The Faculty of Fine Arts is pleased to have Dr. Emily Gale join the music department as an assistant professor in musicology/ethnomusicology.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What brought you to the University of Lethbridge?
I am a feminist music scholar and I currently live in Cork, Ireland. Having grown up in Vancouver and Surrey, BC, I am excited to relocate to Lethbridge in late -October and take up in-person teaching in the Spring semester. I am returning to Canada via Charlottesville, Virginia, where I completed my PhD; Merced, California, where I taught pop music studies, served as vice president of the Merced Symphony Association and resuscitated a dormant campus and community arts series; Berlin, Germany, where I developed my radio show and radio research practice; and now Cork, where I have been teaching and researching for the past three and a half years.
What will you be teaching at the University of Lethbridge and if applicable what is the focus of your research?
I will be teaching in the areas of musicology, ethnomusicology and popular music studies. My training in music has been interdisciplinary, so I tend to think of these interrelated fields broadly as studies in/through/with music. This semester I am teaching an online general education course titled Punk: Histories and Subcultures. One narrative of punk’s history might focus on The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and The Clash. These bands are without question important (and pretty awesome). But they also force important questions about who tends to get left out of familiar histories of the genre. What about Death, the Bags, and X-Ray Spex? Women, musicians of colour, and queer artists have always been central to punk, but their stories are not heard and celebrated in the same ways. How do we rethink questions of culture and subcultural positions and identities relative to this reality? Moreover, what might it mean to take a course on punk from within a university music department?
Next semester I will be teaching A History of Rock & Roll Since 1970, and The Eighteenth Century, which is a course in the music history sequence. I am currently involved in redesigning the musicologies sequence to bring the curriculum into alignment with the current state of the disciplines and the needs of 21st century musicians and music thinkers.
In my research I am generally interested in questions of power, voice and feelings. My primary research project is about the long history of sentimental pop songs—think Lionel Richie or Céline Dion ballads. This is music that for a long time has been dismissed or disparaged within music academic circles and accused of various excesses by listeners and journalists. When we're talking about feeling, what does it mean to feel too much? Which emotions and whose? How are these expressed in song and in performance? And how do gender, race and class shape perceptions and histories? At the moment I am working on a chapter about sentimental love songs that spans from the late eighteenth century through to the present.
What or who inspired you to choose a career path in academia?
I was lucky to have a number of important women mentors along the way who sparked and encouraged my path through academia: Jennifer Condie, my childhood piano teacher; Jane Hayes, my community college piano teacher; Lori Burns at the University of Ottawa; and Norma Coates at Western University were especially supportive. But I didn’t know anything about higher education let alone what a musicologist is or does when I started at community college in 1999. Even as I was finishing my bachelor of music, I had very little knowledge of what would be involved with taking on a masters degree in music theory or later the PhD—whether intellectually, financially, or emotionally. It was always very much one step at a time rather than some early and clear vision.
I am the first person in my family—both immediate and extended—to earn a PhD. This is an immense privilege and responsibility, but it also comes at a cost. Class privilege, in my experience, is not talked about enough in academic settings and elitism seems to persist at every level. Employment precarity in higher education is now the norm with women, Indigenous and racialized people, 2SLGBTQ+ and individuals living with disability over-represented in short-term contracts. After almost ten years of post-PhD precarity, I am thrilled to land somewhere with the possibility of growing roots and I am really excited to keep learning alongside my ULethbridge students and colleagues.
How do you like to spend your spare time?
I have an 18 year old cat named Vive who has been my companion in four countries now. Given her age and her loyalty, I like to spend time with her listening to music, preparing my radio show, or watching documentaries. When I’m away from my flat, I am either at a gig, out dancing, or enjoying nature with friends. “Hillwalking” (hiking) and “sea swimming” (swimming in the ocean) in Ireland are absolutely class! Loads of mobile seaside saunas popped up during lockdown and they offer a dreamy way to spend a weekend afternoon. For the last six months, I have coordinated a zine-making night and that's been a real revelation. It’s a brilliant way to make new friends, to collaborate creatively, and to enjoy a shared meal. I have also hosted music bingo in various venues and locales and I'm hoping such music and art socials might be possible in Lethbridge!
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