Chelsea Burns

Chelsea Burns

Assistant Professor of Music Theory






Chelsea Burns is a scholar of Latin American modernisms, with a special focus on the overlaps between nationalism and exoticism. In her work, she draws together music analysis, archival research, and historical study to address the interactions between composers, national governmental aims, and increasingly international music scenes in the first half of the twentieth century. In so doing, she reveals the stakes and limitations of both national and individual desires for inclusion in global markets, and contests analytical approaches in which folk tunes and samba rhythms are strictly features of homogenized nationalistic cultures. In a forthcoming article on Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Tres poêmas indigenas, she discusses the ways in which Villa-Lobos uses musical tropes of Amerindian identity both for nationalistic aims and for a kind of strategic self-exoticism (“‘Musique Cannibale’: The Evolving Sound of Indigeneity in Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Tres poêmas indigenas,” currently under review).

Chelsea’s second research area is US bluegrass and country musics. As with her work in Latin American repertories, her research in bluegrass and country makes use of intersections between historical contextualization and analytical understandings, attending to the specific histories of performance and composition in order to inform close readings of works. In addition to her scholarly work in this area, she is an active accordionist, and brings a performer’s perspective to these practices. Her article on the pedal steel guitar in Buck Owens and the Buckaroos’ “Together Again” is currently under review at Music Theory Online, and she presented at the 2017 Bluegrass Symposium adjoining the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) annual meeting.

Chelsea joined the music theory faculty at Eastman in 2017, coming to the department from Harvard University, where she taught courses on form, tonal analysis, and country music studies. She is a regular presenter at national conferences and has given talks for the annual conferences of the American Musicological Society (AMS), Society for Music Theory (SMT), Society for American Music (SAM), and Latin American Studies Association (LASA). She is an incoming member of the editorial board for Music Theory Spectrum (fall 2018), currently serves on the board for the Music Theory Society of New York State (MTSNYS), and is the chair of the Latin American interest group for the Society for American Music.

  • PhD History and Theory of Music, University of Chicago, 2016
  • MA History and Theory of Music, University of Chicago, 2014
  • BM Piano Performance, University of North Carolina–Greensboro, 2003
  • AA Music, Grand Rapids Community College, 2000

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