Presenters

Yazmeen MayesFollow

Academic department under which the project should be listed

COTA - Music

Faculty Sponsor Name

Laurence Sherr

Abstract (300 words maximum)

This project combines history, literature, and newly composed music. The Yellow Wallpaper, a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, documents the age of “female hysteria,'' a catch-all “disease” for upper-class women acting outside of the social standard. The cure: solitary confinement. Any woman that showed signs of anxiety, creative passion, lack or abundance of sexual desire, or depression was sent to a remote, empty house for months at a time. Gilman describes these houses as exuberantly plain; thus, in confinement, the main character becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper. At the time, these women were considered insane, but the “treatment” itself truly deteriorated their minds.

I transformed this short story into a chamber opera, which I feel is the best genre to convey the fury of the narrative. After transcribing the story into lyrics for the libretto, similar to a poem, I then composed the music, incorporating tonal shifts and textures found in modern musical theatre and opera today. My composition, titled Woman in the Wall, is for string quartet, solo soprano, and mixed choir. The choir, similar to a historical Greek chorus, serves as the lens, representing the societal pressures.

Though written in the 1800s, the story exposes important themes that still resonate today: classism, privilege, mental health, and gender oppression. Although we have made incredible strides, female oppression still persists: our bodies are objectified, governed, or sold, and our narratives often dismissed. Underneath the panniers and corsets, these women felt the same things we do, and through my work, I seek for their voices to be heard. During my presentation, I will play excerpts from my new composition and explain the historical and literary sources that inspired it. Overall, my project will demonstrate the utilization of academic study for social commentary in a contemporary composition for modern audiences.

Project Type

Oral Presentation (15-min time slots)

WOMEN IN THE WALL Score.pdf (1092 kB)
Sheet Music

Women in The Wall Audio.mp3 (8174 kB)
Score Audio

Women in The Wall.pptx (206806 kB)
Final Powerpoint

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The Musical Application of Historical Literature

This project combines history, literature, and newly composed music. The Yellow Wallpaper, a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, documents the age of “female hysteria,'' a catch-all “disease” for upper-class women acting outside of the social standard. The cure: solitary confinement. Any woman that showed signs of anxiety, creative passion, lack or abundance of sexual desire, or depression was sent to a remote, empty house for months at a time. Gilman describes these houses as exuberantly plain; thus, in confinement, the main character becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper. At the time, these women were considered insane, but the “treatment” itself truly deteriorated their minds.

I transformed this short story into a chamber opera, which I feel is the best genre to convey the fury of the narrative. After transcribing the story into lyrics for the libretto, similar to a poem, I then composed the music, incorporating tonal shifts and textures found in modern musical theatre and opera today. My composition, titled Woman in the Wall, is for string quartet, solo soprano, and mixed choir. The choir, similar to a historical Greek chorus, serves as the lens, representing the societal pressures.

Though written in the 1800s, the story exposes important themes that still resonate today: classism, privilege, mental health, and gender oppression. Although we have made incredible strides, female oppression still persists: our bodies are objectified, governed, or sold, and our narratives often dismissed. Underneath the panniers and corsets, these women felt the same things we do, and through my work, I seek for their voices to be heard. During my presentation, I will play excerpts from my new composition and explain the historical and literary sources that inspired it. Overall, my project will demonstrate the utilization of academic study for social commentary in a contemporary composition for modern audiences.