Francesca Brittan, PhD

Associate Professor
Department of Music
College of Arts and Sciences
Affiliated Faculty
Department of Cognitive Science
College of Arts and Sciences
Coordinator of Graduate Studies in Musicology

Francesca Brittan is a scholar of music and sound cultures 1800-present. She holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University (2007), and was a Research Fellow at Queens’ College, Cambridge between 2006-08. She joined the faculty at Case in 2009. Her current research and teaching interests are strongly cross-disciplinary, often operating at the intersection of music, science, and magic. They include sonic histories of medicine; conceptions of auditory attention/cognition from the eighteenth- to the twenty-first century; music and neuroscience (including neurodivergent auralities); orchestral and conducting cultures; and  musical-magical traditions from Orpheus to Harry Potter. She occasionally teaches courses on popular music, especially blues and early rock and roll. 

Brittan’s first book, Music and Fantasy in the Age of Berlioz (Cambridge, 2017) traces intersections between musical enchantment and romantic science from Berlioz to Stravinsky. Current book projects include Instruments of Mind: Neural Organologies from Descartes to Cybernetics and The Conductor’s Wand: Histories and Post-Histories of Orchestral Power. She is the co-editor of two forthcoming collections: The Attentive Ear: Sound, Cognition, Subjectivity (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, with Carmel Raz); and Berlioz and His World (Univ. of Chicago Press, with Sarah Hibberd). Recent publications include the following: “Attention, Anxiety, and Audition’s Histories” (Journal of the American Musicological Society, 2019); “The Electrician, the Magician, and the Nervous Conductor” (Nineteenth-Century Music Review, 2022); “Orchestras of the Mind” (JAMS, 2023).

Brittan serves as Associate Editor of 19th-Century Music and General Editor of the series Recent Researches in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Music for A-R Editions. She has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including a Governor General’s Award, a Sage Fellowship, a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Junior Research Fellowship (University of Cambridge), a Senior Research Fellowship (University of Amsterdam), a Glennan Fellowship (CWRU), and a W.P. Jones Presidential Faculty Development Award (CWRU). In 2012, she won the American Musicological Society’s Alfred Einstein Award. In 2024 she will be scholar-in-residence at the Bard Festival. 

In addition to her scholarly activities, Brittan is active as fortepianist and teacher of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century performance practices. She was trained at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague (Bart van Oort) and Cornell University (Malcolm Bilson) and has received several international grants for performers, including the Chalmers Award. She is particularly interested in late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century melodrama and related traditions of romantic declamation, and, in recent years, has given a series of performances showcasing this material in Europe and North America. She is also on faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music.