EthNoise!

The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

November 15, 2019
by dfwilson
0 comments

Jun Lee presents on post-War Japanese singing traditions on Nov. 21

For the final EthNoise of the quarter, we are excited to welcome back history PhD candidate Jun Lee to present “Dual History of Utagoe: The Cases of Utagoe Kissa, 1995 to the Present.” Jun will be presenting the introduction to the final section of his dissertation, and will discuss the link between Utagoe, a mass singing movement in post-War Japan, and commercial coffeehouses that provide a space to perform this movement’s repertoire. The chapter he is presenting can be found here. The password is Utagoe.

Jun Hee Lee is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at the University of Chicago. His doctoral dissertation, titled “A Singing Voice for Our Times: the Utagoe Movement in Postwar Japan and Processes of History-Making,” follows two musical phenomena in post-World War II Japan: Nihon no Utagoe (Singing Voice of Japan), a singing movement that has maintained varying degrees of relationship with the Japan Communist Party, labor unions, socialist states, and musical professionals; utagoe kissa (“singing voice café”), a singing venue where patrons could sing songs together with instrumental accompaniment, whose repertoire included songs born from or introduced by the Utagoe movement.

October 10, 2019
by dfwilson
0 comments

Alumnus Chun-Bin Chen to present in EthNoise!

EthNoise! is thrilled be collaborating with the Arts and Politics of East Asia workshop to welcome Professor Chun-Bin Chen of Taipei National University of the Arts to present on his current research, “Highway Nine Musical Stories: Musicking of Taiwanese Aborigines at Home and in the National Concert Hall.”

 

Abstract:

Taking “On the Road,” a musical theater production of Taiwan’s National Theater and Concert Hall as an example, this paper deals with musical modernity of Taiwanese Aborigines. Premiered in 2010, “On the Road” was a collaboration between Taiwan National Symphony Orchestra and Puyuma Aboriginal musicians from Nanwang Village. Located on the southeast coast of Taiwan, this village is connected with the National Concert Hall by Highway Nine, at a distance of about 230 miles. Beneath the simple plot of the musical about how a Han-Taiwanese musician brought the Aboriginal musicians to perform at the Hall, there seems to be another story being narrated through the performance of the songs. This hidden story is an Aboriginal musical story spanning the time from the period of Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945) to recent years when Aboriginal musicians have achieved recognition in Taiwan’s music industry. By examining how the songs were composed and how they were performed at the both ends of Highway Nine, I aim to trace trajectories of contemporary Puyuma Aboriginal music. The trajectories indicate impacts of the Japanese school song education, assimilation policies of Japanese and Chinese governments, and the Modern Folksong Movement. The Aborigines’ musicking, however, demonstrates a form of aboriginality celebrating family values and indigenous identity as a response to the musical modernity related to the settler impacts. This study thus may help us understand how socio-cultural interactions between the Aborigines and settlers shape contemporary Aboriginal music and how the Aborigines create, convey and perceive its meanings through musicking.

 

Professor Chen earned his PhD in 2007 from the University of Chicago ethnomusicology department, where his dissertation was titled “Voices of Double Marginality: Music, Body, and Mind of Taiwanese Aborigines in the Post-Modern Era.”

October 10, 2019
by dfwilson
0 comments

First EthNoise! of 2019-2020 AY

On October 3rd, EthNoise! was pleased to welcome ethnomusicology doctoral students Varshini Narayanan and Jacob Secor, who presented on their summer fieldwork. This was an exciting opportunity to learn about research interests of current students in the department, to discuss questions of fieldwork methodology and data organization, and to meet new members of the department and community!

May 7, 2019
by Jon
0 comments

EthNoise! To Meet This Thursday, May 9

Dear all,

I’m writing to remind you that EthNoise! will meet this Thursday, May 9, from 5-6:20 pm in Rosenwald 301. Our presenter will be Dr. Anna Schultz, the newest faculty member in ethnomusicology in the Department of Music. Dr. Schultz will be presenting “Rehearing the Past: Identity and Indenture in Indian Guyanese Music,” an abstract for which appears below. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out before then if you have any questions at all. I look forward to seeing you soon!

Sincerely,

Jon Bullock

“Rehearing the Past: Identity and Indenture in Indian Guyanese Music”

150 years after the end of indenture in the British Caribbean, its spectre lingers in the music of East Indians in Guyana and twice-diasporic Indian Guyanese people in North America. For many Indian Guyanese performers, the past is a reminder of indenture’s traumas, while for others, it is painful for its erasures, for the cultural disruptions wrought of forced and coerced relocation. For still others, the past is an embarrassing site of rural stereotypes. Political theorists have emphasized the role of tradition and historical imagination in nationalist formations, but how do Indian Caribbeans construct nationalist and diasporic identities when the past is so fraught? In this talk—with examples drawn from YouTube slideshows, U.S. Guyanese Hindu temple performance, and current chutney-soca hits—I argue that Indian Guyanese performers adopt a range of musical strategies to re-imagine a past shaped by indenture. Through creative recontextualization and remediation, singers transform trauma into heritage, they rob stereotypes of their power, and they look to India when Caribbean pasts prove too painful.

April 29, 2019
by Jon
0 comments

EthNoise! To Meet This Thursday, May 2, at 5 PM

Dear all,

After several weeks off, EthNoise! will resume our more regular workshop schedule beginning this Thursday, May 2, at 5 PM. We will meet in Rosenwald 301, and the speaker will be Dr. Kaley Mason, former UChicago faculty and Assistant Professor of Music and Area Coordinator for World Music at Lewis & Clark College. Dr. Mason will be presenting “Mollywood at the Borderlands: A Song of South Indian Solidarity with Latinidad,” an abstract for which is included below.
“The people of Southwestern India have experienced widespread economic emigration since the Malayalam-speaking state of Kerala was formed in 1956. After electing India’s first communist government in 1957, Kerala’s strong unions discouraged investment in industry, which prompted many workers to seek economic opportunities abroad. As a result, nearly every family has an archive of stories about migration and encounter, themes that have figured prominently in the region’s film industry, Mollywood. Until recently, the cinema focused on migration to the Middle East, but the 2017 film, Comrade in America, portrays a young Indian communist leader who travels to Nicaragua to join others on a journey to the Mexico-US border. Drawing on conversations with the film makers, this paper will examine the repurposing of a popular communist anthem to express solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees against the backdrop of the Trump Administration’s anti-immigration policies.”
Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns, and I look forward to seeing you on Thursday!
Sincerely,
Jon Bullock

April 2, 2019
by Jon
0 comments

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.
.
April 4– Dr. Rumya Putcha, “Refrains of a Hillbilly Elegy: Country Boys, Social Media, and the Affective Politics of 21st-Century White Supremacy”
.
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.
.
May 2– Dr. Kaley Mason (Assistant Professor of Music at Lewis & Clark College and former ethnomusicology faculty at UChicago), topic TBA
.
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.
.

May 9– Dr. Anna Schultz (the newest ethnomusicology faculty member here at UChicago), “An Ethnomusicologist among the Historians”

.
May 16– Mari Jo Velasco (Postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University and UChicago Music Department alumna), topic TBA
.
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
0 comments

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
0 comments

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
____________________________________________________
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
0 comments

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

————————————————————-

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
0 comments

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!
.
Until then,
Jon Bullock
Skip to toolbar