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Photograph of Nathan Blustein

Nathan Blustein Professorial Lecturer Department of Performing Arts

Contact
Send email to Nathan Blustein
(202) 885-3198
CAS - Performing Arts
Katzen Arts Center - 211
Office Hours: Tues-Thurs, 11am–2pm https://calendly.com/nblustein
Degrees
Ph.D., Music Theory (Minors: Music History & Literature; Conducting), Indiana University


M.M., Music Theory, Indiana University


B.S., Piano Performance (Outside Field: Mathematics), Indiana University

Languages Spoken
English, Deutsch
Book Currently Reading
Pat Pattinson, *Writing Better Lyrics*
Bio
Dr. Blustein is a Professorial Lecturer and Music Director for the Theatre/Musical Theatre Program in the Department of Performing Arts at American University. He recently defended his Ph.D. Dissertation in the Department of Music Theory at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music: "Through Arrangements of Shadows: Experiences of Reprise in Stephen Sondheim's Leitmotivic Musicals."
Productions at AU: 25TH ANNUAL…SPELLING BEE • TOO MUCH UNHAPPY • MISS YOU LIKE HELL • THE BOY DETECTIVE FAILS
• HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING
• CARRIE
• PIPPIN
• ASSASSINS
• LITTLE WOMEN
See Also
Dissertation: "Through Arrangements of Shadows…"
Senior Theatre Capstone 2020–2021
For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

Teaching

Fall 2021

  • PERF-066 Musical Theatre Role Devel: Spelling Bee

  • PERF-126 Musicianship I

  • PERF-346 Survey of Musical Theatre

Spring 2022

  • CORE-105 Complex Problems Seminar: #BroadwaySoDiverse

  • PERF-066 Musical Theatre Role Devel: Into the Woods

  • PERF-127 Musicianship II

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Professional Presentations

"What the [Ear] Arranges: Broadway Tonality in Sunday in the Park with George"

Telephone Hour: A Quarantine Colloquium • Monday, February 8, 2021

A case study in how the creative process of musical theatre-making affects the relationship between harmonic function and key: first in a single measure, then throughout a song, and finally across an entire arc of musical numbers.

The image below is from the first song in the score of Sunday. The apparent key is F-Sharp Minor; the apparent key signature is E Major. In this presentation I discuss why this apparent misalignment exists; how it may have happened; and what it means musically and dramatically for similar moments in the rest of the show.

Image

 

 

"Torch Song Ternaries: Broadway Medleys as Reinterpretation"

Society for Music Theory • November 8, 2020

https://vimeo.com/nbblu/smt2020

Music-analytical studies of songs from book musicals are generally work-centric. Such approaches prioritize musical meaning and interpretation through the dramatic context of a libretto, paralleling the critical valuation of the “integrated” musical. But musical theatre entertainment is considerably more varied than sitting down in a theatre for a live performance of a dramatic work. And for a canon that upholds stereotypes as much as it subverts them, performances that surpass the bounds established by mid-twentieth-century texts offer sites of potent and imaginative reengagement.

In this paper I examine one such category of performances, using Audra McDonald's "Children Will Listen/You've Got to be Carefully Taught" as a case study. McDonald's medley turns Stephen Sondheim’s equivocal, pleading lullaby from *Into the Woods* on its head by switching back and forth with a serene, mid-register rendition of Lieutenant Cable's outburst against the perniciousness of racism while on active duty in Rodgers and Hammerstein's *South Pacific.* A close reading of musical form shows how these two songs haunt each other, reframing an explicitly instructive lyric with particularized immediacy.

McDonald's performance is part of a broader practice of subverting expectations of song types like torch songs—“freighted with gender and sex-coded meanings” (Hubbs 1996)—through juxtaposition, alternating two affectively opposed songs into a newly constructed ternary form. These performances most often happen in cabarets, recitals, and concerts—beyond the Broadway stage, where play with musical form is much more rigidly codified—providing a liberating space to confront theatrical stereotypes and animate intersectional subtexts.