Microhistories are an important method of investigating an historical moment with a fine-grain focus that can puncture holes in the generalizations that historians sometimes make. In her new book, Charleston Belles Abroad: The Music Collections of Harriet Lowndes, Henrietta Aiken, and Louis Rebecca McCord
(University of South Carolina Press, 2019), Candace L. Bailey
uses a close reading of the music owned and performed by three prominent women in antebellum Charleston to demonstrate the varied experiences and perspectives of figures who also had much in common. All three women were sophisticated, well-traveled, and moved in the highest social circles of the planter class in Charleston. Yet, each woman had unique educational backgrounds, upbringings, and musical choices. They all experienced the Civil War and its aftermath quite differently. Rather than confining herself simply to an analysis of the musical repertoire each woman owned, Bailey examines the scores with the attention often reserved for Medieval manuscripts to discern the implications of the publishers, source of the scores, and the handwritten markings left by her subjects as they learned the music. She thoroughly contextualizes the collections within the time period, the milieu of upper-class Southern women, the history of Charleston, and, most importantly, the lives of the three women as evidenced by other documents they and those in their circle left behind. In doing so, Bailey reminds us that we must balance studying sweeping historical trends with the lived experiences of individuals.
Candace Bailey is a Professor of Music at North Carolina Central University. She began her career studying seventeenth-century British keyboard music, but in the last decade has devoted much of her research time to the role of music among middle- and upper-class women in the Southern United States during the nineteenth century. Charleston Belles Abroad
is her third book, and she has published articles in many journals including the Journal for the Society for American Music, Music & Letters, and the Journal for Musicological Research. In 2015, she received a National Endowment for the Humanities Award for Faculty at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She will be a Fellow of the National Humanities Center for the 2019–2020 academic year.
Kristen M. Turner, Ph.D. is a lecturer at North Carolina State University in the music department. Her work centers on American musical culture at the turn of the twentieth century and has been published in several journals and essay collections.