madrigal at Venice (University of California Press, 1995; winner of the Bainton Prize of the Sixteenth-Century Society and Conference in conjunction with the Centre for Reformation Studies), dealt with madrigals within the civic culture of Renaissance Venice. Her Renaissance interests have extended to the music of courtesans, with results published partly in conjunction with her graduate students in The Courtesan’s Arts: Cross-Cultural Perspectives(co-edited, Oxford, 2006; winner of the 2007 Ruth A. Solie Award of the American Musicological Society). In 2007, she published an extended book about 18th-century opera seria as a manifestation and refraction of changing notions of sovereignty and festivity during the latter half of the eighteenth century. That work, Opera and Sovereignty: Transforming Myths in Eighteenth-Century Italy, won the Gordon J. Laing Award of the University of Chicago Press (2010) for the faculty book "published in the previous three years that brings the Press the greatest distinction."
Feldman’s current book on castrati based on her Bloch Lectures at Berkeley, given in fall 2007 while teaching as Ernest Bloch Visiting Professor of Music, will be published by the University of California Press in 2014. Entitled The Castrato: Reflections on Natures and Kinds (University of California Press), the book investigates different relationships of castrati over time to the natural and to innate kinds, viewing the castrato as an index of European cultural exchange from about 1600 to 1830. A second book involving castrati, provisionally calledThe Castrato Phantom: Vocal Encryptions and other Sorts, from Moreschi to Fellini, was the object of her 2012-13 residency as a Senior Fellow at the Franke Institute for the Humanities. It deals with the life and afterlife of the castrato phenomenon in Rome, including in cinema, literature, psychoanalysis.
Feldman’s work has been funded by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation for Research in Venice, the American Association of University Women, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gettu Research Institute, the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Philosophical Society, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the American Musicological Society, The University of Chicago, and The Franke Humanities Institute. In 1998-99 she held an invited year-long position as a Getty Scholar at the Getty Research Institute. In 2010 she was a visiting professor at the Università degli Studi di Pavia at Cremona, Dipartimento di scienze musicologiche e paleografico-filologiche. She has served on the boards of the Cambridge Opera Journal, the Opera Quarterly, Echo, the American Musicological Society, Opera Cabal, the Franke Institute for the Humanities, the Logan Arts Center, and the Editorial Board of the Journal of the American Musicological Society, and assumed key positions in programming the American Musicological Society Annual Meeting and the International Musicological Society Quinquinenial Meeting.
Feldman was awarded the Dent Medal from the Royal Musical Association for outstanding work in musicology in 2001 and the Graduate Teaching Award of the University of Chicago in 2009. She is an Associate Faculty member in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures (2005-), a Resource Faculty member in the Committee on Cinema and Media Studies (1995-), and Affiliated Faculty with the Center for Gender Studies (1995-). In 2012, she was inducted as a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in the Class IV.5 with (among others) actor Daniel Day-Lewis, illustrator Jerry Pinkham, composer colleague Augusta Read Thomas, and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. In 2013-14 she will be a Principal Investigator with David Levin on The Voice Project under the auspices of the Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society. The Voice Project is a multi-year research venture joined by additional faculty members from Cinema and Media Studies, the College, Eastern Asian Languages and Civilizations, Germanic Studies, English, Music, and Philosophy.