Musicologist explores relationships among music, the natural world and environmental awareness

Posted on January 19, 2016 by Staff Writer

Musicologist Denise Von Glahn will visit Sweet Briar College Jan. 27-29 for a series of events with students, including a free public lecture at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, in the Fitness and Athletics Center 1948 Theater. Von Glahn, the Curtis Mayes Orpheus Professor of Musicology at Florida State University, will present “Music, Place, and the Everyday Sacred: Libby Larsen and Lessons in Environmental Awareness.”

Denise Von Glahn Denise Von Glahn

Von Glahn, who is also coordinator of the musicology area and director of the Center for Music of the Americas at Florida State, is an award-winning author of a biography on Leo Ornstein and two books on music and nature topics, including “Music and the Skillful Listener: American Women Compose the Natural World.”

She has just completed a biography of American composer Libby Larsen for the University of Illinois Press’ Music in American Life Series. Her talk comes in part from the biography and from an article that will appear in Contemporary Music Review later this year.

Her lecture will examine two works by Larsen. In “In a Winter Garden” and “Up Where the Air Gets Thin,” Larsen “invites listeners to contemplate and act on the lessons they contain,” Von Glahn says.

“Across centuries and cultures, mountains and gardens have been identified with the sacred; they are privileged places for encounters with the divine; they materialize moral force. But they can also be contested places whose meanings and values vary,” Von Glahn wrote in an email. “This talk considers the ways Larsen has sonified the multivalence of gardens and mountains.”

During her time on campus, Von Glahn will meet with students one-on-one and in small group sessions. She also will conduct a composers’ workshop Thursday evening.

Assistant professor of music Jeff Jones invited Von Glahn to visit Sweet Briar. The tenor of her work is timely for endeavors already happening on campus, he says.

“Several students are developing scholarly and artistic projects involving women who compose music that explores sacred spaces, both built and natural. Faculty and students in the arts, sciences and humanities have been discussing a combination of scholarly and creative approaches to these projects,” Jones said. “Learning more about Dr. Von Glahn’s multidisciplinary employment of literary and gender studies, musicology and ecocriticism will be a valuable contribution to our ongoing dialogue.”

All are welcome to attend Von Glahn’s lecture. For more information, email Jones at or call (434) 381-6121.