Barbara Swanson

Music History

Swanson photo

Phone: 902.494.1826
Mailing Address: 
Room 523, Dalhousie Arts Centre, 6101 University Avenue PO Box 15000, Halifax, NS B3H 4R2
Research Topics:
  • Musicology
  • Early modern women
  • Plainchant and liturgical manuscripts
  • Performance practices
  • Ballets Russes
  • Music and visual culture


•    BA (University of King’s College)
•    MA (McMaster University)
•    PhD (Case Western Reserve University)

Research & creative activity

Barbara Swanson’s research engages with music as an embodied practice, including music and dance as well as relationships between performance practice and composition. Interested in intersections between the arts, she has written on music and visual culture in plainchant manuscripts; collaborations between Stravinsky and visual artists; and the early modern ideal of the painter as musician. Her interest in early modern women has resulted in projects on female monastics as well as the seventeenth-century composer Barbara Strozzi. Committed to scholarly collaboration, she has co-written articles, worked with an international team on the Cantus Ultimus project, and co-organized multiple conferences, including a study day on music and visual culture at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto. Her current projects include a reconstruction of the ballet Liturgie, begun in 1914 by the Ballets Russes with contributions from Stravinsky as well as Italian Futurists; and researching references to spiritual slavery in an early modern chant manuscript (University of Sydney, Fisher 376), tracing discourses of slavery within liturgical, devotional, and colonial writings. 


  • Stravinsky and the Ballet (MUSC 5366)
  • Writing About Music (PERF 1001)
  • Music Since 1750 (MUSC 2355)
  • Form and Analysis (MUSC 3221)

Selected publications

  • “Natalia Goncharova, the Ballets Russes, and Liturgie.” In Artistic Migration and Identity: Paris, 1870-1940. Edited by Stephen Huebner and Federico Lazzaro. Bern: Peter Lang, forthcoming.
  • “Giacomo Balla”, “André Bauchant,” “Robert Delaunay,” “Sonia Delaunay-Terk,” and “Mikhail Larionov.”  In The Cambridge Stravinsky Encyclopedia. Edited by Edward Campbell and Peter O'Hagan. CambridgeUniversity Press, forthcoming.
  • “In Search of the Word: Speech-like Chants and Confessional Identity in Counter-Reformation Mission.”  In Perfect Harmony and Melting Strains: Between Sensibility and Abstraction in Early Modern England.  Edited by Cornelia Wilde and Wolfram Keller. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, forthcoming
  • “Mary of the Snows, Paula the Widow, and Slavery to Mary in Fisher Library 376: Defining Features of an Early Modern Liturgical Compendium.” In Into the Diaspora: Studies of Ten Early Modern Manuscripts in Sydney. Edited by David Andrés Fernández and Jane Morlet Hardie. Kitchener, ON: Institute of Medieval Music, forthcoming.
  • “Consolation amid Barbarous Misfortune: Barbara Strozzi's Appresso ai molli argenti and the Seventeenth-Century Lament.” In Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers. Edited by Laurel Parsons and Brenda Ravenscroft, co-authored with Richard Kolb, 74-105. Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress, 2018. 
  • “Praying with Saint Juliana: Female Monastic Devotion, the Salzinnes Antiphonal, and the CantusDatabase.” Journal of the Alamire Foundation 10, no. 2 (Autumn 2018): 189-204. 
  • Digital Scholarship Review of Répertoire International d'Iconographie Musicale (RIdIM). In Journal of the American Musicological Society 70: 2 (Summer 2017), 541-51. 
  • Karim, Armin and Barbara Swanson, eds. Chant and Culture / Plain-chant et culture. Lions Bay: Institute of Medieval Music, 2014.

Awards and honours

  • SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, York University, 2016-18
  • Research Fellow, University of Toronto, Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2016-18
  • Heckman Fellow, Hill Manuscript Museum and Library, St. John’s University, 2014
  • Pisk Prize for Excellence in Graduate Research, American Musicological Society, 2012
  • Mellon/ACLS Fellow (Dissertation Completion), American Council of Learned Societies, 2012
  • Vatican Film Library Mellon Research Fellow, Saint Louis University, 2011
  • Instructional Excellence Award, Case Western Reserve University, 2009