2014-2015 Dean's Essay Prize Winners

First Prize:  Vanessa Blais-Tremblay, Ph.D., Musicology
Seminar Paper:  Gorgeous Girlies in Glittering Gyrations: Between the Bump-and-Grind and the Branlements-et-Grouillements.

Laying the groundwork for some of her thesis project, this seminar paper re-examines women’s participation in the golden age of Montreal jazz through the 1930s – 1950s, arguing that the “first take” dismissed them all too easily as a product of Mayor Drapeau’s morality raids intended to rid a increasingly urban city of values at odds with the continuing Catholicism of the Duplessis years.   The panel was intrigued by her argument that the reason for the raids, the vice, is a productive means of understanding how jazz was “materialistically and discursively” produced at the time.

Most interesting was the originality and depth of her methodology – any research on Quebec music-making involving ground-roots research and the building of an argument from the original sources itself – and the intelligent ways in which she found sources of ethnographic data from the period.  She allowed the voices from the past to speak, mixing her study of the archives, video documentaries, and previous histories about the period to, not only shed new light on the music-making, but also on our understanding of “history-making” as an imaginative act.

As an example of a seminar paper, the depth of original research was excellent.

Second Prize: Kai Siedenburg, Ph.D., Music Technology
Article: Culture Clash?  Audio Features for Timbre in Music Information Retrieval and Music Psychology.

This article, which the committee understood had not yet been submitted for publication, identifies a curious gap between the types of audio features that are used for timbre research in music information retrieval and music psychology.  Where the typical review of research that is the outcome of one’s comprehensive process or dissertation often simply documents the gap, this paper argues that the gap is not “coincidental” and arises from “differences in the two fields’ methodologies” that stem from the underlying assumptions and questions grounding the work. 

The committee appreciated the thoughtfulness of the argument and the structure through which it was articulated.  They particularly appreciated the effort to capture the attention of the audience with an engaging “introduction,” and the specificity of the final recommendations.