The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

May 13, 2021
by Varshini

EthNoise! presents Chris Batterman Cháirez

Please join us this evening for a presentation from PhD student Chris Batterman Cháirez, with a response from Siting Jiang.

“So Let’s Bang on Some Pots”: Sound, Intimacy, and the Political Anatomy of Affect in Brazil’s Panelaços

Abstract: In March of 2020, following new shelter-in-place orders enacted in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro exploded into a clamor of pots, pans, and voices. Residents throughout Brazil took to their balconies nightly to participate in “panelaços”—literally “big pot bangs”—a longstanding mode of sounded protest and political participation in Brazil that has come to be associated with political discontent and impeachment. The most recent instances were aimed at President Jaír Bolsonaro, as shouts of “Bolsonaro out!” and “Bolsonaro genocide!” drew together a sonic public to express dissatisfaction with his dismissive handling of the pandemic and lack of empathy for the thousands that have died. This paper takes the panelaços as a dense site from which to consider how the social and affective registers of collective precarity are mediated by aural practices of sounding and listening. Drawing from ethnographic work among Rio’s panelaço participants, I suggest that the panelaços be understood as a plural performative social space that not only generates intimate attachments among its participants and auditors but engenders and gives new meaning to notions of stranger sociality and political solidarity.
Chris Batterman Cháirez is a PhD student in Ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago. His work focuses broadly on sound and aurality in relation to questions of environment, affect and sociality, and the various intimacies humans construct with each other and with their environments. 

April 29, 2021
by Varshini

EthNoise! presents Ronit Ghosh

Join us tonight for a presentation from PhD student Ronit Ghosh!

“Mapping Jazz in India and India in Jazz: Improvisations and Encounters”

Abstract: Studying jazz in early twentieth century India involves tracking its myriad routes, its multiple mediations and the discursive horizons it forged and within which it operated and still operates. Even a cursory glance at the ways in which jazz has unfolded over specific locations and across boundaries firmly establishes the status of jazz as a shifting signifier, always spilling over, adapting to and in a promiscuous proximity with local genres and practices of musicking, both subsuming and reshaping not only repertoires, but also the very cultural attitudes towards what music and music-making mean. This presentation looks at the little-attended-to moments during the mid-twentieth century when American popular music rubs sonic shoulders with a plethora of other musical and performative genres within the complex soundscape of colonial modernity in India and asks whether the “Indian” in “Indian Jazz” is just an adjective, which otherwise denotes an essentially African American musical genre. To address this question, the presentation engages with the personal archives of the Chicago jazzman Roy Butler, who was among the most important and influential figures during the late-colonial jazz age in India. Engagement with the personal archives of Butler, I hope, will bring out the ways in which Indian Jazz during the late-colonial period was less an achieved form and more a result of complex financial, racial, technological, linguistic and most importantly racial negotiations of colonial metropoles in India during the 1930s. I navigate the archive as a space of consonance and dissonance, encounters and displacements, resonances and inconsistencies, all of which, I hope, will bring out the myriad twists, turns and meanderings that have punctuated the diffusion of not only jazz but more broadly Western popular musical entertainment in India. Jazz, I try to show, resides in local histories and travels of musicians and is the result of complex cultural negotiations, always occupying a space of liminality and working often as a trope that makes visible histories of migration, appropriation, globalization and diaspora.

April 22, 2021
by Varshini

EthNoise! presents Chun-bin Chen

Please join us this evening at 5:00pm CT for a presentation from U Chicago alumnus and visiting Senior Fulbright Fellow Chun-bin Chen!

Abstract: This paper aims to support and expand James Clifford’s debate on indigenous diasporas. He notes that indigenous diaspora is not a condition of exile, and a return of indigenous diasporas may take many forms. Although work with urban indigenous people has employed the concept of diaspora, the experience of those indigenous people who are living on or near ancestral lands in reduced areas (I call them “diasporas in ancestral lands”) has generally not informed diasporas discourse. The diasporas in ancestral lands discussed in this paper live in Papulu Village and belong to Pinuyumayan group, one of Taiwan’s 16 Indigenous Peoples. This village was established on a Pinuyumayan traditional territory occupied by Han settlers since the late 19th century, by a group of villagers moving out from the old Puyuma Village in the 19030s. Male age-set organizations, the men’s house and boys’ house, are a fundamental basis of Pinuyumayan social structure, but Papulu Village has not built a boys’ house since its establishment. “The Legacy,” a Papulu youth performing group established in 1998, has been partly fulfilling functions of a traditional boys’ house, through the group’s year-end door-to-door singing that initiates the village’s annual ritual and demarcates the village’s territory beyond its physical borders. Although the song and dance the Legacy performs are hybrid, incorporating Indigenous and non-Indigenous elements, through their musicking Papulu villagers experience a virtual return to their old Puyuma Village. By taking the Papulu people as an example of diasporas in ancestral lands to question the indigenous/diaspora opposition, I argue that indigenous diaspora studies not only help us better understand contemporary indigenous experiences, but also encourage us to rethink notions of home and spatial-temporal relationships in diaspora discourse.

April 15, 2021
by Varshini

EthNoise! presents Hannah Rogers

Join us this evening at 5:00pm for a workshop presentation by PhD Candidate Hannah Rogers!

Abstract: In retrospect, Mardi Gras 2020 marked the beginning of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in New Orleans. Murmurs about the virus circulated here as elsewhere, but at the time the threat itself seemed still distant, even as thousands of visitors arrived from all parts of the country, and even from beyond its borders. Mardi Gras 2021, then, was a chance to revisit not only the city’s strategy for containing the pandemic, but also to see whether the trope of resilience so prevalent in New Orleans’ image could prevail under such circumstances. A year into the crisis, with great loss of life and wages already behind it, how would New Orleans muster the Mardi Gras spirit? In this excursus, I grapple with the silence of Mardi Gras 2021 and the limitations of the national and international mediation of New Orleans as an exceptional site of resilience.

April 8, 2021
by Varshini

EthNoise! presents Dr. Sylvia Alajaji

Join us this evening for a presentation from visiting professor Dr. Sylvia Alajaji!

Legibility and its Discontents: Reflections on the Cacophonies of the Armenian Diaspora”

This talk will serve as a meditation on what, in essence, is an epistemological question: what is Armenian music? It is a question whose ripples extend far: into the nature of Armenian identity itself and the ways Armenian subjectivity has been constructed across time and place. Central to this question is the work of the beloved Armenian composer and folklorist Komitas Vardapet (1869-1935). He is a figure who not only has come to represent the very possibility of an “Armenian music” but, through the ways he has been written about, memorialized, and made central to the Armenian musical imaginary, has come to represent the possibility of an Armenia made whole.
But what is the sound of this whole—its contours, textures, and limits? And what is the meaning of that sound for a diaspora marked by its multiplicities and its varied (dis)connections to the nation-state of Armenia? Through an engagement with the discourses surrounding the life and work of Komitas, this talk will reflect on the implications of his centrality to the Armenian musical imaginary and how, through this centrality, the Armenian diaspora is made to emerge as an entity—as a Diaspora—its cacophonies and incommensurabilities subsumed into a legible whole. In examining the implicit elisions, alignments, orientations, and histories that attend such articulations, it becomes apparent that Diaspora, with its promises of clarity, stability, and knowability, is a construction that both maintains and needs maintaining and one that finds its legibility in the expanse of the Western gaze.

February 16, 2021
by Varshini

EthNoise! presents Dr. Sumanth Gopinath and Dr. Anna Schultz

This talk continues the project of our research on country duo Karl & Harty’s song “Kentucky” (1941), which over the two or three decades after WWII became a staple, familiar number in the country and bluegrass songbook. We examine versions of the song by the Blue Sky Boys (1947), the Louvin Brothers (1956), Homer & Jethro (1957), and the Everly Brothers (1958); a number of these seem to have spawned distinct cover lineages in the 1960s–1970s and after. We then focus on the Blue Sky Boys, whose four recorded versions of the song (1947, 1949, 1963, 1964) provide fascinating windows into their performance practices, artistic choices, and commercial compromises with the country music industry that they demonstrated and negotiated over the course of their career. As in our initial study, our arguments here focus on the problems of racialization in “Kentucky”: the different lineages illustrate a variety of ways in which racial and ethnic style markers suppress, affirm, or amplify the multiracial/multiethnic dimensions of the original song. In the case of the Blue Sky Boys in particular, their strong aesthetic preferences (seemingly inseparable from their religious and personal values) reimagined the song as a purified expression of rural Appalachian whiteness.

Join us tonight on Zoom!

January 28, 2021
by Varshini

EthNoise! presents David Wilson

Join us tonight at 5:00 pm as we workshop PhD candidate David Wilson’s paper, “Diplomatic Dances: The White-Haired Girl’s Journey from Revolutionary Classic to Post-Mao Palimpsest.”

The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) is often regarded as one of modern China’s most isolated periods. Furthermore, it is often regarded as quite separate from the historical periods that precede and follow it. As such, it is easy to forget that the Cultural Revolution was deeply formed by its historical antecedents, and that China was a key player in the rapidly shifting global politics of the 1960s and 1970s. This paper investigates the Shanghai Ballet’s 1977 tour of Canada, and the company’s overseas performances of the iconic revolutionary ballet The White-Haired Girl, as a way of situating China in its global historical and political context in the period immediately following Chairman Mao’s death.

We look forward to seeing you tonight!

January 14, 2021
by Varshini

EthNoise! presents Classical Music in the Time of COVID-19

Welcome back to Winter Quarter! Join us tonight at 5:00 pm for a panel presentation discussing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the classical music world. We’ll be hearing from:

Audrey Slote: “Sounding Resilience: Freelance Musicians in the Time of COVID-19”
Melani Shahin: “Rehearsing Together Alone: An Examination of Virtually Mediated Music-Making and Socialization in College Orchestras during the COVID-19 Pandemic”
The COVID-19 pandemic presents unique challenges for performers and scholars of music. Restrictions on travel and gatherings have led to necessary adaptations in the ways we produce and consume music, particularly classical music. Many classical musicians face an unprecedented level of precarity in their careers. Yet for many of us, music and the arts feel more essential than ever before. The resilience and determination of performing musicians to continue making and sharing their art stands out against a bleak backdrop of uncertainty and isolation.
We look forward to seeing you tonight!

December 3, 2020
by Varshini

EthNoise! presents Dr. Philip V. Bohlman

Please join us this evening at 5:00 pm for the final EthNoise! of the fall quarter!
“Forgetting, Forgetting, Forgetting: Recording the Wounded Dialectic in Heiner Müller and Heiner Goebbels’s Wolokolamsker Chaussee
The teaching piece (Lehrstück) and radio play, Wolokolamsker Chaussee (Volokolamsk Highway), was created by the East German playwright, Heiner Müller, in the waning years of the Cold War. Müller had long collaborated with the West German composer, Heiner Goebbels, so it was hardly surprising that they should again work together to transform the radio play into a recording that would be broadcast during the months of transition from the Fall of the Wall to German reunification (1989–90). Recordings of the performances, made at different radio stations in the West and East, were engineered by the ECM recording studio and released as an LP that metaphorically sounded the healing and further collapse of modern German and European identities. It is the ECM recording itself—a passing record of history—that is the subject of a new monograph by Phil Bohlman in the Bloomsbury series dedicated to reflections on single popular-music albums, “33 1/3.” The recording itself raises multiple ontological questions about the nature of a musical and dramatic work that exists only as a recording, sutured together from multiple fragments of text, narratives, and genres of music. Reimagined in traditional epic style, Wolokolamsker Chaussee is a parable of modernity and the violence it brings to history and humankind.
Hannah Judd, a PhD student in ethnomusicology, will serve as the respondent. You can join us on Zoom (password: modern). We look forward to seeing you then!

November 12, 2020
by Varshini

EthNoise! presents Dr. Elliott H. Powell

This evening, EthNoise is excited to welcome Dr. Elliott H. Powell for a presentation on his recent publication, Sounds from the Other Side: Afro-South Asian Collaborations in Black Popular Music.

Elliott H. Powell is a Beverly and Richard Fink Professor in Liberal Arts and Associate Professor of American Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of Minnesota. He is an interdisciplinary scholar of U.S. popular music, race, sexuality, and politics. His first book brings together critical race, feminist, and queer theories to consider the political implications of African American and South Asian collaborative music-making practices in U.S.-based Black Popular Music since the 1960s. In particular, the project investigates these cross-cultural exchanges in relation to larger global and domestic sociohistorical junctures that linked African American and South Asian diasporic communities, and argues that these Afro-South Asian cultural productions constitute dynamic, complex, and at times contradictory sites of comparative racialization, transformative gender and queer politics, and anti-imperial political alliances.

Dr. Powell will be in conversation with Thalea Stokes, a Ph.D. Candidate in Ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago.

You can join us tonight at 5:00pm on Zoom (password: miles).