Jade Conlee is a Ph.D. candidate in music theory. She holds a B.M. from NYU and an M.M. from the University at Buffalo, both in piano performance. Her research traces the many ways sonic theories and aesthetics reproduce imperial relations. Her dissertation, “Empire of Leisure: Exotica’s Escapist Atmospheres,” investigates themes of nature, technology, and colonization in the midcentury genre of easy listening music known as “exotica.” Through meditations on exotic instrument collections, the aesthetics of tiki restaurants, and the enduring societal link between soothing music and tropical sunsets, this project theorizes how exotica and similar genres of background music naturalize the dynamics of racial capitalism through the production of relaxing atmospheres and “vibes.” Jade is also co-editor with fellow graduate student Tatiana Koike of the edited collection Key Terms in Music Theory for Antiracist Scholars, under commission by Duke University Press. Drawing on critiques of Enlightenment humanism from black and Indigenous studies, the book reimagines music theory’s epistemological foundations by redefining and expanding the field’s core vocabulary of key terms.
Jade has presented her work at the Society for Music Theory conference and the Pop Conference. She has published a chapter in the edited volume Radio Art and Music: Culture, Aesthetics, Politics (Lexington Books, 2020), which examines race, censorship, and musical performance in the popular radio comedy “The Jack Benny Show.” Active as a pianist specializing in contemporary repertoires, Jade was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in 2014 to study modernist and recent European music in Stuttgart, Germany with Nicolas Hodges. In her free time, she likes to go kayaking and play with her chihuahua, Jazzy.