“Mademoiselle Mabry”: Betty’s Agency With and After Miles.

This paper considers Betty Davis’s impact on Miles Davis, to whom she was married in 1968-9, and her agency within the hypermasculine professional spaces and representational fields of the commercial music industry. I explore her relationship to Miles via two aesthetic and conceptual paradigms central to his work in 1968: electricity and abstraction. What might these aesthetic and conceptual paradigms mean with regards to Betty’s agency as a woman and artist? Are they meaningful ways to interpret the forthright black feminist aesthetics reverberating in her music and visual aesthetics? Did her relationship to Miles affect her agency in a negative or problematic way? These and other related questions will be presented and discussed.


Kwami Coleman

Kwami Coleman is a pianist, composer, producer, and an assistant professor of musicology at The Gallatin School of Individualized Study — New York University. He released an album of original recordings titled Local Music in 2017, and he is working on a monograph currently titled Change: The “New Thing” and Modern Jazz.