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Photograph of Nathan Blustein

Nathan Blustein Professorial Lecturer Department of Performing Arts

Send email to Nathan Blustein
(202) 885-3198
CAS - Performing Arts
Katzen Arts Center - 211
Office Hours: Tues-Thurs, 11am–2pm
Ph.D., Music Theory (Minors: Music History & Literature; Conducting), Indiana University
M.M., Music Theory, Indiana University
B.S., Piano Performance (Outside Field: Mathematics), Indiana University

Languages Spoken
English, Deutsch
Book Currently Reading
Pat Pattinson, *Writing Better Lyrics*
I am a Professorial Lecturer and Music Director for the Theatre/Musical Theatre Program in the Department of Performing Arts at American University. I recently defended my Ph.D. Dissertation in the Department of Music Theory at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music: "Through Arrangements of Shadows: Experiences of Reprise in Stephen Sondheim's Leitmotivic Musicals." Recent productions at AU: MISS YOU LIKE HELL • THE BOY DETECTIVE FAILS • HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING • CARRIE • PIPPIN • ASSASSINS • LITTLE WOMEN
See Also
Dissertation: "Through Arrangements of Shadows…"
Senior Theatre Capstone 2020–2021
For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.


Spring 2021

  • CORE-105 Complex Problems Seminar: #BroadwaySoDiverse

  • HNRS-398 Honors Challenge Course

  • PERF-066 Musical Theatre Role Devel: Too Much Unhappy

  • PERF-340 From Scene Into Song

Fall 2021

  • PERF-066 Musical Theatre Role Devel: Spelling Bee

  • PERF-126 Musicianship I

  • PERF-346 Survey of Musical Theatre

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Professional Presentations

"What the [Ear] Arranges: Broadway Tonality in Sunday in the Park with George"

Telephone Hour: A Quarantine Colloquium • Monday, February 8, 2021

A case study in how the creative process of musical theatre-making affects the relationship between harmonic function and key: first in a single measure, then throughout a song, and finally across an entire arc of musical numbers.

The image below is from the first song in the score of Sunday. The apparent key is F-Sharp Minor; the apparent key signature is E Major. In this presentation I discuss why this apparent misalignment exists; how it may have happened; and what it means musically and dramatically for similar moments in the rest of the show.




"Torch Song Ternaries: Broadway Medleys as Reinterpretation"

Society for Music Theory • November 8, 2020

Music-analytical studies of songs from book musicals are generally work-centric. Such approaches prioritize musical meaning and interpretation through the dramatic context of a libretto, paralleling the critical valuation of the “integrated” musical. But musical theatre entertainment is considerably more varied than sitting down in a theatre for a live performance of a dramatic work. And for a canon that upholds stereotypes as much as it subverts them, performances that surpass the bounds established by mid-twentieth-century texts offer sites of potent and imaginative reengagement.

In this paper I examine one such category of performances, using Audra McDonald's "Children Will Listen/You've Got to be Carefully Taught" as a case study. McDonald's medley turns Stephen Sondheim’s equivocal, pleading lullaby from *Into the Woods* on its head by switching back and forth with a serene, mid-register rendition of Lieutenant Cable's outburst against the perniciousness of racism while on active duty in Rodgers and Hammerstein's *South Pacific.* A close reading of musical form shows how these two songs haunt each other, reframing an explicitly instructive lyric with particularized immediacy.

McDonald's performance is part of a broader practice of subverting expectations of song types like torch songs—“freighted with gender and sex-coded meanings” (Hubbs 1996)—through juxtaposition, alternating two affectively opposed songs into a newly constructed ternary form. These performances most often happen in cabarets, recitals, and concerts—beyond the Broadway stage, where play with musical form is much more rigidly codified—providing a liberating space to confront theatrical stereotypes and animate intersectional subtexts.