Kuss, Malena | University of North Texas Special Collections

Name: Kuss, Malena

Historical Note:

MALENA KUSS (b. 1940) is Professor Emeritus of Musicology, University of North Texas, Denton (1976–1999), and former Vice President of the International Musicological Society (2009–2017). She holds a Ph.D. in Historical Musicology from UCLA (1976) and a M.M. in Piano Performance from SMU (1964). Internationally recognized for her research on the music of Alberto Ginastera (1916–1983), with whom she studied composition for six years in Buenos Aires, Kuss has published extensively on opera in Latin America, oral and written musical traditions in comparative cultural contexts, and music historiography from a global perspective.

Her deep commitment to disseminating the perspectives of Latin Americans in the Anglophone sphere of influence resulted in the publication of an unprecedented history of musical traditions which gathers contributions by over a hundred scholars from 36 countries and places particular emphasis on music in social contexts and instruments as living cultural artifacts (Performing Beliefs: Indigenous Peoples of South America, Central America, and Mexico [2004] and Performing the Caribbean Experience [2007], with 4 CDs). An expert in 20th-century music, her work on Ginastera has centered on intratextual relationships, pitch organization, and postmodernism in an American cultural setting (“Symbol und Phantasie in Ginasteras Bomarzo [1967],” 1984; “The structural role of folk elements in 20th-century art music,” IMS/Bologna 1987/1990; Alberto Ginastera Musikmanuskripte, Paul Sacher Stiftung, 1990; “The many meanings of Bearbeitung,” 2012; “The progress of a method,” 2013; “Ginastera y sus laberintos,” 2016). Research into the musical dramaturgy of a vast repertoire of operas from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru served to explore cultural tropes, feeding historiographical reflections and coverage of the repertoire in reference works (“The ‘Invention’ of America: Encounter settings on the Latin American lyric stage,” IMS/Madrid 1992/1993; “Nacionalismo, identificación y Latinoamérica,” 1998); “Prologue” to Music in Latin America and the Caribbean: An encyclopedic history,” 2004; “Western thought from a transcultural perspective: Decolonizing Latin America,” 2005; “On shifts and rifts, or musicology without borders,” 2014; entries in Pipers Enzyklopädie des Musiktheaters and New Grove Opera). Between 2008 and 2010, Kuss was invited to serve as Consulting Curator at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix, Arizona, where she designed 43 exhibits and built a collection of over 1,500 instruments.

In 2009, Malena Kuss received the prestigious Platinum Konex Award, which honors the most influential personalities of the last decade in the arts, theater, and literature in Argentina. Other recognitions and research awards include Fulbright-Hays, NEH, ACLS, Mellon, and Paul Sacher Stiftung grants. In 1997, she held the “Jesús C. Romero” Chair in Musicology sponsored by Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes; and, in 1999, she was honored by the International Music Council with an Individual Membership for her work on The Universe of Music project, a world history of music under her executive directorship since 1997. She was also the recipient of an Honors’ Professorship from the University of North Texas Student Association for excellence in teaching.

An affinity with musicology as broadly defined (Charles Seeger) coalesced in collaborations with the International Music Council associated with UNESCO (The Universe of Music: A History, 1983–1997) and service to the International Musicological Society, the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives, and Documentation Centres (Secretary, Bibliography Commission, 1984–1990), and the American Musicological Society (member and chair, Stevenson Award Committee, 2008–2009; 2018–2021; member and juror, AMS 50, 1996–1999). Elected to the Directorium of the International Musicological Society for two terms and Vice President between 2009 and 2017, Kuss represented IMS on the Grove Music Online Advisory Panel and founded the IMS Regional Association for Latin America and the Caribbean in 2012 (IMS/Rome), serving as Coordinator until 2016 and organizing its first conference on “Latin America and the Canon” (Havana, 2014). In 2015 Kuss was chair of the IMS Program Committee for the inter-congressional symposium on “Music Research in the Digital Age,” which, held jointly with IAML at New York’s Juilliard School, featured a stellar AMS session on “Collections, collaborations, and communities,” with then President Ellen T. Harris as chair, papers by former presidents Anne Walters Robertson, Elaine Sisman, and Chris Reynolds, and responses by Philippe Vendrix, Michael Colby, and Richard Freedman, JAMS Digital and Multimedia Scholarship Editor and presently Chair of the AMS Technology Committee, who crafted the session’s probing questions. In accordance with AMS By-laws, “Honorary members shall be long-standing members of the Society who have made outstanding contributions to furthering its stated object.” In 2017, Kuss was elected to Honorary Membership in the American Musicological Society.

Note Author: Malena Kuss

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