Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Music (BM)


School of Music


Andrew Connell

H. Gelfand

Dorothy Maddison


This capstone thesis discusses the applicability of Carlisle Floyd’s 1955 opera, Susannah, as an allegory for the socio-political climate of the United States in the 1950s. In order to do so, a musical analysis of the opera’s score was then performed for its use of folk song conventions and verismo operatic conventions. The libretto was analyzed for the use of social conventions of Southern Appalachia. Characters actions and musical content were then judged on whether (1) their actions were in line with the social conventions of traditional Appalachian culture and (2) if their musical content used/reflected conventions of traditional Appalachian folk music. Research on the socio-political culture of the United States during the 1950s and comparisons between the opera and the time period were then drawn and expanded upon. If a character’s actions and musical content was consistent with Appalachian folk tradition, they were grouped with other characters who had similar musical and cultural traits. If a character’s actions and musical content was not consistent with the local cultural norms, both musically and culturally, they were placed in a separate group. The division between character in terms of social acceptability was used as the basis for the allegory between Susannah and the socio-political climate of 1950s United States. By creating a group that is considered to be the “outsiders,” it allowed the fear of the unknown that was prevalent in the socio-political culture of the 1950s that led to the rise of McCarthyism and the accusatory culture political culture of the time. As a whole, the opera provides a critique about the negative impacts of hyper-conservative social culture and the xenophobia that resulted from McCarthyism on American culture during the 1950s.



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