The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

March 30, 2015
by nchana

April 3 – MIDSEM Dry Runs at EthNoise!

Please join us on Friday, April 3 for a workshop in which Mili LeitnerJoe Maurer, and Thalea Stokes will present their panel of papers in preparation for the Midwest Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology (MIDSEM) conference. Please see below for abstracts.

Please note the room and time change: 12:00 – 1:30pm in JRL 264. We look very much forward to seeing you!


“Owning Music, Owning the Nation”
How does the regulation and control of national music impact identity formation among a country’s disparate groups of people? This panel addresses such questions of music, nation, and ownership from three geographically diverse perspectives, drawing upon the panelists’ recent fieldwork, historical documents, and media sources. The panel investigates these core questions and draws attention to the challenges faced by peoples attempting to claim ownership of national culture in the modern nation-state. The first paper examines patriotic songs of the U.S., focusing on articulations of Americanness in recent songs from the Tea Party Movement within the context of debates regarding the proper performance of previous generations’ nationalist music. The second paper explores the political struggle over ownership of Mongolian throat-singing between China and Mongolia sparked by UNESCO’s delineation of cultural rights. The third paper examines Israeli state-sponsored musical institutions’ renegotiation of their portrayal of the nation since the 1990s, using the rise of Musika Shachorah (“black music”) as a case study to illustrate the nation’s attempts to representation racial diversity. Together, the papers address questions of belonging and cultural ownership that serve as vital sites of inquiry into nationalist identity construction in the modern global community.
“Negotiating National Identity through American Patriotic Song in the Tea Party Era” (Joe Maurer)
Who may sing the United States’ patriotic songs, and in what manner? During the 2012 U.S. presidential election, two candidates (Herman Cain and Rick Santorum) took their campaign theme songs from Krista Branch, a singer associated with the populist Tea Party Movement. Those songs, “I Am America” and “Remember Who We Are,” demonstrate a marked difference from the patriotic songs of previous generations. Rather than focusing on land and patriotic symbols like the national flag, this most recent type of song articulates an ideological conception of “us” and “them,” illustrating the suggested beliefs and qualities required in a performer (and consumer) of patriotic song. This stylistic turn is especially significant in light of recent controversies regarding the performance of older patriotic music. In April 2006, “Nuestro Himno,” a popular new Spanish-language rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner,” attracted criticism from President George W. Bush, who noted that “people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English. And they ought to learn to sing the anthem in English” (New York Times 2006). A linguistic controversy arose once more in 2014, this time around a multilingual rendition of “America the Beautiful” sung in a Coca-Cola advertisement during the Super Bowl. These incidents and their context in the new milieu of American nationalist music point to important questions of ownership and belonging. This paper addresses these questions of musical Americanness and their significance in light of the recent political success of the Tea Party Movement.
“Whose Throat-Singing?: UNESCO Awarding Khoomei as a Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage” (Thalea Stokes)
In 2009–2010, the People’s Republic of China sent a myriad of applications for the rights to intangible cultural heritage artifacts to UNESCO. Among the applications was one claiming the Mongolian art of throat-singing (Khoomei) as belonging to China’s intangible cultural heritage. When the decision to award China with the rights to Mongolian throat-singing became publicly known, outrage among Mongolians in China, Mongolia, and elsewhere ensued. In the following year, Mongolia sent an application to UNESCO for the same artifact and was subsequently awarded rights; however, the France-based NGO categorized the art as Khoomei rather than “Mongolian throat-singing,” thereby creating a distinction of sorts. How is Khoomei used by China and Mongolia to make claims about their national identities, and what are the deeper motivations behind these claims? How is it, through the mediating global entity UNESCO, that Khoomei has come to represent both China and Mongolia? What is Chineseness and Mongolianness, and how does Mongolianness necessarily represent Chineseness? This paper, aided by prior fieldwork and current research, discusses how China uses cultural artifacts of its ethnic minorities to project an image of a culturally unified and harmonious state on the global stage, an image that is negotiated and disputed by outside actors. The paper will use the dispute of who owns Khoomei as a case study to illuminate the politics of state ownership of music and the translation to state control of a people, their history, and their culture.
“Composing racial diversity in Israel” (Mili Leitner)
Israel’s early years saw the conscious creation of a national popular music canon, facilitated by state sponsored institutions such as Kol Israel, the Music Inspectorate and IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) radio (Regev & Seroussi, 2004). Israel, as is common for the modern nation state, negotiated its identity through its cultural products, and seemingly defined itself as Ashkenazi and European. In the 1990s, an explosion of independent broadcasters established themselves in Israel, capitalizing on the newly available media of cable television channels and Internet radio stations. Their ability more accurately to represent and reflect the rapidly diversifying demographic makeup of Israel was evident in their economic success, and state-sponsored music institutions were forced to react by incorporating musical representations of non-Ashkenaz groups into their institutions’ output. I explore the rise of Musika Shachorah (“black music”) and its reception by African and Latino migrant worker communities and Ethiopian Israelis, as a case study of ethnically non-normative genres being incorporated into the Israeli mainstream. This super-genre, which includes Hebrew-language hip-hop, reggae and soul, gained traction as the nation’s black community expanded rapidly during the 1990s and 2000s. Musika Shachorah has been taken up by Ashkenazi Israelis, re-circulated into state-sponsored media such as IDF radio, and transformed to suit the national agenda as artists like Subliminal rap about Zionism and Jewish pride. Thus a new, diverse, state-sanctioned Israeli nation identity is emerging, illustrating the power of music and its commercial nature to bring about tangible changes in the nature of Israeliness.


March 30, 2015
by wdbuckingham

April 2 – Andrea Harris Jordan at EthNoise!

Please join us this Thursday, April 2 for a presentation and discussion with Andrea Harris Jordan. The talk is entitled “House Around Irish Music: Past and Present in Discourses of Irish Music from the Nineteenth to Twenty-First Centuries” Please find an abstract below.

As always, we will meet at 4:30pm in Goodspeed 205. Our workshop is open to the public and all are welcome.


In this Ethnoise! talk, I will be giving a big picture look at some of the themes of my dissertation and a closer look at some of the case studies in it, in preparation for my defense later in the month. Traditional music and song occupy a vibrant field of cultural production in Ireland in the twenty-first century. Musicians, performers, singers, dancers are all more publicly visible than ever before, however music and song in Ireland have a long history of relevance, enjoyment and celebration. From the late eighteenth century to the present, intellectuals, culture brokers, and scholars have presented particular and varied perceptions of the past through music and song, both performatively and through discourses surrounding traditional music. Individuals, particularly intellectuals in nineteenth-century Ireland made use of the past to construct their ideologies of what Irishness meant in their society. Today, musicians and scholars of traditional music contextualize their own music making and practices in light of both more distant nineteenth-century musical pasts and more recent events, histories, practices and memories. 

March 25, 2015
by wdbuckingham

Spring 2015 Schedule

April 2Andrea Harris Jordan – “House Around Irish Music: Past and Present in Discourses of Irish Music from the Nineteenth to Twenty-First Centuries”

April 9: Ibby Grace & Michael Bakan – “‘Thinking in Music’: A Dialogue between Autistic Self-Advocate Ibby Grace and Ethnomusicologist Michael Bakan”

April 23Lauren Eldridge – “Racing Genre: Competitive Authenticities in Haitian Summer Music Camps”

April 30Margaret Walker – “From Salaam to Pranaam: The Sanskritization of North Indian Dance”

May 28: Meredith Aska McBride – “The Problematic City: Representing Chicago, Instrumentalizing Music Education”


Unless otherwise noted, all workshop meetings are on Thursdays at 4:30pm in Room 205, Goodspeed Hall, University of Chicago campus.

March 13, 2015
by wdbuckingham

March 19 – Monica Hairston O’Connell at EthNoise!

Please join us on March 19 for a paper and discussion with Monica Hairston O’Connell. The paper is entitled “The CBMR and Archival Authority” Please find an abstract below.

As always, we will meet at 4:30pm in Goodspeed 205. Our workshop is open to the public.



In the 1970s when Samuel Floyd Jr. began his research, he found that anthologies, secondary sources, and reference works that abound for the art music of Western culture simply did not exist for black music. His own scholarly career relied on his ability to pioneer such research and help build the institutional infrastructure that would spark and then foster the expansion of a necessarily interdisciplinary subfield of music scholarship. Floyd founded the Center for Black Music Research in the wake of Civil Rights and Black Arts movements and during a time of activism by black composers and pioneering scholars. These pioneers allied themselves with the CBMR to pursue activities that would bring the music of black composers and the study of music of the African Diaspora into the mainstream. 
Established in 1990 and opened in September of 1992, the CBMR Library and Archives “supports the research, performance, and educational activities of the CBMR and of other institutions and individuals by providing a comprehensive research collection covering all aspects of black music in the United States, Africa, and other parts of the African diaspora.”  The CBMR Archives provide an useful starting point for theorizations of the archive that seek to acknowledge the practical necessity for many culturally-specific repositories of finding appropriate balance between canon building and displacement or disruption; between the creation of acknowledged and authoritative space in the academy and the kind of “ubiquitous archival authority” that can generate social change.


March 3, 2015
by wdbuckingham

March 6 – Regula Qureshi at EthNoise!

Please join us on Thursday, March 6 for a discussion with Regula Qureshi about her ongoing work translating a nineteenth-century Urdu music treatise, Ma’dan-ul-Musiqi (Mine of Music). See below for a brief note about the project from Prof. Qureshi.

As always, we will meet at 4:30pm in Goodspeed 205. Our workshop is open to the public and all are welcome.

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Discovering a Mine of Music (Ma’dan al Musiqi 1956), is a barely explored 19th c. treatise of Indian music that challenges the translator with its Persianized Urdu, and its multivocal use of Persian, Hindi and Sanskrit. 

Written by a Lucknow courtier who also held a British colonial post this highly syncretic work is modeled on musicological treatises of past centuries while richly chronicling current oral tradition oral traditions and musical practices in Sanskrit and Persian interpretive frames. It is also a connoisseur’s personal chronicle of the courtly musical life cut off by the British destruction oft he Lucknow Court while also contributing to their  agenda to make classical cultural knowledge accessible through vernacular texts. Part of this effort was the 1925 publication of the treatise   (Hindustan Press), through local  Muslim efforts.
I look forward to outline the challenge of this work, in the hope to receive critiques and ideas in a open-ended EthNoise! discussion.