Chelsea Burns

Chelsea Burns

Assistant Professor of Music Theory



Chelsea Burns completed her PhD in the Theory and History of Music at the University of Chicago in 2016. Her research interests include U.S. old-time, bluegrass, and country musics; Latin American modernisms; popular music of the Americas; and the historiography and pedagogy of music theory. Her dissertation, “Listening for Modern Latin America: Identity and Representation in Concert Music, 1920–1940,” addresses Mexican and Brazilian compositions written during an especially turbulent political period. Through close readings of works by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Silvestre Revueltas, and others, Burns argues for multiple contexts and communicative possibilities for these compositions, often in ways that undermine official nationalistic narratives and mandates or reveal composerly ambivalence. In doing so, she contests analytical approaches in which folk tunes and samba rhythms are strictly features of homogenized nationalistic cultures.

Burns has presented her research at national conferences of the Society for Music Theory, the Society for American Music, and the Latin American Studies Association. Her articles are currently under review for publication in Music Theory Online and The Journal of Musicology. Her research has been supported by an ACLS/Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship, a U.S. Department of Education Title VI Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship, and grants from the Tinker Foundation and the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Chicago.

In her teaching, Burns draws upon diverse repertories to engage students of different musical backgrounds and interests. At Harvard, University of Chicago, and Truman College, she has taught core theory courses, introductory music criticism and analysis courses, and topical classes such as “Country Music Studies” and “What is Musical Form?”.