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Alessandra Jones

My work examines how historical judgments of Italian sound and music are based in deep-rooted prejudices about the history of the Mediterranean and its peoples. My dissertation, supported in 2019-2020 by an Alvin H. Johnson AMS 50 Dissertation Fellowship, examines the ways in which the musical styles most popular in Italy in the 1850s acted as sources and conduits for a new lexicon of collective emotion that, in turn, made possible new varieties of thought, speech, and action. Drawing on affect theory, sound studies, and geographical work on urban spaces and collectivity, the dissertation considers the ways the canals of Venice and the piazze of Florence or Bologna served as amplifiers for shouts of protest, the incantations of gondoliers, and the more stylized musical patterns of Giuseppe Verdi’s newly popular operas. My aim in doing so is political: I want to make audible a range of experiences that were masked by censorship in the wake of the 1848 revolutions. Because Italian voices of the period are muted by censorship and by the highly rhetorical journalistic style of the period, my work attends especially to gaps in the historical record.

My interest in hearing suppressed and subaltern voices was the inspiration for a course I have developed on “Feminist Listening,” which draws on texts from contemporary queer and feminist studies to guide students to think about listening as a political act. In 2019 I received the Department’s inaugural Apgar Award to support my work on this course.

Born in New York, NY and raised in the suburbs, I received my BA in Music from Smith College in 2008. After a stint working as a Field Organizer in Michigan and later 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 Musicology, supported by a Regent’s Fellowship. In 2016–17 I received an Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award.I spent 2017–18 in England as a Visiting Student Researcher with the Faculty of Music at the University of Cambridge. 

In 2019 I co-organized a conference, “Viral Italian Sounds,” with Danielle Simon (UC Berkeley) and Marco Ladd (Yale University). The conference was co-sponsored by the Gladyce Arata Terrill Chair, the UC Berkeley Italian Studies Department, the Berkeley Center for New Media, the Townsend Center for the Humanities, and the Student Opportunities Fund. Danielle and I are currently co-editing a volume of essays based on the conference.


“Noise and Silence in Rigoletto‘s Venice,” Cambridge Opera Journal (forthcoming.)

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

Papers Presented

2020 “MOSE and Mosè: The Sounds of Hydrocolonialism in Venice.” “Sounding (Out) 19th-Century Italy,” University of Cambridge.

2019 “Decomposing Rossini.” “Mapping Music History: Metropoles and Colonies,” Harvard University.

2019 “Revolutionary Ear Worms in 1848.” Viral Italian Sounds, University of California, Berkeley.

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.