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Sophie Benn is a PhD candidate (ABD) in musicology at Case Western Reserve University. Her work focuses on relationships between notation, music, and the body in late nineteenth-century and early modernist aesthetics. Her research areas include theatrical and social dance, body cultures, historical anatomy, temporality, and performance practice. She believes that music education should be available to everyone, and agrees with Richard Leppert that “whatever else music is ‘about,’ it is inevitably about the body.”
Her dissertation project examines a number of notational systems that recorded human gesture using music notation in France and Germany around 1900. She situates these systems as symptomatic of burgeoning modernist patterns of thought, and explores how they illuminate popular perceptions of music notation, questions of artistic representation, coloniality and resistance to globalization, links between music and the body, and interactions between sound, dance, and science.
She has been awarded a 2019 Eva L. Pancoast Memorial Fellowship for research at the Deutches Tanzarkiv Köln, and was a Graduate Affiliate at the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities in 2019. In summer 2017, she served as a CWRU Fellow at the Library of Congress. She has presented at conferences for the Dance Studies Association, the American Musicological Society, the German Studies Association, the Society for American Music, the International Association of Music Librarians, and numerous graduate-level and regional conferences. She currently serves as the President of CWRU’s Music Graduate Student Association.
Sophie also maintains an active career as a cellist, specializing in modernist and contemporary repertoire. She performs regularly with local new music groups, commissions new work, and is a founding Co-Director of Cleveland Uncommon Sound Project (CUSP), a presenting organization for experimental contemporary musicians and sound artists. She has been hailed for her “brilliant technical prowess” (ClevelandClassical.com), and in 2019 was named one of moCa Cleveland’s New Agents, a group of 52 “experimenters, catalysts, and change-makers, who are pushing Cleveland forward right now.” She also performs as a baroque cellist, having worked closely with Jaap ter Linden, Julie Andrijeski, and Debra Nagy, and appearing in masterclasses for Malcom Bilson and Paul O’Dette. Drawing on a childhood spent in the ballet studio, she also has experience as a baroque dancer, performing in productions of Hippolyte et Aricie, Dido and Aeneas and Acis and Galatea.
Sophie holds degrees in cello performance, pedagogy, and music history from Rice University and the Cleveland Institute of Music.
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