'Finding Their Voice: Music and Architecture in the Convents of Italy'

Craig Monson to give Luther College Sihler Lecture March 14

Considered both a stumbling block on the way to perfection and a dangerous enchantment to male listeners, singing was discouraged for Italian nuns of the 16th and 17th centuries. Craig Monson, professor emeritus of music at Washington University in St. Louis, will explore how Italian nuns worked the restrictive limitations of the church to their advantage in "Finding their Voice: Music and Architecture in the Convents of Italy."

Serving as Luther College's Sihler Memorial Lecture, "Finding their Voice," is at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 14, in the Center for Faith and Life Recital Hall on the Luther College campus. The presentation will include a performance by Luther College's student-led choir, Jubilus. It is open to the public with no charge for admission.

Facing disapproval from clerical writers, Italian nuns of the 16th and 17th centuries used the architecture of their convents to pursue their musical interests. Monson will examine how the limits the church placed on the nuns actually may have helped make nuns' singing the most intense manifestation of their invisible presence, increasing their music's mysterious appeal. According to Monson, the way the nuns presented themselves musically encouraged listeners' sympathetic reception of what they heard.

Monson is a professor emeritus of music at the Washington University in St. Louis, retiring in 2015 after a 30-year career at the institution. He primarily taught Renaissance, Baroque and Native American music, in addition to music and gender. From 1993-96, he served as the chair of the music department and spent 19 years as the director of graduate studies. Prior to his career at Washington University, Monson was a member of the Yale University faculty for nine years. He also served as the Valentine Distinguished Professor at Amherst College in 1990.

During his career, Monson has been awarded several fellowships and grants from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, the Renaissance Society of America and the Harry Ransom Research Center. He also has written or edited several books, journal articles and book chapters. His latest work, "Habitual Offenders: A True Tale of Nuns, Prostitutes and Murderers in 17th-century Italy," was a 2017 finalist for the international Bridge Book Award.

The lecture is sponsored by the Sihler Family Endowment, which funds lectures with an emphasis on women in church music. The event is cosponsored by the Luther Music Department and Women & Gender Studies program.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the bachelor of arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://www.luther.edu.