DegreePh.D. in Music ’25
I felt like my role on the team was to really listen and help lift up the voices of women, both on the team and involved in the larger project. Ultimately after consulting with Wesley [Brown] on what I could contribute to the project while being respectful of the issues at hand, I was going to collaborate with a local poet, Megan Bowser, to create a piece of music about the experience of self-discovery and knowing one’s own body through the viewpoint of a woman. Sadly, due to COVID-19 it was not possible to fully complete that project.
Despite that fact, participating on this Bass Connections team and working on my own project within it reinforced my own interest in different trauma responses and how they can be expressed through the arts, and more specifically, in music. Additionally, working with Wesley helped me to understand the power of interviewing primary sources as a scholarly tool.
My dissertation consists of an article and a musical composition, both of which are related to this larger theme of trauma. My article will be focused on how trauma can manifest in the work of a composer, specifically the work of Michael Hersch, and how engaging with that trauma can serve as a healing and unifying experience for the audience, performer and composer alike.
For my composition I will be writing my own monodrama. This work will be a commentary on mental health issues surrounding social media use and performative perfection, and it will be based in part on my own experiences as well as those of friends and colleagues who I will interview.
My own academic and creative trajectory up to this point took a stark shift early on in my time at Duke. I was diagnosed with HIV during October of my first year in the Ph.D. program and have spent much of my time creating works to process my internalized stigma against my diagnosis. I am at this point finding myself increasingly dedicated to work that helps destigmatize issues around illness both physical and mental while speaking directly to issues that I see my generation facing related to technology and social media. My planned dissertation is an extension of that work which I envision will be the kind of work that I pursue for much of my career after Duke.
Jason Mulligan is an internationally performed composer who is dedicated to creating works that explore issues relevant to modern American society. He is particularly interested in helping to break down stigma that has developed around mental health, anxiety, and sexuality. His music has been performed at various institutions including Southern Methodist University, Idyllwild Arts Academy, the MacPhail Center for Music, Sam Houston State University, Opera America: The National Opera Center, and the International Clarinet Association Clarinetfest to name a few.