Ellie M. Hisama

Professor of Music, Music Theory and Historical Musicology
On leave, 2019-20
Office Address: 
609 Dodge
(212) 854-1253

Ellie M. Hisama, Professor of Music, is a member of the Theory and Historical Musicology areas. Hisama's research focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first-century music, post-tonal theory, American music, African American music, Asian American music, popular music, critical studies of music, race, ethnicity, and the social and political dimensions of music.  She is the author of Gendering Musical Modernism: The Music of Ruth Crawford, Marion Bauer, and Miriam Gideon, which was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title, and co-editor of the volumes Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Worlds: Innovation and Tradition in Twentieth-century American Music and Critical Minded: New Approaches to Hip Hop Studies. She has published essays on the work of Joan Armatrading, David Bowie, Benjamin Britten, Ruth Crawford, The Cure, Julius Eastman, Isaac Julien, DJ Kuttin Kandi, John Zorn, and others. Her current work includes an essay on women modernist composers, a study of contralto Marian Anderson’s performances of spirituals arranged by African American composers including H. T. Burleigh and Anderson's cultural activism, an article (co-authored with Lucie Vágnerová) on a project she founded titled For the Daughters of Harlem: Working in Sound, an essay “'The Whole Feeling of the Connection': Geri Allen as Leader, Collaborator, and Teacher" for a special issue on Geri Allen, and and an essay on Bay Area musicians Francis Wong, Jon Jang, and RJ Sin.

She was named the keynote speaker for the 2019 UT-Austin Graduate Music Conference: Music of the Americas, the 2019 Kenneth H. Peacock Lecturer at the University of Toronto, the 2017 Robert Samels Visiting Scholar at Indiana University, the 2016 speaker in the Judy Tsou ’75 Music Scholars Series at Skidmore College, and the 2015 Hartt Music Theory Forum speaker, and has delivered additional plenary and keynote addresses in Ann Arbor, Charlottesville, Kanazawa, Montreal, New York, and Tokyo. She will deliver the paper “Getting to Count” at the plenary session of the annual meeting of the Society for Music Theory in Columbus, Ohio in November 2019. 

She was an invited participant in the Feminist Research Seminar "Writing Blackness into Music Historiography" at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women & Gender and its continuation in Atlanta in Fall 2019, and an invited presenter at the workshop "Interrogating the Nation/Repositioning U.S. Music in the 21st Century" at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. She received a Career Enhancement Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a Tsunoda Ryusaku Senior Fellowship, School of International Liberal Studies, Waseda University, Tokyo, and a Faculty Fellowship from the Ethyle R. Wolfe Institute for the Humanities. 

As a member of the Arts & Sciences' new Committee on Equity and Diversity, she was the primary organizer of Agents of Change: A Symposium in Honor of Marcellus Blount (2019), which featured sixteen speakers and a solo performance by Lloyd Knight, Principal Dancer of the Martha Graham Dance Company. She is Founding Director of the workshop For the Daughters of Harlem: Working in Sound (2018), a multi-year initiative that brings students from local public schools to campus to create, record, and reflect upon their work in sound. Also in 2018, she secured the archive of the conductor and scholar Maurice Peress for Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library and with curator Jennifer Lee, organized a welcome event at RBML for the archive. To assist Columbia’s efforts to achieve greater equity for faculty, she chaired the Humanities Equity Committee of the Policy and Planning Committee (PPC) and served as primary author of the Humanities section of its 2018 Equity report. With Ana Paulina Lee, she organized the New York premiere of the film LIGHT by USA Artists Fellow choreographer/dancer Lenora Lee  and filmmaker/musician Tatsu Aoki, followed by a talkback with David Henry Hwang and Karen Shimakawa. She chaired the Academic Review Committee at Columbia and the Society for Music Theory-40 dissertation fellowship committee, and served as a member of the Policy and Planning Committee and the Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity’s Faculty Working Group. She has edited three peer-reviewed journals and has directed or co-directed many international conferences, including Women, Music, Power (2015), Feminist Theory and Music 8 (with Suzanne Cusick, 2005), and a centennial festival celebrating composer and folk music advocate Ruth Crawford Seeger (with Ray Allen, 2001) that featured performances by Pete Seeger, Peggy Seeger, Mike Seeger, Sarah Cahill, Marilyn Nonken, and Dora Ohrenstein, a keynote address by Judith Tick, and talks by Benjamin Filene, Michael Kammen, Ursula Mamlok, and Christian Wolff. 

She came to Columbia in 2006, having served as Director of the Institute for Studies in American Music [now the Hitchcock Institute] at Brooklyn College. She has held faculty appointments 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 been nominated twice by Columbia College's Academic Awards Committee for the Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching. An alumna of Phillips Exeter Academy, her classroom teaching is strongly based in Exeter’s Harkness Method of collaborative learning.

Outside the academy, she has served as an consultant for the Smithsonian Institution's annual Folklife Festival on the National Mall; The Annie Tinker Association for Women, established to support women in retirement; and as an advisor at the invitation of Joseph Dalton for the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS.




Daughters of Harlem Teaches Local Young Women to Record and Produce Their Own Music

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


Gendering Musical Modernism: The Music of Ruth Crawford, Marion Bauer, and Miriam Gideon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 

Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Worlds: Innovation and Tradition in Twentieth-century American Music, co-edited with Ray Allen. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2007.

Critical Minded: New Approaches to Hip Hop Studies, co-edited with Evan Rapport. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Institute for Studies in American Music, 2005.



Editor in Chief, Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture, volumes 18-20 (2013-16).   

Founding Editor, Journal of the Society for American Music, vol. 1, no. 1-4 (2007); vol. 2, nos. 1-4 (2008).  

Editor, American Music, vol. 24, nos. 2, 3, and 4 (Summer, Fall, and Winter 2006). 




"Women composers and modernism, 1920–1945," in The Cambridge Companion to Women Composers, ed. Susan Wollenberg and Matthew Head (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). 

“For the Daughters of Harlem: Bridging Campus and Community Through Sound” (co-authored with Lucie Vágnerová), in U.S. Music in the 21st Century: Collaborative Perspectives, ed. Carol J. Oja and Charles Hiroshi Garrett (University of Michigan Press, forthcoming).  

“Popular Culture: Modernism and Tradition in Transnational American Musics,” in A Cultural History of Western Music in the Modern Age, vol. 6, ed. William Cheng and Danielle Fosler-Lussier (Bloomsbury, forthcoming).

“'Not yet accepted as singing': Ruth Crawford’s 'To An Angel' from Chants for Women’s Chorus (1930)” in Analytical Studies of Music by Women Composers, volume 4, ed. Laurel Parsons and Brenda Ravenscroft (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

Translation of “Improvising Women” into German by Berni Doessegger for publication in #0 (Zürich, in press), http://www.nr0.org/. Originally published in <<your own voice>>: Ein Kaleidoskop von improvisierte Musik (book celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Werkstatt für Improvisierte Musik, Zürich), ed. Jean-Pierre Reinle, 159-65. Zürich: Chronos Verlag, 2001. 


“On seeing and hearing anew: On the Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf's Drum of the Waves of Horikawa,” ASAP/Journal [The Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present, named Best New Journal in Humanities by the Association of American Publishers, 2019] 4/1 (2019).

Forward to section “Decolonizing Sound” [essays by Alexa Woloshyn, Elliott Powell, and Liz Przybylski] in Popular Music and the Politics of Hope: Queer and Feminist Interventions, ed. Susan Fast and Craig Jennex. New York: Routledge, 2019.

“Power and Equity in the Academy: Change from Within,” Current Musicology, special issue Sounding the Break: Music Studies and the Political 102, special issue edited by Tom Wetmore (Spring 2018). https://currentmusicology.columbia.edu/article/power-and-equity-in-the-academy-change-from-within/

"A Feminist Staging of Britten's The Rape of Lucretia," Journal of the American Musicological Society 71/1 (April 2018), 237-43. http://jams.ucpress.edu/content/71/1/213.article-info

“‘Blackness in a white void’: Dissonance and Ambiguity in Isaac Julien’s Multi-Screen Film Installations,” in Rethinking Difference in Gender, Sexuality, and Popular Music: Theory and Politics of Ambiguity, ed. Gavin Lee, 168-183. New York: Routledge, 2018. 

“Considering Race and Ethnicity in the Music Theory Classroom,” in Norton Guide to Teaching Music Theory ed. Rachel Lumsden and Jeff Swinkin, 252-66.  New York: W. W. Norton, 2018.

“Improvisation in Freestyle Rap,” Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies, vol. 2, ed. Benjamin Piekut and George E. Lewis, 250-57. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. Also published online in Oxford Research Reviews. http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199892921.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199892921-e-24?print=pdf

“‘Diving into the Earth’: Julius Eastman’s Musical Worlds,” in Rethinking Difference in Music Scholarship, ed. Olivia Bloechl, Jeffrey Kallberg, and Melanie Lowe, 260-86. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/rethinking-difference-in-music-scholarship/diving-into-the-earth-the-musical-worlds-of-julius-eastman/F5565C1BA2E30863484126EBAFAB163C/core-reader

“DJ Kuttin Kandi: Performing Feminism,” American Music Review XLIII, no. 2 (Spring 2014), http://hisam.org.

 “The Ruth Crawford Seeger Sessions," Daedalus: the Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences 142/4 (Fall 2013), 51-63. https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/10.1162/DAED_a_00236

 “Comment on AVANT’s interview with John Zorn,” AVANT: pismo awangardy filozoficzno-naukowej [AVANT: The Journal of the Philosophical-Interdisciplinary Avant-Garde, Torún, Poland] III, T/2012 (January-June, 2012). Translated into Polish. http://avant.edu.pl/en/t2012-2.

“From L’Étranger to ‘Killing an Arab’: Representing the Other in a Cure Song,” in Expression in Pop-Rock Music: A Collection of Critical and Analytical Essays, ed. Walter Everett, 59-74. New York: Garland Press, 2000; 2nd edition published by Routledge, 2007.

Introduction (co-authored with Ray Allen) to Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Worlds: Innovation and Tradition in Twentieth-century American Music, edited by Ray Allen and Ellie M. Hisama, 1-10. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2007.

“In Pursuit of a Proletarian Music: Ruth Crawford’s ‘Sacco, Vanzetti’,” in Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Worlds: Innovation and Tradition in Twentieth-century American Music, edited by Ray Allen and Ellie M. Hisama, 73-93. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2007.

“‘We’re All Asian Really’: Hip Hop’s Afro-Asian Crossings,” in Critical Minded: New Approaches to Hip Hop Studies, edited by Ellie M. Hisama and Evan Rapport, 1-21. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Institute for Studies in American Music, 2005.

“John Zorn and the Postmodern Condition,” in Locating East Asia in Western Art Music, ed. Yayoi Uno Everett and Frederick Lau, 72-84. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2004.

“Feminist Music Theory Into the Millennium: A Personal History,” in Feminisms at a Millennium, ed. Carolyn Allen and Judith A. Howard, 276-80. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. Reprinted from special millennial issue of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 25/4 (Summer 2000).

“Life Outside the Canon? A Walk on the Wild Side,” Music Theory Online 6.3 (2000), http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.00.6.3/mto.00.6.3.hisama.html

“Postcolonialism on the Make: The Music of John Mellencamp, David Bowie, and John Zorn,” in Reading Pop: Approaches to Textual Analysis in Popular Music, ed. Richard Middleton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, 329-46. Reprinted from Popular Music 12/2, May 1993. https://www.jstor.org/stable/931292?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

“Voice, Race, and Sexuality in the Music of Joan Armatrading,” in Audible Traces: Gender, Identity, and Music, ed. Elaine Barkin and Lydia Hamessley, 115-32. Zürich: Carciofoli Verlagshaus, 1999.

“The Question of Climax in Ruth Crawford’s String Quartet, Mvt. 3,” in Concert Music, Rock, and Jazz Since 1945: Essays and Analytical Studies, ed. Elizabeth West Marvin and Richard Hermann. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1995, 285-312.



Review of Marc Blitzstein: His Life, His Work, His World by Howard Pollack (Oxford University Press, 2012), Journal of the American Musicological Society, vol. 69, no. 3 (Fall 2016), 833-40. https://doi.org/10.1525/jams.2016.69.3.835

Review of Understanding Charles Seeger, Pioneer in American Musicology, ed. Bell Yung and Helen Rees (University of Illinois Press, 1999), Music Theory Spectrum 24, no. 1 (Spring 2002), 142-149. 

Review of Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship, ed. Ruth A. Solie (University of California Press, 1993) and Marcia J. Citron, Gender and the Musical Canon (Cambridge University Press, 1993) in Journal of Musicology XII, no. 2 (Spring 1994), 221-234. https://www.jstor.org/stable/763989



Agents of Change: A Symposium in Honor of Marcellus Blount. Editor of program booklet including twenty-six tributes by faculty, staff, and students about Marcellus Blount, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University; event organized with the Committee on Equity and Diversity, Arts & Sciences, Columbia University, Low Library Rotunda and Faculty Room, March 2019. 

Remembrance: Randy Weston (1926-2018), The Bulletin of the Society for American Music XLV/1 (Winter 2019). https://www.american-music.org/page/BulletinWinter2019

Primary author of Division of Humanities section in the Policy and Planning Committee's Equity Reports for the Arts & Sciences at Columbia University (October 2018): https://fas.columbia.edu/home/diversity-arts-and-sciences/ppc-equity-reports 

Remembering Geri Allen, 1957-2017. Editor of booklet of twenty-four tributes presented at memorial celebration of pianist/composer/improviser/teacher Geri Allen at international conference Feminist Theory and Music 14, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, July 2017.  https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/files/geri-allen-symposium/files/geri_allen_tributes_booklet_ftm_july_2017.pdf

“Race/ethnicity in the profession.” Invited colloquy on Race, Ethnicity and the Profession, Musicology Now (official blog of the American Musicological Society), 1 December 2016. http://musicologynow.ams-net.org/2016/12/colloquy-race-ethnicity-and-profession.html

“Ruth (Porter) Crawford (Seeger).” In The Grove Dictionary of American Music and Musicians, 2nd edition, vol. 2, 470-474. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

“Feminist Scholarship as a Social Act: Remembering Adrienne Fried Block,” American Music Review XXXIX/1 (Fall 2009). http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/web/aca_centers_hitchcock/NewsF09.pdf

Liner notes for compact disc of Jason Kao Hwang, The Floating Box: A Story in Chinatown, New World Records 80626-2, 2005.

“Miriam Gideon,” Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, Vol. 5, 1976-2000, ed. Susan Ware, 231-233. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005.

Ruth Crawford Seeger: Tradition, Modernity, and the Making of American Music (conference booklet co-edited with Ray Allen). Brooklyn, N.Y.: Institute for Studies in American Music, 2001.

Liner notes for compact disc of music by Marion Bauer with pianist Virginia Eskin (Troy 465), 2001.

“Musicology: Feminist,” Reader’s Guide to Music: History, Theory, Criticism, ed. Murray Steib, 479-80. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999. 

Liner notes for compact disc Miriam Gideon: Music for Voice and Ensemble (CRI 782), 1998.



Doctoral Advising [all PhD dissertations at Columbia University unless otherwise indicated]

Sponsor [Advisor]: Completed

Marc Hannaford, “One Line, Many Views: Muhal Richard Abrams, Music Improvisation, and Affordances.” PhD, 2019. Lecturer in Music Theory, Columbia University. (Music theory)

Paula Harper, “Unmute This: Circulation, Sociality, and Sound in Viral Media.” PhD, 2019. Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, Department of Music, Washington University in St. Louis. (Historical musicology)

William Mason, “Technological Embodiment and Affective Cognition in the Electroacoustic Music of Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail.” PhD, 2019. Assistant Professor of Music (tenure-track), Wheaton College (Mass.). (Music theory)

Lucie Vágnerová, “Sirens/Cyborgs: Sound Technologies and the Musical Body.” PhD, 2016. Mellon Core Lecturer, Department of Music, Columbia University, 2016-19. (Historical musicology)

Kate Heidemann, “Hearing Women’s Voices in Popular Song: Analyzing Sound and Identity in Country and Soul.” PhD, 2014. Director of AP Music Theory Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. (Music theory) 

Beau Bothwell, “Song, State, Sawa: Music and Political Radio Between the United States and Syria.” PhD, 2013. Awarded Whiting Fellowship. Assistant Professor of Music (tenure-track), Kalamazoo College. (Historical musicology)

Louise Chernosky, “Voices of New Music on National Public Radio: Radio NetRadioVisions, and Maritime Rites.” PhD, 2012. Music Director, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County. (Historical musicology)

Daniel Sonenberg, "'Who in the world she might be': A Contextual and Stylistic Approach to the Early Music of Joni Mitchell." DMA in composition, City University of New York, Graduate Center, 2003. Professor of Music and Resident Composer, University of Southern Maine. (Composition)


In Progress

Elliott S. Cairns, “Listening to the World: The Berliner Phonogram-Archiv and the Emergence of Comparative Musicology.” (Historical musicology)

Velia Ivanova, “The Musical Heritage of Incarceration: The Dissemination and Management of the Lomax Collection Prison Songs (1933-2017).”  Recipient, 2019 Margery Lowens Dissertation Research Fellowship, Society for American Music. Instructor, Teaching Scholars Program, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University, 2019-20. (Historical musicology)

Toru Momii, "Rethinking Transpacific Boundaries: Analyzing Intercultural Performance in Contemporary Japanese Music." Recipient, 2019 Japanese American Association-Honjo Foundation Scholarship. (Music theory)

Undergraduate Courses

Humanities W1123: Music Humanities

Music UN3310: Techniques of Twentieth-Century Music

Music UN3321: Music Theory III

Music UN3322: Music Theory IV

Music UN3385: Analysis of Popular Music

Music UN3395: Listening to Hip-Hop

Music UN3030: Asian American Music

Women's Studies UN3800: Feminist Listening 


Graduate Seminars

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: Modernism and Tradition in 20th-century American Music

Music G8374: New Currents in Hip-Hop Studies 

Women's Studies G8001: Feminist Pedagogy