EthNoise!

The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

April 2, 2019
by Jon
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EthNoise! Spring Quarter Schedule

Dear all,

Below is the schedule for this quarter’s EthNoise! workshops. You’ll notice that we still have several weeks we could potentially fill; if you are interested in presenting in the workshop but haven’t yet reached out, you can still do so! Finally, unless otherwise noted, all workshops meet in Rosenwald 301 from 5-6:20 PM.
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April 4– Dr. Rumya Putcha, “Refrains of a Hillbilly Elegy: Country Boys, Social Media, and the Affective Politics of 21st-Century White Supremacy”
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April 25– There is no workshop this day, but several regular attendees of EthNoise! will be participating in a teatime concert at 4:30 PM in Fulton Recital Hall (4th floor of Goodspeed Hall). More details to follow.
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May 2– Dr. Kaley Mason (Assistant Professor of Music at Lewis & Clark College and former ethnomusicology faculty at UChicago), topic TBA
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May 3-5– EthNoise! will be co-sponsoring the 34th Annual MEHAT (Middle East History and Theory) Conference. The overall theme of the conference is “Migration and Movement of Peoples,” and (ethno)musicologists will surely have plenty of reasons to want to attend, including a keynote address by Dr. Ulrike Präger on the topic of music and migration in the Middle East, several grad-student papers on this topic, and a closing concert by world-renowned Iraqi oud performer Rahim AlHaj (following a pre-concert talk led by our very own Dr. Phil Bohlman). More details to follow.
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May 9– Dr. Anna Schultz (the newest ethnomusicology faculty member here at UChicago), “An Ethnomusicologist among the Historians”

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May 16– Mari Jo Velasco (Postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University and UChicago Music Department alumna), topic TBA
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May 30– Jun Lee (PhD candidate, Department of History, UChicago), “Betwixt Movement and Nostalgia: Practicing Utagoe in Post-Fukushima Japan”

April 1, 2019
by Jon
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First EthNoise! of the Quarter Will Meet This Thursday, April 4, at 5 PM

Dear all,

I hope your Spring Quarter is off to a wonderful start! 
 
I’m writing to announce that our first EthNoise! of the quarter will meet this Thursday, April 4 in Rosenwald 301 from 5-6:20 pm. Our speaker will be Dr. Rumya Putcha, a UChicago alumna who is now an assistant professor in the Department of Performance Studies and an affiliated faculty member in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program as well as the Race and Ethnic Studies Institute at Texas A&M University. Dr. Putcha will be presenting part of a new project titled, “Refrains of a Hillbilly Elegy: Country Boys, Social Media, and the Affective Politics of 21st-century White Supremacy.”
Please do not hesitate to reach out before Thursday if you have any questions or concerns, and I encourage you to be on the lookout for this quarter’s schedule, which I’ll be sending out soon (I can say now that it’s gonna be good!). Thanks so much for your continued support, and I look forward to seeing you on Thursday!
Sincerely,
Jon Bullock

March 14, 2019
by Jon
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EthNoise! Double Header Today at 4:30 PM

Dear all,

I’m writing to remind you that the final EthNoise! workshop of the quarter will meet today in Rosenwald 301 beginning at 4:30 pm (not 5 pm). From 4:30 to 5:15, PhD student David Wilson will be presenting his conference paper for the upcoming meeting of the Midwest SEM chapter meeting (MIDSEM). The paper is called, “Sunday in the Park with Zhou: Places, Spaces, and Positions in Beijing’s Jingshan Park.”
From 5:15 to 6:35 pm, we’ll hear from Joe Maurer, PhD candidate in music. Joe will be sharing a chapter of his dissertation, a draft of which has been circulated via email. I’ve also included a brief note from Joe below.
If you’re only able to attend EthNoise! for one of the presentations, please feel free to do so, as we’ll try to stick to the above timetable as closely as possible. As usual, there will be plenty of snacks and drinks to help fuel the conversation. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions before then, and I look forward to seeing you soon!
Sincerely,
Jon Bullock
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Dear EthNoise!,
I’m looking forward to presenting part of my dissertation to you. I’d like you to read as much as you can of the ~20 pp attached. This is drawn from my 3rd chapter. In the spirit of the workshop setting, this is very much a work in progress. Right now, it’s a bit of a “here’s some stuff” piece of writing—I need to do more work to process my fieldwork data, make connections between sections, connect with existing literature, and drive home my arguments. Nonetheless, I think there’s enough material here for you to get a sense of this particular field site. My hope is that you can read this, then on Thursday I can briefly sketch out some of the missing pieces. There are several arguments that I’m thinking about with this field site, and I’d be particularly interested in (a) which arguments you find most interesting and perhaps most useful to people working outside this topic area, (b) how much you think can fit in one chapter, (c) what connections you think I might make to other work beyond the obvious mariachi/music education nexus.
Thanks!
Joe

March 4, 2019
by Jon
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Reminder: EthNoise! Will Meet This Thursday, March 7, at 5 PM

Dear all,

Hello, and happy Monday! I’m writing to remind you that EthNoise! will meet this Thursday, March 7, in Rosenwald 301 starting at 5 pm. The presenter is Mili Leitner Cohen (PhD candidate, Ethnomusicology), who will be presenting a chapter of her dissertation. Although there is no pre-circulated paper for the workshop, I ask that you take the time to read through the long abstract/message from Mili below. I also want to mention the possibility that the workshop could extend an additional 30 minutes (until 6:50 pm). Those who need to leave at the regular time of 6:20 pm will certainly be welcome to do so, although the workshop will be providing dinner in lieu of lighter snacks to accommodate the extended time frame. Please don’t hesitate to email before Thursday’s workshop if you have any questions at all. I look forward to seeing you then!

Sincerely,

Jon Bullock

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Dear EthNoiseians,

I’m very much looking forward to sharing some of my work with you all on March 7th on a long overdue trip back from my fieldsite, Jerusalem. This is my first opportunity to process 18 months spent in the field, in particular some emotionally challenging work on religion and gender that will form the basis of my second chapter. There will be no pre-circulated paper, but I attach below a long abstract that will serve as an introduction and also lays out the areas in which I request your collective help.

Warmly,

Mili

 

What Women Want: The Weaponization of Women’s Sung Prayer at Jerusalem’s Western Wall

Every religious Jerusalemite has an opinion on the best route by which to cross the Old City on foot in order to reach the Kotel (Western Wall). Mine starts at Jaffa Gate in West Jerusalem, turns left just before St James’ Church and takes the sloping, narrow alleyways to the Roman Cardo, proceeds through the commercial square that hosts Hurva synagogue, and ends with a seemingly endless descent down white limestone stairs. Just before the route’s final turn, I perform my ritual of pausing to absorb the panorama of the Mount of Olives, Temple Mount and al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Kotel. Today, Friday 9th of November, as I reach this east-facing lookout, the sun has not yet risen above these monuments – it is, after all, not yet 7am. At the foot of the Kotel a dense mass of people face the Wall. Thousands have gathered to mark Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the new Jewish month) by praying Shacharit, the morning prayer service, at Judaism’s holiest site. Along two-thirds of the Wall’s length their backs are white, draped with talitot (prayer shawls). A sharp line divides them from a sea of black, for once packed more densely than the white-attired crowd. Though I cannot see the physical barrier separating men and women, I can see this physical and sociological rendering thereof from afar. A small patch of white and pink nestled amongst the black reminds me why I am here at this ungodly hour. I complete my route with some trepidation, passing through airport-style security to the expansive plaza with its slippery marble floor towards the sign “nashim” – women, past a few hundred Haredi men being constrained behind police barriers, and down into the women’s section.

The women’s area is usually silent but for babies’ cries and the scrape of plastic chairs being dragged over marble paving as a few dozen women silently jostle for their favored prayer areas. Men sing their prayers in small groups on the other side of the mechitza, but I barely hear them. Today, though, the women’s section is a heterophonous jumble of singing, shouting, whistling, and shushing. I weave through the tight, neat lines of Haredi women towards that patch of white and pink. I cannot yet see them, but I follow the sounds that will lead me there. Heavily American-accented voices crack as they strain their vocal chords at the top of their chest voice, more declaiming than singing their prayers. Vocal quality is a secondary consideration to decibel level because they have stiff competition this morning. Protruding over the mechitza is a loudspeaker relaying a service from the out-of-view men’s section. The rest of the women alternate between hushing at the Americans and singing responsive prayer lines to the disembodied male voice. A few punctuate their performance by engaging in ideological shouting matches with security forces. Whistles and high-pitched screams provide a ceaseless inverted drone to complete the performance.

This is the scene at the Kotel every Rosh Chodesh. The liberal American group Women of the Wall and their Haredi Israeli counter-protesters Women for the Wall raise their voices in battle and in prayer. For all of the similarities between their simultaneous services – the same melodies; the same canonized liturgical text and structure; the same participatory roles for attendees; the disembodied leaders’ voices – at this moment liturgy is not primarily a prayer practice for either group. Instead, it is leveraged as a sonic weapon of protest and conflict as each group performs its differing ideas about how women’s voices should sound in public Jewish prayer.

It is the differences between these groups’ musical practices that encode their attitudes, in particular their respective relationships to the State of Israel’s religious laws. The Ministry of Religious Services controls the Kotel and runs the space like an orthodox Jewish synagogue. Women of the Wall fervently object to this. They approach Judaism from a Western feminist perspective that presumes gender equality and integration as desirable and attainable, not only in civil life but in ritual worship too. Traditional Judaism begins from an assumption of ontological and sociological gender difference, which translates into a strict gendered division of labor whereby ritual performance is a male domain. But the Euro-American Reform movement, from where Women of the Wall derives its support, rejects this historical norm in favor of gender blindness in ritual life. We hear their rejection of Israeli religious policy, and embrace of diasporic liberal Judaism, when we attend to their American accented Hebrew, their choice of Western diatonic melodies and, most obviously, their female prayer leadership.

While Women of the Wall conduct their prayers independently and with an awareness of the presence of media, government officials, and protestors, their Haredi counter-protesters Women for the Wall listen rather than wanting to be listened to, responding to the male shaliach tzibbur (prayer leader) and joining his songs as an act of private, intimate devotion rather than public performance. Their shaliach tzibbur of choice is trained in a Sephardi Middle Eastern style. His maqamic intonation aligns him with the Jewish ethnic communities with historical origins in the Middle East and North Africa that now reside almost entirely in Israel. Combined with his native Hebrew accent and the very fact that he is a man presiding over a women’s event, the sound of this group’s prayers square their identity and prayer ideology with that of the government. The unseen voice broadcast by the governmentally-funded speaker facilitates these mostly-Haredi women protestors’ prayers, but it is amplified primarily to disrupt Women of the Wall’s purportedly non-halachic prayer (that is, prayer that contravenes Jewish law).

Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with each group’s members and leadership, I present and assess these diverse women’s discourses about women’s singing voices at the Kotel, including the significance of nusach (Jewish ethnic singing style), vocal quality in liturgy, denominational/ideological conflicts, and the politicization of women’s intimate praying voices. I seek to understand why both of these groups defy the practices described by ethnomusicologists and anthropologists. Why do Haredi women sing in public?1 Why do Reform women choose gender segregation in their fight for gender equality? How might we better understand Jewish gender dynamics in light of this sonically violent religious self-assertion by women? How do these groups’ respective ritual practices project Israeliness or diasporic sentiment?

In undertaking this fieldwork, I also confront my own position as an ethnographer situated ideologically between these two camps, with a personal vested interest in the issues at hand. I hope that EthNoise participants will assist me in working through my desire to convey fundamentalist religious ideologies respectfully and empathetically without unduly compromising my own authorial voice, personal integrity, or analytic capacity.

1Ethnomusicological studies have claimed that due to the halachic concept of kol isha, orthodox Jewish women may not and will not sing outside of the domestic sphere (Adelstein 2013; Koskoff 1995 and 2004; Shelemey 2009). Evidently this is not the case at the Kotel, where Haredi women sing along with the shaliach tzibbur and respond to antiphonal prayers.

 

February 25, 2019
by Jon
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EthNoise! Workshop Will Meet This Thursday, Feb. 28 (and on 3/7, 3/14)

Dear all,

I hope your week is off to a great start! I’m writing to remind you that EthNoise! will meet this Thursday, February 28 in Rosenwald 301 from 5-6:20 pm. Our presenter will be Thalea Stokes, who will be presenting their paper, “Hip-Hop Culture among Mongols in Mongolia and China: The Development of a New Tradition throughout the Mongolian Diaspora.” For those of you who attended the workshop a few weeks ago, you’ll remember that Thalea discussed Mongolian hip-hop culture in China. During this week’s presentation, Thalea will expand their focus on Mongolian hip-hop culture to include a comparative look at Mongolian hip-hop both in China and in Mongolia. You won’t want to miss it! As always, snacks and drinks will be provided, and please reach out before then if you have any questions at all.
Finally, I wanted to remind you that the final two EthNoise! workshops of the quarter will meet on March 7 and March 14; both presenters are current PhD candidates in ethnomusicology here at UChicago. On March 7, Mili Leitner Cohen will present “What Women Want: The Weaponization of Women’s Sung Prayer at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.” On March 14, Joe Maurer will discuss a chapter from his dissertation, in which he focuses on music education among immigrant communities in Chicago. Mark your calendars!
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Until then,
Jon Bullock

February 5, 2019
by Jon
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Reminder: EthNoise! Will Meet This Thursday, February 7

Dear all,

I’m writing to remind you that EthNoise! will meet this Thursday, February 7, from 5-6:20 pm in Rosenwald 301. As part of a very special 2-part workshop, Thalea Stokes (PhD student, Ethnomusicology) will be presenting a paper called, “Mongolian Hip Hop in China: A Unique Political Balancing Act.” Three weeks later, on February 28, Thalea will be back in town to present “Hip-Hop Culture among Mongols in Mongolia and China: The Development of a New Tradition throughout the Mongolian Diaspora.” Whereas the first presentation deals with the reception of Mongolian hip hop in China, the second takes a more comparative approach as Thalea delves deeper into the significance of local expressions of hip-hop culture that cross national and cultural divides. I’ll be sending more information about this second presentation as the time draws nearer. In the meantime, please reach out if you have any questions, and I look forward to seeing you on Thursday!
Sincerely,
Jon Bullock

January 30, 2019
by Jon
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EthNoise! Postponed until Next Thursday, February 7

Update:

Our very first EthNoise! of the Winter Quarter has been postponed until Thursday, February 7 (we will meet in Rosenwald 301 from 5-6:20 pm as usual). The presenter (as originally scheduled) will be Thalea Stokes, PhD student in Ethnomusicology here at UChicago. Thalea has just returned from an extended period of fieldwork in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, and they will be presenting a paper titled, “Mongolian Hip Hop in China: A Unique Political Balancing Act.” I’ve included the paper’s abstract below; please do not cite or circulate without Thalea’s permission. I look forward to seeing you then!

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Abstract:

In the grand scheme of globalized hip hop culture, Chinese hip hop is a relative newcomer. Beginning in late 90s Hong Kong, this network of cultural forms—rapping, DJing, breakdancing, graffiti, fashion, and explicit language—spread to mainland China by 2004. Some elements met with immediate approval from the government, while others circumvented state censorship via black market channels. Heavy borrowings from 90s-era gangsta rap were increasingly mediated by traditional and contemporary Chinese musical influences, creating an indigenized Chinese hip hop culture.

The majority Han population soon adopted Chinese hip hop culture as a characteristic mode of youthful artistic expression. But not only Han—youth in certain ethnic minority groups also gravitated toward it and, no less, from an experiential worldview considerably more relatable to Black American experience as typically portrayed in hip hop: historical and contemporary systemic oppression at the hands of the national ethnic majority. One such group was ethnic Mongolians, whose artistic cultural expressions are intricately woven into a millennium’s worth of macro-political history. For Mongolian youth in China, hip hop has become a dangerous but exciting and critically important project: combining subversive expression and brazenly-voiced political grievances in an emphatic assertion of Mongolian identity. The stakes are high in a nation notorious for its heavy-handed treatment of political dissent, especially in the arts and as voiced by ethnic minorities.

Drawn from past and current ethnographic research in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, my talk examines Mongolian hip hop culture in China and how Mongols navigate the delicate internal and international political intricacies of Chinese governmental policies towards ethnic minorities and political speech. As Mongolian hip hop artists encounter Chinese state censorship—and struggle with internalized self-censorship—they give us new insight into the overarching relationship between Mongolian identity and the Chinese state.

January 7, 2019
by Jon
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Save the Dates! Winter Quarter Workshop Schedule

Dear all,

Good morning, and Happy New Year! I hope that you enjoyed a restful break and are feeling ready to tackle the new quarter. I’m writing to pass along the dates on which we’ll have workshops during the Winter quarter: they are January 31February 28March 7, and March 14. I’ll be passing along more information regarding the presenters and presentation titles soon, but I wanted to go ahead and share the dates so that you can mark them on your calendars. This quarter, we’ll continue to meet on Thursdays from 5-6:20 pm in Rosenwald 301. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions at all, and I look forward to seeing you all very soon!
Sincerely,
Jon Bullock

December 4, 2018
by Jon
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Final EthNoise! of the Quarter This Thursday, December 6

Dear all,

I’m writing to remind you that EthNoise! will meet this Thursday, December 6, in Rosenwald 301 from 5-6:20 pm. This will be the last EthNoise! of the quarter, so it’s fitting that our presenter will be Julia Escribano, whom we’ve been privileged to have a visiting student from Spain this quarter. Julia will be presenting an overview of her dissertation research on the topic “Traditional religious music during the Holy Week of southwest Soria: Local memory, processes of change, repertories, and current meanings.” Julia’s project is really an exciting one in which she blends ethnographic methods with historical research in interesting and meaningful ways. I look forward to seeing you all on Thursday and to celebrating Julia’s time here in Chicago and a successful quarter of workshops! As always, feel free to reach out before then if you have any questions.
Sincerely,
Jon Bullock

November 27, 2018
by Jon
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Reminder: Upcoming EthNoise! This Thursday, November 29

Dear all,

I hope you enjoyed a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving holiday. I’m writing to remind you that EthNoise! will meet this Thursday, November 29, from 5-6:20 pm in Rosenwald 301. PhD candidate (Music) Ameera Nimjee will be presenting her dissertation chapter, “Off the Dance Floor: Mobile Intersections among Bangalore Creatives.” You won’t want to miss it! Snacks and drinks will be provided; please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions before then.
Sincerely,
Jon Bullock
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