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Alessandra Jones

My work examines power relations enacted through sound, singing, listening, and speaking in the mid-nineteenth-century Italian city. To develop new methodologies for an historical anthropology of sound, I open my inquiry amid the city streets, where I track the politics of urban listening practices in order to recover everyday Italian engagement with material culture. My aim in doing so is itself political: I want to make audible experiences masked by Austrian censorship in Lombardy-Venetia in the wake of the 1848 revolutions. In my dissertation I wield these new methodologies to reassess the political and social impact of the operas of Giuseppe Verdi, particularly in the fraught environment of post-1848 Venice. My major contribution is to introduce historical sound studies to opera studies (and vice versa) by juxtaposing listening stances from both inside and outside of the opera house: one institutionally framed and governed by convention, the other informal and ad hoc. By decentering the opera house and its accompanying performances of “high culture,” I reconfigure opera as a vital resource for narrating alternative histories. I thus cast a much-studied period in European history in a new, aurally inflected light.

Born in New York, NY and raised in the suburbs, I received my BA from Smith College in 2008. After a stint working as a Field Organizer in Michigan and then North Carolina for President Obama’s first presidential campaign, I moved back to The City and spent five years working in the Human Resources and Labor Relations Department at the Metropolitan Opera. While working full-time I took advantage of the great resources offered by the City University of New York and completed a Master’s degree in Music at Hunter College. In 2014 I finished my MA, quit my job, and moved to Berkeley to start my PhD in Music History and Literature, supported by a Regent’s Fellowship. In 2016-7 I was proud to win an Outstanding GSI Award and in 2017-8 I spent a year in England as a Visiting Student Researcher with the Faculty of Music at the University of Cambridge.

In 2019 I am co-organizing a conference, “Viral Italian Sounds”, with Danielle Simon (UC Berkeley) and Marco Ladd (Yale University). Further information can be found on the conference website:

Research Interests
Sound studies, affect theory, history of violence, transnationalisms, audiovisual aesthetics and media studies, history of science and technology.

“Noise and Silence in Rigoletto‘s Venice.” (Under review.)

“Rousseau, language, and the telegraph.” Opera in Transnational Context: Reading Rousseau’s “Essay on the Origin of Languages”, UCL Passionate Politics, <>.

Papers Presented
2018 “The End of the Bass Drum’s Reign: Silence and Noise in Rigoletto’s Venice.” American Musicological Society, San Antonio; 20th Biennial International Conference on Nineteenth-Century Music, University of Huddersfield; “Mapping the Musical City,” Senate House of the University of London.
2018 “Rossini, La Fenice, and the Limits of the Opera House in the 1850s.”
“Re-Imagining italianità: Opera and Voices on the Move,” University of Campinas.
2017 “Rousseau, language, and the telegraph.”
“Re-Imagining italianità: Adaptation, Transcription, Mediation,” Graduate Student Workshop, Brown University.
2016 “The Theory of the Dagger: Mediating Discourses of Regicide in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera.” 19th Biennial International Conference on Nineteenth-Century Music, University of Oxford.
2015 The Theory of the Dagger: Mediating Discourses of Regicide in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera.” UCB Italian Studies Graduate Conference, University of California, Berkeley.
2013 “An Artifact on Display: The Case for a Politicized Aida.” “Verdi’s Third Century: Italian Opera Today,” New York University.
2013 “Massenet’s Scènes dramatiques and the French Art of Distilling Shakespeare.” AMS Greater New York Fall Chapter Meeting, Metropolitan Opera Guild; AMS New England Fall Chapter Meeting, University of Massachusetts Amherst.
2013 “‘C’est l’histoire de Manon Lescaut’: The Evolution of Authorial Voice in Massenet and Puccini.” North American Conference for Nineteenth-Century Music, Texas Christian University; Biennial Music Colloquium, Louisiana State University; McGill Graduate Student Symposium, McGill University; Graduate Student Colloquium, University of Ottawa.
2013 “The Omniscient Narrator: A Structuralist Look at Massenet’s Cendrillon.” Pacific Northwest Graduate Conference, University of Victoria.
2012 “The Omniscient Narrator: A Structuralist Look at Massenet’s Cendrillon.” AMS Mid-Atlantic Fall Chapter Meeting, University of Pennsylvania.
2012 “A Tale of Two Manons: Manipulating Music and Narrative in Massenet (and
Puccini).” “Massenet and the Mediterranean World,” Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini.