Siel Agugliaro

Fifth Year Graduate Student in Musicology
103, Music Building

My research explores how music has been composed, experienced, and described to create a sense of collective and personal identity. My main focus is 19th and 20th-century music and musical institutions in Italy and the United States. In the past, I have written on topics as diverse as the history of Italian operatic and theatrical institutions, Cold War cultural diplomacy, racial uplift, film music, music and social movements, and the birth of Italian ethnomusicology. In my work, I pursue an interdisciplinary approach combining music studies with historiography, historical ethnography, material culture, urban studies, media history, and history of race. 

My previous research, Teatro alla Scala e promozione culturale nel lungo Sessantotto milanese, was recently published as a monograph by Amici della Scala-Feltrinelli. A social history of the Teatro alla Scala in the years after 1968, the book investigates the extent to which the theater was able to grant a broader access to opera in response to the political turmoil of that period, while at the same time maintaining intact the prestige of opera as a highbrow genre expressing Italian cultural identity. 

Opera also lies at the heart of my new research project, which considers how middle-class Americans used this genre in their stereotyped portrayal of Italians during the massive immigration wave of 1880-1924, and how Italian immigrants, in turn, re-appropriated this stereotype for purposes of survival, social uplifting, and the creation of a collective Italian-American identity. In this new work, I adopt a self-reflexive approach that incorporates my own perspective as an international student to present the very process of (music) history writing as just another strategy to survive in a sea of otherwise purposeless things.  

I cultivate my interest in material culture by collaborating as an archivist with the Special Collection Processing Center (SCPC) of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. During my work at SCPC, I have processed a variety of collections, ranging from opera and theater ephemera to Mexican votive paintings. Further details on the collections I process can be found on the SCPC official blog, to which I regularly contribute with posts and short articles. 

I have presented my research at several national and international conferences, and contributed to scholarly publications in Europe and the U.S.— Grove Music Online, Music&Letters, Musica/Realtà, the Rivista Italiana di Musicologia, and JSTOR Daily, among the others. My previous degrees include a bachelor degree in Cinema, Music, and Theater from the University of Pisa (2007), a master’s degree in Musicology from the University of Milan (2010), and a Ph.D. in Comparative Humanities from the University of Siena (2014).