The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

January 15, 2018
by hlrogers

Winter 2018

Please find below EthNoise’s meetings for Autumn 2017. We meet in Goodspeed Hall 205 from 4.30-6pm on Thursdays. All are welcome to attend!


1/18 Herbert Quelle (German Consul General, Chicago) – Monika’s Blues: On the Trail of the German Harmonica and African American Blues Culture

Walter, a 70-year old German-American retired teacher, travels from his hometown in Chicago to the Mississippi Delta. On the way he befriends an African-American family who share his interest in the importance of the harmonica in Blues music. Walter’s conversations with them and his frequent inner-monologues communicate facts and figures about the history of the instrument, the Blues and exemplary Blues harmonica players. These are interwoven with historical events relevant for the freedom struggle of African Americans.


2/15 Nadia Chana (Music) – dissertation chapter: “New Tools for the North: Rereading Nanook through Tanya Tagaq”


2/22 Joe Maurer (Music) – “Voice, Nostalgia, and the Singing Pirate”

This paper analyzes the “pirate voice” as a musical feature of the contemporary pop culture pirate. I argue that this aural construction developed in part through the influence of 19th-century sea chanteys and the maritime nostalgia of the 20th-century United States. The fantastical pirate is a common figure in 21st-century popular culture. One integral yet seldom-examined element in this phenomenon is the use of song to establish the pirate character. These songs feature in Disney’s multibillion-dollar Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, but they also play prominent roles in media ranging from video games—most notably Assassin’s Creed IV, which sold over 11 million copies—to comedy, as Key & Peele’s “Pirate Chantey” music video has been viewed nearly 5 million times on YouTube. This paper builds on previous scholarship analyzing the sea chantey singing voice within the U.S. maritime revival movement (Carr 2006, 2009). I also draw on historical accounts of the sea chantey voice (Smith 1888, Bone 1932), media analysis, and my own fieldwork with present-day maritime musicians to argue for an understanding of the pirate singing voice as a phenomenon rooted in nostalgia for the nation’s maritime past. That actual maritime history of shipping, whaling, and harsh conditions is replaced by romanticized pirates in the historical imagination—a sleight of hand enabled in part by song. This paper demonstrates how the seemingly lighthearted pop culture pirate phenomenon is intertwined with the history of maritime work songs, pre-industrial nostalgia, and music revival in the United States.


3/1 Will Buckingham (Music) – dissertation chapter

October 11, 2017
by hlrogers

Autumn 2017

Please find below EthNoise’s meetings for Autumn 2017. We meet in Goodspeed Hall 205 from 4.30-6pm on Thursdays. All are welcome to attend!

10/5: Graduate Student Reports from the Field: Mili Lietner, Jon Bullock, Erol Koymen, Laura Turner

10/12: Student Papers in Preparation for Society of Ethnomusicology Conference:

Nadia Chana: “Rethinking Difference in/as Activist Ethnomusicology”

Hannah Rogers: “(Re)Emergent Archipelagoes: Listening for U.S.-Cuba Relations in Havana”

Ailsa Lipscombe: “Disembodiment as Disempowerment: Indigenous Vocal performance in Disney’s  Frozen”


10/19:Student Papers in Preparation for Society of Ethnomusicology Conference:

Lunchtime Session, 12:30-1:30:

Evan Pensis: “‘Hold that Pose for Me’: Voguing and Musical Appropriation in the European Ballroom Scene”

Anjelica Fabro: “What Community are We? Caribbean Unity, Creolization, Archipelagic Thinking in Music Sponsored by CARICOM”


Regular Session, 4:30-6:

Ted Gordon: “’Sound is God’: Pandit Pran Nath, Mysticism, and Music in the San Francisco Bay Area”

Erol Koymen: “From Coups that Silence Ezan-s to Ezan-s that Silence Coups!”

Mili Leitner: “Happy Birthday to Whom? Israeli Nationhood, Musical Collaboration and the Exclusionary Semiotics of Bat Shishim


11/9: Film Screening:

Screening of Cuban Documentary Materia Prima, followed by discussion with producer David Fernández Borrás (co-sponsored by CLAS).

Materia Prima is a documentary dealing with the celebration in 2009 of International Workers’ Day and the 50th anniversary of the Revolution in Havana. Significantly, this was the first such event at which Fidel Castro was not present. Overlapping and interweaving of images and sounds of official and popular celebration inform one another throughout the film, giving special significance to the phrase “material prima” with regards to the Cuban people.



  • Muestra de Cine Documental Lupa. SPAIN.
  • Concorto Film Festival. ITALY.
  • Collected Voices Chicago Ethnographic Film Festival. UNITED STATES
  • 20 Festival Internacional de Documentales de Santiago. (FIDOCS). Selección official.



  • 37 Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinamericano. CUBA. Selección official.
  • 47 Festival  de Cine Documental Alcances. SPAIN. Selección Official.
  • 14 Muestra de Jóvenes Realizadores. CUBA. Mención Especial de documental.
  • Festival Internacional ICARO. GUATEMALA.

April 10, 2017
by Leitner

Spring 2017

Please find below EthNoise’s meetings for Spring 2017. We meet in Goodspeed Hall 205 from 4.30-6pm on Thursdays. All are welcome to attend!

3/30: Dr Janie Cole (University of Cape Town) – presentation and workshop on music in South African apartheid jails.

4/14-17: Dr Richard Wolf (Harvard University) – weekend workshop on creative ethnography (Fri/Mon) and public lecture (Fri).

4/27: Anjelica Corbett and Erol Koymen, PhD Students in Ethnomusicology – presentation of conference paper and article, respectively.

5/11: Dr Nancy Murphy, Lecturer in Music Theory (University of Chicago) – workshop on transcription article.

5/18: Various PhD Students in Ethnomusicology – lightning talks about dissertation proposal topics.

February 2, 2017
by Leitner

2/16: Prof Shayna Silverstein

On February 16 we are excited to welcome Shayna Silverstein to give a talk entitled “EnGendering Flow: Poetics, Politics, and Pleasure in Syrian Dance Music“. An alum of UChicago’s Music PhD program, Prof Silverstein is now an Associate Professor at Northwestern in their Communications Department and a faculty affiliate in Middle East and North African Studies. You can read more about her research here.

If you think you may need accommodations to participate fully, please email

As always, we promise excellent refreshments and company – and graduate students are welcome to join us for dinner in Hyde Park after the workshop. Please RSVP for dinner to as space is limited.


February 2, 2017
by Leitner

2/9: Christopher Sheklian

Please join us on Thursday, February 9 from 4.30-6pm in Goodspeed 205. We will be joined by Christopher Sheklian, PhD Candidate in Anthropology. His talk on Armenian liturgical music in Istanbul is drawn from his dissertation work, and we welcome Erol Koymen, PhD Student in Ethnomusicology, as respondant. If you think you may need accommodations to participate fully, please email As always, we promise excellent refreshments and company!

Tuning the Body to the City: Armenian Affective Urban Engagement With Istanbul

Armenians in Istanbul today make up the largest population of the recognized religious minorities in the Republic of Turkey. A significant part of Armenian life in Istanbul revolves around the rich liturgical practices of the Armenian Apostolic Church. This liturgical life is textually grounded, in particular by the book of hymns containing all of the possible songs sung during the services. These hymns, or sharagans, are musically differentiated by mode, a musical building block. Not only are the sharagans each written in a particular musical mode, but each day is assigned a mode that organizes the entire liturgical experience. Certain emotions are even thought to be intrinsic to specific modes. Textually grounded, hymns not only mark a particular liturgically engaged religious subject, they also tune the body to different possibilities.

In Istanbul, where the Islamic call to prayer has a different musical mode depending on the time of day, many of these modes are the same as in the Armenian sharagan system. Tracing the way many of my informants recognized the Armenian modes in the call to prayer, this paper explores how those who were trained in the singing of Armenian hymns, who had tuned their bodies in particular ways, were also attune to the city in unique ways. I argue that this affective tuning of the body offers possibilities for understanding the embodied and affective ways that a minority population can engage with the city, and ultimately with the larger political body in which they find themselves as minorities.


January 27, 2017
by Leitner

2/2: Prof Byron Dueck

Please join us this Thursday, February 2 from 4.30-6pm in Goodspeed 205. We are excited to welcome guest speaker Prof Byron Dueck, head of music and senior lecturer at the UK’s Open University, and an alum of UChicago’s Music PhD program. His talk, “The Social Life of Chords”, will be co-hosted by the Music History & Theory Study Group. Please read on for a description of the talk and Byron’s biography. If you think you may need accommodations to participate fully, please email As always, we promise excellent refreshments and company!

The Social Life of Chords

How do musicians acknowledge and extend relationships through the sounding materials they deploy? What kinds of connections do these deployments establish, and with whom (intimates, strangers, abstract publics, spirits)? This paper considers two sites where western harmony was initially disseminated in the context of colonialism, drawing on fieldwork conducted in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, and the city of Winnipeg in western Canada. In Yaoundé, the focus is sacred and popular music played by xylophone ensembles (mendzaŋ); in Canada, it is gospel and country music performed by musicians of Indigenous (First Nations and Métis) heritage. In both sites, the talk explores how harmony mediates social ties.


Byron Dueck is Senior Lecturer and Head of Music at the Open University. He received his PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Chicago in 2005 following degrees in piano performance at the University of Minnesota and Wilfrid Laurier University. His research interests include North American Indigenous music and dance, the music of Cameroon, and the musical mediation of relationships. He is the author of Musical Intimacies and Indigenous Imaginaries: Aboriginal Music in Public Performance (Oxford University Press) and the co-editor, with Martin Clayton and Laura Leante, of Experience and Meaning in Musical Performance (Oxford University Press).

January 12, 2017
by Leitner

1/19: Bertie Kibreah

Please join us on Thursday 19th January in Goodspeed 205 from 4.30-6pm for a presentation by Bertie Kibreah. Bertie is a PhD Candidate in Ethnomusicology, and will present some of his dissertation research in a workshop entitled “Negotiating the Routes of Mystical Song in Bangladesh“. We also welcome back Dr Lars-Christian Koch as respondent. Bertie describes his presentation as follows:

“This presentation looks broadly at the traditions of mysticism in Bangladesh and suggests that its related performance styles, largely speculative and dialectical in nature, allows for a close examination of the compositional form of mystical song in Bengal. While modernist writers and archivists have often been driven by the impulse to codify and compartmentalize this music, its thematic motifs and melodic contours suggest a much more dynamic relationship between the vernacular, the devotional and the classical, which illuminates a variety of salient points regarding the celebrated regionalism of Bangladeshi nationalism, the memorialization of genocide and a lingering ‘angst of injustice’ in popular discourse, and a complex set of notions informing piety today across class, mobility and generational lines.”

December 1, 2016
by Leitner

Winter 2017

Please find below EthNoise’s meetings for Winter 2017. We meet in Goodspeed Hall 205 from 4.30-6pm on Thursdays. All are welcome to attend!

1/5: Dr Lars-Christian Koch (Universitat der Kunste Berlin; Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago) – museology workshop

1/19: Bertie Kibreah, PhD Candidate in Ethnomusicology – dissertation chapter

2/2: Dr Byron Dueck (Open University, UK) – joint workshop with Music History/Theory Study Group

2/9: Christopher Sheklian, PhD Candidate in Anthropology- dissertation chapter

2/16: Dr Shayna Silverstein (Northwestern University) – presentation

November 26, 2016
by Leitner

12/1: Ameera Nimjee

Please join us on Thursday December 1st from 4.30-6pm in Goodspeed 205. PhD Candidate Ameera Nimjee will share a chapter from her dissertation, entitled “Into the Photographic Studio: Locating Contemporaneity in Visual Cultures”. Anna Seastrand, Collegiate Professor in the Humanities Core, will provide a response to Ameera’s presentation. Please note: a password protected copy of her chapter is available here; contact for the password if you will be attending. You are encouraged to read the full chapter, but welcome to attend regardless!

“Into the Photographic Studio: Locating Contemporaneity in Visual Cultures”

This chapter is a close study of an album of Indian studio photographs, compiled sometime around 1910. The “courtesan album,” to which it has become referred, features 146 cartes-de-visite and cabinet cards, taken between 1870 and 1910. Contained in the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM’s) Jhabvala Collection of Photography, the sitters in the portraits are mostly Indian courtesans, who were professional entertainers in the intimate spaces of their salons and in courts, performing forms of music and dance for elite Indian audiences. While the album commemorates these women and their occupations as entertainers, it was compiled at a time of their systemic decline in Indian history. Courtesans were symbols of a pre-colonial and
pre-modern cultural practice, in which elite forms of entertainment existed with some proximity to sex work. 2007-17-1-2As the official period of British colonialism began in 1857, British administrators and British-educated Indian intellectuals alike advocated for the “anti-nautch movement,” which sought to remove the patronage of this kind of entertainment in India. The ROM’s courtesan album offers a counter-narrative to this movement, inciting a discussion on photographic reality and these women as contributors to the modern invention of Indian classical dance. I mobilize the album in the broader context of my dissertation to show that the album challenges the genre category Indian contemporary dance by reconsidering what it means to be and become contemporary in music and dance. 

November 15, 2016
by Leitner

11/18: Prof Kimberly Cannady (Victoria University, NZ)

On Friday November 18, we welcome Prof Kimberly Cannady to EthNoise. She joins us from Victoria University, New Zealand. Please support our distinguished guest in Goodspeed 205 from 4-5.30pm. A pay-your-way dinner will follow, to which all are welcome!

The Polar Bear’s Stomach: The Greenlandic Drum in Post-Colonial Nuuk

For many Greenlanders, especially those based in the capital city of Nuuk, the frame drum (qilaat) is more likely to be seen as a wall decoration than as a viable musical instrument. This has been the case now for multiple generations, but things are changing with the emergence of local and nation-wide initiatives to spread the music and dance of the drum into everyday life. In this research I introduce a group of Nuuk based Inuit musicians working to revitalize the drum as a viable musical instrument while also negotiating its role in legacies of colonialism, cultural imperialism, and Christianization. At the same time, global climate change poses new challenges for access to traditional material for drum making and the larger Inuit cosmological context. Through this work, I explore the importance of self-determination in revitalization efforts, as well as the relationships between such efforts and ongoing cultural decolonization in a new age of Arctic exploration & exploitation.

In this workshop, I look forward to sharing this article-in-progress with you (following the presentation of a shorter version at SEM last week). I am particularly eager to discuss the ethics of this research, approaches to incorporating indigenous methodologies and perspectives in critical ethnographic writing, as well as the overall progress of the material as an article.



Dr Kimberly Cannady teaches ethnomusicology at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. She completed her PhD at the University of Washington in 2014. Her research interests include indigenous music in the Arctic, as well as popular and traditional music making in Iceland and the larger Nordic region. She is also involved in a range of research projects working with music and new refugee resettlement efforts in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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