The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

April 25, 2016
by ameeran

April 28: Timothy Rommen

Please join us for another Spring workshop on 4/28 at 4:30pm in Rm. 205, Goodspeed Hall. Special guest Timothy Rommen, Professor of Music and Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania, will present his new research, in a paper titled “It Sounds Better in the Bahamas: Musicians, Management, and Markets in Nassau’s All-Inclusive Hotels.” As usual, light refreshments will be served. See below for an abstract.



Premise: Ethnomusicologists working in the Caribbean have historically, and for a variety of reasons, generally avoided focusing on music in touristic contexts. Scholars in disciplines such as anthropology, cultural geography, and leisure studies, for their part, have focused solely on tourism, leaving any engagement with music to the “experts.” And yet, all-inclusive resorts represent one of the primary sites of encounter between local musicians and tourists throughout the Caribbean. More to the point, tourism is such a ubiquitous economic and social fact in the region that it must be taken seriously as a lens through which to understand and analyze local musical production.

Context: “It’s better in the Bahamas!”—claims the nation’s current tourism slogan. But what exactly is this better “it”? Assuming, for a moment, that an answer might involve music in some way, the Ministry of Tourism has virtually no ability to control whether or how tourists will experience “it” while visiting the Bahamas. This is the case because there is virtually no live music on offer outside of hotels. The live music that is performed in the hotels, moreover, is almost entirely disconnected from (cultural) policy and labor concerns (due to the lack of an effective musicians’ union). In fact, the hotels in which visitors experience their Bahamian vacations are, essentially, free agents. They all have their own branding to worry about and their own commitments to clientele, and this is especially the case at the all-inclusive resorts such as Sandals and Breezes that promise a package experience to their guests. What role do musicians play in these contexts? What creative constraints do they face? How do they make decisions about repertory and style?

Case Study: With these ideas in mind, this paper explores the complicated dynamics attendant to contemporary tourism in the Bahamas, focusing on two musicians—Funky D and Alia—who have built their careers around performing for tourists at all-inclusive hotels (Breezes, in particular). Paying particular attention to notions of craft, to genre expectations, to agency and encounter, and to exploring the ambivalences, joys, and frustrations they experience in negotiating their positions within all-inclusive resorts (both as employees and as performers), this paper makes a case for why ethnomusicological perspectives on music touristics are so urgently needed in the region.

April 12, 2016
by ameeran

April 14: Braxton Shelley

Please join us this coming Thursday, 4/14/2016 for a presentation by Braxton Shelley, a PhD candidate in the Department of Music. His presentation is titled “A Sacred Symbol: The Gospel Vamp’s Divine Choreography.” Braxton will introduce his dissertation chapter, which you can find here. Please focus on pages 17-27 in particular.

As usual, the workshop will be held at 4:30pm in Room 205, Goodspeed Hall (1010 E 59th St), and light refreshments will be served.


In this chapter, I develop a theory of the relationship between the gospel vamp and “shouting,” a referent for holy dancing among many African American Christians. After contextualizing the brand of movement that is often coincident with gospel performance historically and culturally, I shape an understanding of “shouting” as the embodied performance of transcendence. Analyzing the interpenetration of music and movement in a communion service at Chicago’s Greater Harvest Missionary Baptist Church, I will point out the “theology of sound” that underpins these practices, reading these phenomena through the work of theologians ranging from Thomas Aquinas, Louis Marie Chauvet and Yves Congar to J. Kameron Carter and Ashon Crawley. The pneumatology implied by gospel performance will come into sharper relief through analyses of performances of Lashun Pace’s “In Everything Give Thanks” and Glenn Burleigh’s “The Name.” In these performances, I am interested in the ability of the vamp, when modified, to substitute for shouting music. Building on Lawrence Zbikowski’s work in cognitive musicology, I will propose that the gospel vamp functions as a sonic analog to “shouting.” I will argue that through its relationship to these transcendent movements, the vamp accrues for itself something of the sacred: it becomes a kind of sonic sacrament by choreographing physical encounter with the divine.


April 4, 2016
by Dr. Michael Allemana

April 7: Mateo Mulcahy

This week we are delighted and honored to start the Spring Quarter with a presentation by Mateo Mulcahy, Director of Community Projects and Events, Old Town School of Folk Music. His presentation is titled: “Awareness, Deep Engagement, and Sustainability: Presenting Endangered Musics to Audiences in Chicago.”  Please see abstract and bio below.

We will meet in our regular place at our regular time: Thursday, April 7, 4:30-6:00pm in Godspeed Hall, Room 205. As always, our workshop is open to the public, and all are welcome.


As programmer of World Music Wednesdays and the Global Dance Party series at the Old Town School of Folk Music, Matthew “Mateo” Mulcahy works to bring endangered music, artists, and traditions from around the globe to U.S. audiences. These musical traditions are those in danger of extinction or assimilation, surviving through only a handful of practitioners or cultural standard bearers for their communities. This presentation will discuss the challenges that emerge from programming endangered musical practices. One challenge is to develop blueprints for presenting and raising awareness for endangered arts in a meaningful way. This entails identifying artists, facilitating and producing tours, and developing performance and educational residencies. A second challenge is to create financial opportunities such as pursuing grant funding and developing budgets. A third challenge is to develop promotional strategies and community outreach. Discussed will be how to meet these challenges through deep engagement, defined as artist engagement that includes activities which reach a diverse demographic through performance, education, collaboration, and exchange in a variety of settings and locations with a substantive media footprint. Mulcahy argues that endangered arts will only survive if there is an audience to support them. Since many artists in isolated communities have increasingly fewer opportunities to express their arts in their own communities and rely on the broader world community to sustain their arts, presenters and consumers of ethnic arts have a responsibility to create the infrastructure and audiences to sustain and preserve them for future generations.

Mulcahy holds a B.A. in Spanish/International Development from Washington University. He has worked in the music entertainment business for more than 30 years in many different capacities: radio host and producer, video documentary producer, concert promoter, DJ and DJ business owner, live music venue owner and manager, talent buyer, musician and vocalist in salsa groups. Since 2006 he has worked as the Director of Community Projects and Events at The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. At the Old Town School Mulcahy is responsible for supervising all community and outreach projects including the World Music Wednesday Series, Field Trips, Thursday World Music Workshop Series, Global Dance Party Series, and other initiatives that engage new audiences. Mulcahy also manages partnerships, international exchange, and residencies with institutions and organizations at the local, national and international levels, producing over 100 concerts a year for the School.  He has previously served as a panelist for MIDSEM in 2010, 4° Encuentro de las Artes Escénicas in Mexico, MICSUR in Argentina, FIMVEN in Venezuela, and for grant applications with the National Endowment of the Arts, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and the GlobalFEST Touring Fund. In 2013 he curated and co-produced a 12-episode televised series, Musicology: Live From The Old Town School Of Folk Music, which aired in partnership with WYCC PBS Chicago.