Olivia Bloechl

  • Professor
  • Director of Graduate Studies


European and North American music history and culture, 1500-1750 (France, England, Eastern Woodlands); French opera, 1600-1780s; postcolonialism; music and ethics (Rousseau, vulnerability); politics of music; Continental theory (Foucault, Butler, Agamben); global music historiography


I am a music historian and cultural theorist with wide-ranging interests clustered in the early modern period (1500-1800) and the recent past. My historical research and teaching emphasize European early music, French opera in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, early Atlantic colonialism, and racial representation in musical theater before 1800. It's a privilege to work with the traces of past musical lives and thought, and I am equally at home in the archive as at the piano, playing through early opera scores.  As a theorist, I enjoy thinking about the ethics and politics of musical practice, interaction, and reflection. Recurring themes in my work include problems of recognition and difference, vulnerability, justice, coloniality and postcoloniality, and inoperativity.

I joined the Department of Music at the University of Pittsburgh in January, 2017, having previously taught at UCLA and Bucknell University. An alumna of Smith College, I received a Ph.D. in musicology at the University of Pennsylvania in 2002.

Full-length publications include Native American Song at the Frontiers of Early Modern Music (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2008) and Opera and the Political Imaginary in Old Regime France (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2017), which was supported by an ACLS Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship and a generous subvention from the James R. Anthony Endowment of the AMS. I also co-edited (with Melanie Lowe and Jeffrey Kallberg) Rethinking Difference in Music Scholarship (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2015).

In addition to ongoing work on opera, particularly in France, my current projects include a feminist study of vulnerability in music-making and listening.  I am also involved in a longer-term collaborative project aimed at developing theory and protocols for global music history, with a personal focus on the early modern period.  As part of this initiative, I am co-organizing (with Prof. Molly Warsh, History) a research conference on “Race, Empire, and Global Music History, 1500-1800” (March 30-31, 2018, University of Pittsburgh), with support from the Humanities Center and the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences.  I am also affiliated with the University’s Early Modern Worlds Initiative

I regularly offer graduate courses on historical and theoretical topics, including past courses on French baroque opera, music and ethics, politics of difference, and music historiography.  My undergraduate courses often focus on particular musical figures (such as Bach or Mozart) or genres (such as European opera), and I routinely incorporate performance (as a pianist) into my teaching. Another feature of my classes is a love of experimental thinking and critical debate, with the aim of engaging students in learning as a life-long adventure.

Courses (2017-18)

  • Lament in Western Music (graduate)
  • Global Music Historiography (graduate)
  • Mozart (undergraduate)

Selected Publications


2017 Opera and the Political Imaginary in Old Regime France. University of Chicago Press.

2015 Bloechl, O., M. Lowe, and J. Kallberg, eds. Rethinking Difference in Music Scholarship. Cambridge University Press.

2008 Native American Song at the Frontiers of Early Modern Music. Cambridge University Press.

Articles, Chapters, and Reference Works

Forthcoming  “The Vulnerability of the Ear, or Listening with Levinas.” Cahiers d'Études lévinassiennes

Forthcoming  “Music in the Early Colonial World.” In Cambridge History of Sixteenth-Century Music. Ed. I. Fenlon and R. Weistrich. Cambridge University Press

2016 “Post-colonialism.” Oxford Bibliographies in Music. www.oxfordbibliographies.com

2015 “Race, Empire, and Early Music.” In Rethinking Difference in Music Scholarship. Eds. O. Bloechl, J. Kallberg, and M. Lowe. Cambridge University Press. 77-107

2013 “On Not Being Alone: Rousseauean Thoughts on a Relational Ethics of Music.” Colloquy: Rousseau in 2013: Afterthoughts on a Tercentenary. Journal of the American Musicological Society 66:1, 261-266

2011 “Choral Lament and the Politics of Public Mourning in the Tragédie en musique.” The Opera Quarterly 27:4, 341-378

2011 “Wendat Song and Carnival Noise in the Jesuit Relations.” In Native Acts: Indian Performance in Early North America. Eds. J. D. Bellin and L. L. Mielke. University of Nebraska Press. 117-144

2010 “War, Peace, and the Ballet in Le Soir.” Early Music 38:1, 91-100

2005“The Pedagogy of Polyphony in Gabriel Sagard’s Histoire du Canada.” Journal of Musicology 22:3, 365-411

2005 “Orientalism and Hyperreality in ‘Desert Rose’.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 7:2, 133-61

Recent Presentations

2017 “Confessing à la française.” “Representing Interiority in Eighteenth-Century Opera,” Oxford University, Music Faculty, Oxford, UK, September 11-12

2017 “Political Geographies of Operatic Underworlds.” “Music and Mobility,” Villa i Tatti, Florence, Italy, May 18-19

2017 “The Vulnerability of the Ear: Toward a Feminist Ethics of Listening http://musicologynow.ams-net.org/.” Keynote address, Temple University Theory and Musicology Society (THEMUS), fourth annual graduate conference. April 15

2017 Session Co-Chair, “Toward Critical Global Histories of Music: Developing Theory for an Emergent Field,” Annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology, Denver, CO, October 26-29

2017 Session Co-Chair, “Rethinking Difference in Eighteenth-Century Music.” Annual meeting of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Minneapolis, MN, March 30-April 2 

2016 “The Vulnerability of the Ear: Toward an Ethics of Listening.” American Association for Levinassian Studies, Los Angeles, CA, November 17

2016 “The Political Imaginary of Opera in Ancien Régime France.” University of British Columbia, Canada, Department of Music, March 4

2016 Session Co-Proposer, Co-Chair, and Presenter, “Toward a Critical World History of Music: Theory for an Emerging Field.” Paper title: “Connectedness and Early Modernity as Problems in Global Music History, 1500-1800.” Annual meeting of the American Musicological Society, Vancouver, BC. November 3-6

2016 “Music and Empire: A Discussion with Olivia Bloechl and Tamara Levitz.” UCLA Musicology Distinguished Lecture Series, October 20

2016 Session Chair, “Creating Contrafacta,” Biennial meeting of the Society for Eighteenth-Century Music, Austin, TX. February 26-28

2015 “Lament as Confession: A Foucauldian Perspective on Baroque Lyrical Expression.” University of Chicago, Department of Music, February 27;

2015 “Lament as Confession: A Foucauldian Perspective on Baroque Lyrical Expression.” Yale University, Department of Music, April 17

2014 “True Confessions: Opera’s Theater of Guilt and Remorse.” Annual meeting of the American Musicological Society, Milwaukee, WI. November 6-9

2014 “Aural Vulnerableness as Ethical Ontology.” AMS Music and Philosophy Study Group Session. Annual meeting of the American Musicological Society, Milwaukee, WI. November 6-9

2013 Panel Participant, “What’s the Difference?” Annual meeting of the American Musicological Society, Pittsburgh, PA. November 7-10

2012 Session Chair, “Transcription and Proto-Ethnography in the Eighteenth Century.” Annual meeting of the American Musicological Society, New Orleans, LA. November 1-4

2011 “Race, Empire, and Early Music.” Music—Race—Empire, University of Wisconsin, Madison. April 29

2011 Keynote address: “Gender and Racial Difference in Classical French Opera.” Music, Gender, and Globalization, Cornell University, 2011. April 2

2011 “The Tormenting Orchestra.” Annual meeting of the American Musicological Society, San Francisco, CA. November 10-13 

2009 “Choral Lament and the Politics of Mourning in the Tragédie en musique.” Harvard University, Humanities Center, Seminar on “Opera,” February 12

2009 “Choral Lament and the Politics of Public Mourning in the Tragédie en musique.” Annual meeting of the American Musicological Society, Philadelphia, PA. November 12-15

Professional Activities

2017- Member, Scientific Committee/Comité scientifique for the American Institute for Levinassian Studies 

2017-2018 Member, Scientific Committee/Comité scientifique for the 64th Annual Conference of the Society for French Historical Studies, Pittsburgh, PA, March 8-10, 2018

2017-2020 Member, Editorial Board of Eighteenth-Century Music

2017-2020 Member, Howard M. Brown Award Fellowship Committee, American Musicological Society

2017 Outer board assessor, Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme, Ireland

2014-2016 Member, Graduate Council, UCLA

2015-2016 Co-Chair, Graduate Council Subcommittee on Degree Programs, UCLA

2013-2016 Member, Core Committee for the Graduate Certificate in Early Modern and Eighteenth-Century Studies, UCLA

2012-2016 Member, Faculty Advisory Committee for the Center for 17th- & 18th-Century Studies/William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA

2012-2014 Member, Committee on Cultural Diversity, American Musicological Society

2009-2011 Member, AMS Council, American Musicological Society

2009 Member, Program Committee, Society for Seventeenth-Century Music

2009 Co-organizer (with Ingrid Monson and Sindhu Revuluri), Exploratory Seminar on “Postcolonial Music Studies,” Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, June 25-27

2009 Conference organizer, The Politics of French Baroque Opera, Center for 17th- and 18th-Century Studies, UCLA, February 27-28

2006-2008 Member, Faculty Advisory Committee, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Transnational Studies, UCLA

Education & Training

  • PhD, University of Pennsylvania

Faculty Groupings

Core Faculty

Main Department Affliliation


Other Department Positions

Director of Graduate Studies