Ellie M. Hisama

Professor of Music, Music Theory and Historical Musicology
Theory Area Chair, 2018-19
Office Address: 
609 Dodge
(212) 854-1253

Ellie M. Hisama, Professor of Music, came to Columbia in 2006, having previously served as Director of the Institute for Studies in American Music [now the H. Wiley Hitchcock Institute for Studies in American Music].  She is a member of the Theory and Historical Musicology areas and has served as Vice Chair of the Department of Music. She is Chair of Columbia's Academic Review Committee, Area Chair for Music Theory, and Chair of the Humanities Equity Committee of the Policy and Planning Committee, which has released a report on equity issues affecting Arts & Sciences at Columbia. She has served as Director of Graduate Studies of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality (IRWGS) at Columbia and and is a member of its Executive Committee. She is Founding Director of For the Daughters of Harlem: Working in Sound, a multi-year project for New York public school students to engage with music as performers, sound artists, and thinkers; with Fall 2018 Director Lucie Vágnerová, she is co-organizing the October 2018 workshop which received a Humanities New York Action Grant and a Center for Science and Society Public Outreach Grant. With Matthew Leslie Santana, she convened for the 2018 annual meeting of the American Musicological Society a seminar titled On the Academic Pipeline, which features papers on decolonizing music pedagogy (Robin Attas and Patrick Nickleson), applied musicology (Michael Uy), and embodying multiple selves in academic musicology (Anaar Desai-Stephens). She is on the faculty committee for Project Spectrum,  a national coalition of graduate students and faculty members that seeks to explore why many people marginalized by their race/ethnicity, gender, and/or sexuality continue to have difficulty in finishing graduate degrees, attaining gainful employment, and receiving tenure within all fields of music studies. 

Her current research focuses on Marian Anderson's performance of spirituals arranged by African American composers, Ruth Crawford's work as a composer and arranger, and the Bay Area- and Chicago-based collective Asian Improv aRtsAuthor of Gendering Musical Modernism and co-editor of Critical Minded: New Approaches to Hip Hop Studies and Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Worlds, Hisama specializes in twentieth- and twenty-first-century music, post-tonal theory, American music, popular music, gender and feminist studies, critical studies of music and race, and the social and political dimensions of music. Her essay "On seeing and hearing anew: On the Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf's Drum of the Waves of Horikawa" will be published in ASAP/Journal [The Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present] in 2019. Her essay on Crawford's Chants for Women's Chorus will appear in Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers series, ed. Laurel Parsons and Brenda Ravenscroft (Oxford University Press). Her essay "Power and Equity in the Academy: Change from Within" will appear in Sounding the Break: Music Studies and the Political, a special issue of Current Musicology, ed. Tom Wetmore, and she is author of the forward to “Decolonizing Sound,” in Hearing the Political: Queer and Feminist Interventions in Popular Music Performance, ed. Susan Fast and Craig Jennex (Routledge, in press). Her essay "A Feminist Staging of Britten's The Rape of Lucretia" appears in the Journal of the American Musicological Society (2018) in a colloquy on sexual violence in opera. Her article "Considering Race and Ethnicity in the Music Theory Classroom" was published in the Norton Guide to Teaching Music Theory, ed. Rachel Lumsden and Jeff Swinkin (Norton, 2018). Her essay "'Blackness in a White Void': Dissonance and Ambiguity in Isaac Julian's Multi-Screen Film Installations" will appear in Rethinking Difference in Gender, Sexuality, and Popular Music: Theory and Politics of Ambiguity, ed. Gavin Lee (Routledge, in press). 

She was named the 2019 Kenneth Peacock Lecturer at the University of Toronto, the keynote speaker for the 2019 UT-Austin Graduate Music Conference: Music of the Americas, the 2017 Robert Samels Visiting Scholar at Indiana University, and the 2016 speaker in the Judy Tsou ’75 Music Scholars Series at Skidmore College. She was an invited participant in the 2018 Feminist Research Seminar "Writing Blackness into Music Historiography" at University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women & Gender and an invited presenter at the 2017 workshop “Interrogating the Nation/Repositioning U.S. Music in the 21st Century” at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. She has received major research fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation/Andrew Mellon Foundation and the Ethyle R. Wolfe Institute for the Humanities and held a Tsunoda Senior Fellowship at Waseda University (Tokyo). An alumna of Phillips Exeter Academy, her classroom teaching is strongly based in Exeter’s Harkness Method of collaborative learning.

In 2018-19, she chairs the Society of Music Theory's SMT-40 Dissertation Fellowship Committee. She serves on the advisory boards of the new series Music and Social Justice, the new series Ashgate Studies of Music Theory and Analysis After 1900, and the book series Tracking Pop. She has edited three peer-reviewed journals: Journal of the Society for American Music (JSAM) as Founding Editor; American Music; and Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture. She has directed or co-directed many major conferences, including Women, Music, Power; Ruth Crawford Seeger: Modernity, Tradition, and the Making of American Music; Local Music/Global Connections: New York City at the Millennium; and co-organized (with Ana Paulina Lee) a residency by choreographer/dancer Lenora Lee and filmmaker/musician Tatsu Aoki which included the New York premiere of their film LIGHT and a talkback with David Henry Hwang and Karen Shimakawa.

She has taught at Brooklyn College, Connecticut College, City University of New York's Graduate Center, Harvard University, Ohio State University, the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, Queens College/CUNY, and the University of Virginia. She has served on the Governing Board of Columbia's Society of Fellows in the Humanities, evaluated fellowship applications for the NEH, ACLS, Fulbright Foundation, and the Alvin H. Johnson AMS 50, and has served as a nominator for the Herb Alpert Awards and the Inamori Foundation. Outside the academy, she has served as a consultant for the Joyce Foundation (Chicago), Smithsonian Institution, The Estate Project for Artists with AIDS, and the Tinker Association for Women.

Undergraduate Courses Taught:

Humanities W1123: Music Humanities

Music V3321: Music Theory III

Music V3322: Music Theory IV

Music V3310: Techniques of Twentieth-Century Music

Music V3385: Analysis of Popular Music

Music V3395: Listening to Hip-Hop

Music V3030: Asian American Music

Women's Studies UN3800: Feminist Listening 

Graduate Courses Taught:

Music G6333: Proseminar in Music Theory

Music G6385: Analysis of Popular Music

Music G8111: Seminar in Historical Musicology: 20th Century [New Currents in American Music Studies]

Music G8360: Gender/Sexuality/Music: History/Theory/Criticism

Music G8370: Ruth Crawford Seeger

Music G8374: New Currents in Hip-Hop Studies 

Women's Studies G8001: Feminist Pedagogy

Degrees from Other Institutions: 
with honors
English language and literature
University of Chicago
Music theory
City University of New York
Awarded the Barry S. Brook Dissertation Award in Music for the best dissertation of the year
Music theory
City University of New York