Martha Sprigge is a musicologist whose teaching and research focuses on artistic expression in the former Eastern bloc, from 1945 to the present day. She is interested in how composers, artists, performers, and audiences respond to the immense political, cultural, and individual transformations of this period—including the aftermath of World War II, the Cold War, and the collapse of the European socialism in 1989—through music and the arts. Her first book project, Abilities to Mourn: Musical Commemoration in the German Democratic Republic (1945–1989), demonstrates how musical mourning played a dual role in East German commemorative culture. One the one hand, officially sanctioned compositions aided the development of a distinctly communist interpretation of the German national past. Yet musical expressions of loss could also help East individual citizens work through the individual and collective losses in a political environment that placed extreme constraints on unofficial expression. Martha’s next project, Communist Diasporas, 1980–2009: Music and Memory in Post-Socialist Europe, examines the specters of socialism in new musical works by East European composers, using music as a lens for understanding this period of transition from the standpoint of former Soviet citizens.
Martha's research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Musicological Society, and the Andrew W. Mellon “Around 1948” Sawyer Seminar, held at the University of Chicago. As a junior fellow in the Michigan Society of Fellows, she is cross-appointed in the School of Music, Theater, and Dance, and the Department of Germanic Language and Literatures.