Associate Professor, Program of Liberal Studies
Concurrent Associate Professor of Music, Department of Music
M.A. (Historical Musicology); Ph.D. (Historical Musicology), Harvard University
M.St. (Musicology) Distinction, Merton College, University of Oxford
B.A. Hons (Music) First Class, University of Oxford
Research and Teaching Interests
Music, Middlebrow Culture, Modernism, Aesthetics, Historiography, Sacred Music, and Secularization
Situated at the intersection between the history, historiography and aesthetics of music, Chowrimootoo’s research seeks to complicate assumptions about a twentieth-century “great divide” between high and low culture. To date, this has involved reviving the mid-century concept of the middlebrow to offer new insights into the music of Bernstein, Britten and Copland, among others. It has also meant studying “middlebrow” processes of mediation—music pedagogy, marketing, and criticism—and their reciprocal impact on twentieth-century composition. These concerns come together in his first monograph, Middlebrow Modernism: Britten’s Operas and the Great Divide (University of California Press, 2018), which uses Britten’s operas as a case study for the wider ways in which composers, critics, and audiences worked together to mediate the “great divide. Chowrimootoo is also the co-editor of "Musicology and the Middlebrow," a colloquy for the Journal of the American Musicological Society, and the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Music and the Middlebrow.
Chowrimootoo’s new monograph project, provisionally entitled Sacred Secularism, will bring discussions of middlebrow eclecticism, ambivalence, and duplicity to bear on questions of twentieth-century secularization. Focusing on key works by Stravinsky, Messiaen, Poulenc, and Bernstein, it will explore the persistence of “spiritual” registers in the supposedly secular spaces of the twentieth-century concert hall and opera house. Paying attention to critical and audience responses as well as compositional or theological intention, it will excavate a broader cultural understanding of religious experience. By redrawing the boundaries of sacred music, the project aims not simply to put pressure on entrenched narratives of secularization but also on the rigid oppositions upon which they rest: sacred versus secular, theology versus aesthetics, metaphysics versus materialism.
Chowrimootoo has published articles and essays in Cambridge Opera Journal, Opera Quarterly, Twentieth-Century Music, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, The Journal of Musicology and the Journal of the American Musicological Society. His “Bourgeois Opera: Death in Venice and the Aesthetics of Sublimation” (published in Cambridge Opera Journal in 2012) was awarded both the Royal Musical Association’s Jerome Roche Prize (for a distinguished article by a scholar in the early stages of his or her career) and the Kurt Weill Foundation Prize (for outstanding scholarship in music theater since 1900). He serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of the Royal Musical Association and “Elements in Music Since 1945,” both published by Cambridge University Press.
Chowrimootoo holds a concurrent appointment in the Department of Music and is a Faculty Fellow of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies. He also teaches in the Master’s (MSM) and Doctoral (DMA) programs of Sacred Music at Notre Dame.