Shrieks, Screams and Sighs

Constructions of Gender and Sexuality in William Bolcom's "Lilith"

scholarly essay and lecture recital presented as a part of the requirements for the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Illinois Champaign in the Spring of 2019

Evan Clark, saxophone

Casey Dierlam, piano


Lilith for alto saxophone and piano (1984)

 I. The Female Demon

II. Succuba

III. Will-o’-the-Wisp

IV. Child Stealer

V. The Night Dance


            This project investigates the musical constructions of gender and sexuality in Lilith (1984) for alto saxophone and piano by William Bolcom (b. 1938). The musical manifestations of the Lilith character as a female demon are explored primarily through historical analysis and feminist criticism in music. A close reading of the composition’s five distinct movements, based on this framework, ultimately presents a newly informed critical interpretation of the work. This outlook reveals how the idiomatic timbral and performative qualities of the saxophone are narratively wielded by Bolcom as vocal utterances and are used to invoke conceptions of embodiment and evocations of desire. Furthermore, an outline of performance considerations is provided as a practical guide in order for saxophonists to artistically navigate the score.