Glenda Goss: Biography in Musical Scholarship Today


March 30, 2012 - 4:00pm

Biography – the story of a person’s life – is one of the most popular types of literature today. Yet biography also holds an important place in scholarship. Biographies invite us to consider what effect, if any, an individual may have on the larger course of events. Biographies of creative personalities bring up the further question of whether connections exist between a life and times and an individual’s music, art, or literary works and if so, what those connections might be.

In this presentation Prof. Glenda Dawn Goss considers aspects of writing musical biography, using the life of Jean Sibelius (1865–1957) as a case in point. She will discuss such questions as principles of writing biography, the qualifications of a biographer, the degree to which the wider context of a composer’s life belongs to serious biographical study, and, perhaps most important, how biography can contribute to our understanding of musical works. 

Glenda Dawn Goss is an author and music historian with special interests in music and culture, early modernism, and European-American points of cultural contact. Formerly professor of musicology at the University of Georgia, she has served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Sibelius critical edition, for which she edited the four-volume Kullervo symphony and supervised other volumes. Currently, she is teaching in the doctoral program of the Sibelius Academy. Prof. Goss has produced an award-winning guide to Sibelius research, two scholarly editions of the composer’s letters, the first reception study of Sibelius, and a Sibelius Companion. Her recent biography, Sibelius: A Composer’s Life and the Awakening of Finland (University of Chicago Press, 2009) received an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in 2010.