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School of Music

Faculty and Staff

Sarah Williams

Title: Associate Professor / Music History
School of Music
Phone: 803-777-1759

School of Music Room 317


Music History Studies
Women's and Gender Studies
Walker Institute
The Luise E. Peake Music & Culture Colloquium Series
Early Modern Songscapes



Sarah F. Williams specializes in early modern (c. 1580-1650) English music and culture including seventeenth-century popular music, theatrical music and broadside balladry. Her work focuses on musical representations of witchcraft and magic, music and memory, inter-media and digital approaches to the early modern English ayre, economies of gender in early modern European culture, the 16th- and 17th-century English cheap print trade, as well as emo rock and expressions of masculinity in contemporary American popular music.

Dr. Williams' book, Damnable Practises: Music, Witches, and Dangerous Women in Seventeenth-Century English Broadside Ballads (Ashgate, 2015) examines the representations of witches and unruly women in seventeenth-century English cheap print and popular song . Her articles and reviews have appeared in several top-tier musicology and humanities journals as well as essay collections published by Ashgate, Brill, the University of Indiana Press, and Routledge. She has presented papers at history, literary studies, and musicological conferences throughout the United States and Europe. 

Dr. Williams teaches undergraduate music history and graduate seminars on English music, renaissance music, and baroque music in the School of Music at USC. Previously, she served as Executive Director of the Women's Museum of California (formerly the San Diego Women’s History Museum and Educational Center) from 2006-2007. She is a member of the Society for Seventeenth Century Music, the American Musicological Society, the Renaissance Society of America, and the Shakespeare Association of America. 


Ph.D. Northwestern University (historical musicology)
M.M. Northwestern University (historical musicology)
B.A. Beloit College (Piano Performance/Literary Studies)


• Tudor-Stuart music and culture
• 17th century popular music, broadside balladry, and print culture
• Gender studies
• Early modern English witchcraft
• Music and memory
• American popular music, expressions of masculinity in post-1980 punk rock

Selected Publications

Damnable Practises: Music, Witches, and Dangerous Women in Seventeenth-Century English Broadside Ballads. Farnham, UK: Ashgate Press, 2015.

 "'Lasting-Pasted Monuments': Music, Memory, Theatre and the Early Modern English Broadside Ballad." In Beyond Boundaries: Rethinking the Circulation of Music in Early Modern England. Edited by Linda Austern, Candace Bailey, and Amanda Eubanks Winkler. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2017, pp. 96-113.

 “Witches, Lamenting Women, and Cautionary Tales: Tracing ‘The Ladies Fall’ through Early Modern English Broadside Balladry and Popular Song.” In Gender and Song in Early Modern England. Edited by Leslie C. Dunn and Katherine R. Larson. Farnham, UK: Ashgate Press, 2014, pp. 31-46.

• "To the Tune of Witchcraft: Witchcraft, Popular Song, and the early modern English broadside ballad." Journal of Seventeenth Century Music 19 (2013).

• "'A Swearing and Blaspheming Wretch': Representing Witchcraft and Excess in Early Modern English Broadside Balladry and Popular Song." Journal of Musicological Research 30/4 (2011): 309-356.

• Patrick Spedding and Paul Watt, eds., Bawdy Songbooks of the Romantic Period, 4 vols. (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2011), Journal of the American Musicological Society (2012).

• “Emo.” In The Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. Vol. 8. Edited by John Shepherd, David Horn, & Dave Laing. London: Continuum Press, 2011, 201-203.

• “Hardcore.” In The Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. Vol. 8 Edited by John Shepherd, David Horn, & Dave Laing. London: Continuum Press, 2011, 257-260.

• “‘Singe the Enchantment for Sleepe’: Music and bewitched sleep in early modern English drama.” In Spirits Unseen: The Representation of Subtle Bodies in Early Modern European Culture. Edited by Christine Göttler and Wolfgang Neuber. Leiden: Brill, 2007, 179-196.

• “‘A Walking Open Wound’: Emo rock and the ‘crisis’ of masculinity in America.” In Oh boy!: Masculinities and Popular Music. Edited by Freya Jarman-Ivens. New York & London: Routledge, 2007, 145-160.

Awards and Honors

• National Endowment for the Humanities, Summer Stipend, 2010
• USC Office of the Provost, Humanities Grant, 2010, 2015
• American Musicological Society, Jan La Rue Award for Research Travel to Europe, 2009
• Josephine Abney Faculty Fellowship Award (USC Women's and Gender Studies Program), 2009

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.