The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

March 3, 2022
by fionaboyd

EthNoise! Presents Anjelica Fabro

Please join us on today (Thursday, March 3) from 4:30-6pm on Zoom for a presentation from Anjelica Fabro, Ph.D. Candidate in Music.

“What Sweeten de Goat Mout, Bun he Tail: Overconsumption, Morality, and Health in Barbados”

Abstract: Recently, Barbadian society has had to acknowledge there is something wrong with their beloved Barbados as the nation’s underbelly continuously reveals itself. During the first week of June 2021, Barbadians discussed the “viral” Trojan Riddim, a Bajan Dub/Dancehall riddim featuring ten Barbadian artists. The lyrics depicting gun violence and the violent destinies of informants of crime in the Barbadian streets and the accompanying music videos featuring guns caused social outrage among the Barbadian public. For several days, Barbadians took part in discourses on national identity and culture, the musicians’ ethical responsibilities, and the music consumers’ morality because of this controversial Trojan Riddim. According to the Barbadian public, the riddim was the latest symptom of a Barbadian society plagued with crime and violence — the opposite of Barbados’s image as a Christian and respectable nation.Many Barbadians also struggle with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) with high rates of heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes among adults. Lifestyles of overconsumption promoted in songs and advertisements featuring well-known Barbadian artists and the traditional Barbadian diet are two contributing factors in these high rates. Barbadians’ pursuit of literal and figurative sweetness (pleasure and euphoria) in fêtes, limes, and family meals is part of Barbadian culture, but it is also leading some Barbadians to an early grave.

In Barbados, Christians and Christianity are possible cures for the island’s diseased society. Simultaneously, the local Christian church is considered a hostile and overly conservative institution that aggravated these issues concerning violence and health in Barbados. In this preliminary analysis, I use the Trojan Riddim controversy and recent public health initiatives as launching points to discuss the ambiguous role of Christianity in the Barbadian national image and body politic, as well as musical and culinary tastes during Christian worship and fellowship.

Anjelica Fabro is a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago. Her dissertation focuses on aesthetics, the senses, and Christian worship music in Barbados.

February 17, 2022
by fionaboyd

EthNoise! presents Kate Brucher

Please join us on today (Thursday, February 17) from 4:30-6pm on Zoom for a presentation from Kate Brucher, Associate Professor of Music and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at DePaul University School of Music, and the incoming editor for the journal Ethnomusicology. Ailsa Lipscombe, Ph.D. Candidate in Music, will serve as the respondent.

“Public Infrastructure and Musical Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic”

Abstract: Public spaces such as city parks, plazas, and streets have been used as outdoor performance venues to provide communities with safer spaces to gather during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Open air performances have been viewed as consistent with good public health practices, but these events have also been considered beneficial for fostering a sense of connection among participants and spurring economic recovery during the pandemic. In this presentation, I examine how over the course of the pandemic, recreational and political infrastructure – public spaces, municipal agencies– have taken on greater significance to local music scenes and how, in turn, musical endeavors have promoted engagement with these infrastructures.

The City of Chicago provides a case study for this project. In March 2020, lockdown ended public performances throughout the city, and musicians of all genres lost opportunities to perform. Professional musicians and the many people working in supporting roles in the music industry lost income along with the institutions and businesses that host performances. While many performers pivoted to online platforms, open air spaces –especially those maintained by the Chicago Park District – offered opportunities for in-person musical activity. This includes events sanctioned by the city through initiatives such as Night Out in the Parks as well as block parties, concerts, and festivals organized by community organizations, local park councils, non-profit groups, and private businesses. Through interviews with musicians, audience members, park district employees, and other stakeholders and observation of ongoing activities, I explore how these performances have engaged local communities with public spaces. This project sheds light on how public spaces help sustain musical life and potentially revive cultural economies in a post COVID 19 pandemic world.

Kate Brucher is an Associate Professor of Music and teaches courses in ethnomusicology, music research methods, and global musics at the DePaul University School of Music, where she currently serves as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. She is Incoming Editor for the journal Ethnomusicology and previously served as its Book Reviews Co-Editor. Kate has published on Chicago’s music scenes, global brass band traditions, music and locality, and Portuguese music. She has edited, with Suzel Ana Reily, Brass Bands of the World: Militarism, Colonial Legacies, and Local Music (2013) and the Routledge Companion to the Study of Local Musicking (2018).

November 4, 2021
by fionaboyd

EthNoise! presents Joseph Maurer

Please join us on Thursday, December 2 from 4:30-6pm on Zoom for a presentation from Joseph (Joe) Maurer, Ph.D. and Humanities Teaching Fellow in Music, with a response from Music Ph.D. candidate Hannah Judd:

“Anemoia Listening: Nostalgia, Fantasy, and Despair”

Abstract: In the twenty-first century, a new style of listening has emerged among members of the Gen-Z and Millennial generations. Characterized by fantasy and nostalgic longing for something they’ve never experienced, this style of listening can be observed online in various niche musical communities. In YouTube comments under synthwave and vaporwave music compilations, listeners discuss fantasies of future-pasts and retro-futures, of lives they might live if not constrained by their current late capitalist conditions. Reddit threads about sea chanteys abound with fantasies of life at sea, of sailing out beyond the service industry or office jobs in which the posters are trapped.

This paper proposes a theoretical framework for this new breed of listening practice, developed through analysis of the sound aesthetics of specific musical genres but with potential applicability beyond. Anemoia, a neologism coined by John Koenig for his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, is “nostalgia for a time you’ve never known.” Internet users have taken up the word, often deploying it in a literal historical sense, e.g., in the comments under YouTube videos of actual music from the 1980s (Ward 2021: 13–14). I propose a more expansive application of the term to young people’s listening practices today, particularly their listening to fantasy musics like synthwave or pirate chanteys that play with past and future, fact and fiction. This framework, which I call anemoia listening, offers a window into the fantasies of young people struggling with the dismal lack of opportunity and looming decline of present day society. However, it also illuminates the limits of imagination under capitalist realism (Fisher 2009). Just as these listeners cannot imagine the end of capitalism, they cannot imagine life before capitalism. Nonetheless, through anemoia listening—and the sheens of irony, anxiety, and despair so characteristic of these generations—they fashion fantasies that help them to escape at least their current conditions of decline.

Joe Maurer is a postdoctoral Humanities Teaching Fellow at the University of Chicago, where he recently completed a PhD in Ethnomusicology. He researches music education in Chicago immigrant communities, maritime music revivalism and aesthetics, and U.S.-based political music. His public and nonprofit-sector work includes research, strategic planning, and program evaluation for Chicago arts education organizations. Prior to his doctoral studies, Joe worked with high school students as a college access counselor in Providence, RI and Boston, MA.

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!