Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Media, Art, and Text

First Advisor

Dr. Eric Garberson

Second Advisor

Dr. Sandy Goldie

Third Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Canfield

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Paul Yoon


Situated within deep history, this study explores the auditory and spiritual lives of Paleolithic women. It considers their personal agency in mediating the spiritual power of sound and how doing so contributes to a multifaceted musicality. The theoretical framework involves a wide spectrum of topics, from ways of rethinking the writing of history and reckoning with time, to sound studies and the study of acoustics in ancient sites, to a critical examination through a feminist lens of normative disciplinary scholarship in anthropology and archaeology, religious studies, and musicology. I explore potential audio-visual-lithic relationships for their implications for deepening an understanding of the spiritual aspects of Paleolithic life. Drawing from this interdisciplinary literature, integrative discussions are constructed which when considered collectively, not only provide different types of role models and different criteria pertaining to women's experiences of music-making, but also facilitate the emergence of a more nuanced understanding of Paleolithic spiritual practices. In this women-centric narrative innumerable generations of women's participation as spiritual healers within the shamanic musical paradigm are acknowledged and valued, broadening the parameters of women's cultural heritage and spiritual experience. This expansion can help women today turn away from a compensatory music history perspective that is oriented toward figuring out how to fit into a prescribed androcentric narrative of Western art music and turn towards a more holistic narrative in which women can better consider their lineage(s) on their own terms. It fosters re-conceptualizations of women's musical and spiritual identities by reorienting the timeline, contexts, and definition of women's experiences of music-making as sound-producers and sound-interpreters. This project is intended to provide one possible starting point for new conversations about women in music regardless of one's positionality. From a more inclusive gynocentric vantage point, the toxic self-perpetuating loop which has affected how musicology has thus far been shaped, namely through the undervaluing of women’s musical experiences and the ways that they think and feel about music, is being contested. Ultimately, it is a matter of ownership.


© Deborah J. Saidel

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission


Available for download on Tuesday, November 07, 2023