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Mackenzie Pierce


My dissertation examines how Polish musicians, composers, musicologists, and politicians of culture reacted to and rebuilt following Poland’s decimation during the Second World War, a tragedy whose implications struck to the core of ethnic and political identity. By placing into dialogue musical events and practices such as the 1949 Chopin commemorations, the efforts to popularize Chopin’s music in factories and farms, the valorization of musical amateurism, and the re-establishment of musicology, I argue that Polish musical identity between 1944 and 1956 was overlaid with tensions between high and mass culture, and between cultural memory and future-oriented Marxism.

I also research the technologies and techniques regulating the production, ontology, and reception of nineteenth-century music. I have presented research on music stenography—a means of recording in ‘real time’ instrumental improvisations and fleeting musical inspirations—at UC Berkeley and will present further stages of the project at the 2015 meeting of the American Musicological Society. My essay on Fryderyk Chopin and improvised preluding, “Ersatz Improvisation: Chopin’s Opus 28 and the Published Prelude Collection,” has recently appeared in the edited volume Piano Culture in 19th-Century Paris (Brepols, 2015). In addition, I sustain research interests in aesthetics, philosophy, and critical theory.

Beginning as a cello performance major at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, I then earned a BA with Highest Honors in Music and Philosophy from Swarthmore College. My scholarship has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Society for the Humanities and Einaudi Center at Cornell University, the Kosciuszko Foundation, the DAAD, the Lang Foundation, and Swarthmore College. I am a 2010 Beinecke Scholar.


  • Music


Ph.D. Students Present their Research