The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

November 26, 2016
by Leitner

12/1: Ameera Nimjee

Please join us on Thursday December 1st from 4.30-6pm in Goodspeed 205. PhD Candidate Ameera Nimjee will share a chapter from her dissertation, entitled “Into the Photographic Studio: Locating Contemporaneity in Visual Cultures”. Anna Seastrand, Collegiate Professor in the Humanities Core, will provide a response to Ameera’s presentation. Please note: a password protected copy of her chapter is available here; contact for the password if you will be attending. You are encouraged to read the full chapter, but welcome to attend regardless!

“Into the Photographic Studio: Locating Contemporaneity in Visual Cultures”

This chapter is a close study of an album of Indian studio photographs, compiled sometime around 1910. The “courtesan album,” to which it has become referred, features 146 cartes-de-visite and cabinet cards, taken between 1870 and 1910. Contained in the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM’s) Jhabvala Collection of Photography, the sitters in the portraits are mostly Indian courtesans, who were professional entertainers in the intimate spaces of their salons and in courts, performing forms of music and dance for elite Indian audiences. While the album commemorates these women and their occupations as entertainers, it was compiled at a time of their systemic decline in Indian history. Courtesans were symbols of a pre-colonial and
pre-modern cultural practice, in which elite forms of entertainment existed with some proximity to sex work. 2007-17-1-2As the official period of British colonialism began in 1857, British administrators and British-educated Indian intellectuals alike advocated for the “anti-nautch movement,” which sought to remove the patronage of this kind of entertainment in India. The ROM’s courtesan album offers a counter-narrative to this movement, inciting a discussion on photographic reality and these women as contributors to the modern invention of Indian classical dance. I mobilize the album in the broader context of my dissertation to show that the album challenges the genre category Indian contemporary dance by reconsidering what it means to be and become contemporary in music and dance. 

November 15, 2016
by Leitner

11/18: Prof Kimberly Cannady (Victoria University, NZ)

On Friday November 18, we welcome Prof Kimberly Cannady to EthNoise. She joins us from Victoria University, New Zealand. Please support our distinguished guest in Goodspeed 205 from 4-5.30pm. A pay-your-way dinner will follow, to which all are welcome!

The Polar Bear’s Stomach: The Greenlandic Drum in Post-Colonial Nuuk

For many Greenlanders, especially those based in the capital city of Nuuk, the frame drum (qilaat) is more likely to be seen as a wall decoration than as a viable musical instrument. This has been the case now for multiple generations, but things are changing with the emergence of local and nation-wide initiatives to spread the music and dance of the drum into everyday life. In this research I introduce a group of Nuuk based Inuit musicians working to revitalize the drum as a viable musical instrument while also negotiating its role in legacies of colonialism, cultural imperialism, and Christianization. At the same time, global climate change poses new challenges for access to traditional material for drum making and the larger Inuit cosmological context. Through this work, I explore the importance of self-determination in revitalization efforts, as well as the relationships between such efforts and ongoing cultural decolonization in a new age of Arctic exploration & exploitation.

In this workshop, I look forward to sharing this article-in-progress with you (following the presentation of a shorter version at SEM last week). I am particularly eager to discuss the ethics of this research, approaches to incorporating indigenous methodologies and perspectives in critical ethnographic writing, as well as the overall progress of the material as an article.



Dr Kimberly Cannady teaches ethnomusicology at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. She completed her PhD at the University of Washington in 2014. Her research interests include indigenous music in the Arctic, as well as popular and traditional music making in Iceland and the larger Nordic region. She is also involved in a range of research projects working with music and new refugee resettlement efforts in Aotearoa New Zealand.

November 2, 2016
by Leitner

11/17: Prof Gabriel Solis (UIUC)

Mark your calendars! We are excited to welcome Prof Gabriel Solis from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on November 17 from 4.30-6pm in Goodspeed 205. He will be presenting his latest research entitled “‘It’s Always in Flux, Always Fleeting’: Hip-Jazz, Afrofuturism, and the Challenge of Understanding Popular Music Beyond the Bounds of Genre.” Please find the abstract below. A pay-your-way dinner for will follow at a local restaurant; RSVP to if you wish to attend the dinner.

Please circulate this announcement widely; all are welcome and refreshments will be served.

“‘It’s Always in Flux, Always Fleeting’: Hip-Jazz, Afrofuturism, and the Challenge of Understanding Popular Music Beyond the Bounds of Genre.”

Jazz has been in dialogue with other forms of African American popular music for virtually all of its history, and its audiences have generally listened to it alongside those other forms.  Nonetheless, jazz has also regularly separated itself from the rest of the popular tradition, a gesture of aesthetic distinction that has been supported by a purist strain in music criticism and fandom.  This talk looks at this enduring issue through the work of three Los Angeles-based artists who draw on the legacy of hip hop, fusion jazz, and the jazz avant garde of the 1970s: Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus, and Robert Glasper.  Drawing on theories from ethnomusicology, Afro-futurism, and science and technology studies, I ask what we might learn about genre in African American music traditions and the stakes of distinction for musicians today.  I turn briefly at the end to a discussion of contemporary approaches to genre analysis in the field of Digital Humanities, asking how might we leverage emerging methodologies to bring research and practice closer together in jazz studies and how the music might direct us toward better methodologies in the new digital scholarship.

October 13, 2016
by Leitner

SEM dry runs (10/20, 10/27)

Five Ethnomusicology PhD students will present their Society for Ethnomusicology papers over two sessions, the first on October 20 and the second on October 27. Both sessions will meet in Goodspeed Hall 205 from 4.30-6pm.

October 20: Joe Maurer, Mili Leitner, Ailsa Lipscombe.

October 27: Evan Pensis, Adrienne Alton-Gust.

Titles and abstracts below.

Continue Reading →

October 4, 2016
by Leitner

10/6: Reports from the Field

Please join us this Thursday October 6th from 4.30-6pm in Goodspeed 205. Four PhD students from ethnomusicology and music history/theory will be offering “reports from the field”, sharing their first-hand experiences of fieldwork and archival research with us. In their own words (and pictures):

  • Hannah Rogers: “I’ll be talking about my first efforts to understand relationships between music and tourism in Cuba. One of my overarching and ever-present questions is: what is “tourist music”?”
  • Lester Hu“Over the summer I spent some great time in various archives in Beijing and Taipei. Yet the most memorable parts are not the discoveries I made there but the following two ethical questions about which I would love to hear your insights: (1) how to globally position a project that involves multi-site archival research, and (2) the ethics of gaining access to sites or materials nominally off-limits.”
  • Laura Turner: I’ll talk about my engagement with communities of old-time musicians and aficionados in Mt Airy, North Carolina and England. 
  • Maria Perevedentseva: My talk will focus on two trips taken to Berlin this summer in order to explore the workings of the city’s electronic music scene. Particular attention will be paid to the Tresor 25 Years festival, the Berlin Atonal festival, and a handful of other clubbing institutions.


August 30, 2016
by Leitner

Autumn 2016 Schedule

EthNoise meets on Thursdays from 4.30-6pm in Goodspeed Hall 205, unless otherwise stated. Our schedule for Autumn 2016 is as follows:

  • September 29 (week 1): Introducing new UChicago Ethnomusicology faculty member Prof Jessica Baker.
  • October 6 (week 2): Reports from the field by PhD students Laura Turner, Hannah Rogers, Maria Perevedentseva, and Lester Hu.
  • October 20 (week 4): Society for Ethnomusicology conference presentations by PhD students Mili Leitner, Joe Maurer, and Ailsa Lipscombe.
  • October 27 (week 5): Society for Ethnomusicology conference presentations by PhD students Adrienne Alton-Gust and Evan Pensis.
  • November 17 (week 8): Guest speaker Prof Gabriel Solis, UIUC.
  • November 18 (week 8 – Friday 4pm): Guest speaker Prof Kimberly Cannady, Victoria University (New Zealand).
  • December 1 (week 10): Ameera Nimjee, PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology, presents a chapter from her dissertation.

May 19, 2016
by Joe

May 19: Olha Kolomyyets

A thrilling year of intellectual engagement is winding to a close. Please join us for our final EthNoise! workshop of the year this Thursday, May 19, at 4:30 in Goodspeed 205. Olha Kolomyyets, PhD, Ethnomusicologist, Professor at the Musicology Department, Ivan Franko Lviv National University (Ukraine), Liaison Officer of  International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) in Ukraine, Fulbright Scholar at the Department of Music, University of Chicago (2015-2016), will present a paper titled “The Musical Journey of A Ukrainian Ethnomusicologist at the Turn of the Millennium: A Very Short Introduction.” 

“Starting my journey in Ukraine at the very beginning of a new Millennium, I passed different paths, moving from encounters inside my country to the outside musical world: studying native musical culture during the first years of Ukrainian independence and revival (cultural, spiritual, educational) in the country, exploring musical cultures of ethnic minorities in different regions of Ukraine (in particular Armenian and Volokhi (Bajeschi) communities) and their correlation with local Ukrainian culture; and moving on, crossing the Ukrainian border for a field work research covering the stylistic school of Kirana singers in the context of professional music of the oral tradition of Northern India, which became a topic of my dissertation.

As a Fulbright Scholar, studying the basic methods of learning and researching traditional musical culture of other (unrelated, foreign) ethnicities in academic and performance settings in the US, I consider this a new period and one of the most important turning points in my musical and scholar journey. In my presentation I describe the crucial encounters that happened on my way, the researches that led me to my current project in the United States and made me reconsider the best achievements and intentions of Ukrainian ethnomusicologists during the developing of the discipline in the beginning of 20th century, which often were not realized in corpore due to different political and social obstacles. Those researches also caused me to ask and consider many questions, among them why studying the musical culture of foreign ethnicities, the area scantly developed in Ukrainian ethnomusicology, but considering the historical, social and cultural contexts, remains extremely urgent. That is why, opening borders for world musics, is important for a Ukrainian ethnomusicologist in the Age of globalization to keep the balance between solving urgent questions in the study of native musics for “not to lose much what is close to home” [Bohlman, 2002], and, on the other hand to look for the appropriate tools and fruitful discussions with the colleagues from abroad because of “the need for intercultural understanding” [Hemetek, 2009] in its broadest sense.”

As always, we will meet in Goodspeed 205 at 4:30 pm, and we will provide food and drink. Please join us for our final talk of the year!

May 3, 2016
by Joe

Thurs May 5 — Sat May 7: Conference and Concert

The Global Midwest – The History of World Music Recording

Chicago Conference – May 5–7, 2016

Franke Institute for the Humanities


Ontologies of Recording – The Chicago Workshop


Thursday, May 5

4:00 – Opening session – African American Recorded Palimpsests

Travis A. Jackson (University of Chicago) – opening talk

7:30 pm – Performance, New Budapest Orpheum Society, Fulton Hall – “Yom ha-Shoah:

Commemoration Performance for Holocaust Remembrance Day”


Friday, May 6

Morning session – Recording Diaspora

9:00 – Opening remarks

9:30 – Aileen Dillane (University of Limerick) – “The O’Neill Cylinders and the World(ing)

of Irish Music in Chicago, c. 1903”

10:30 – Coffee break

10:45 – 11:45 – Edwin Seroussi (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) – “Unlocking the EMI

Recordings Archive: A Judeo-Spanish Song Collection Resurfaces after a Century

of Silence”


Afternoon session – Historiographies of Recording

1:15 – Lars-Christian Koch (Berlin Phonogram Archive) – “Hornbostel in America”

2:15 – Ian Nagoski (Canary Records) – “Recordings of the Ottoman-American Diaspora

in Chicago and New York City, 1893–1919”

3:15 – Coffee break

3:30 – Workshop session at the John Steiner Collection, Special Collections (presenters:

Michael Allemana, Will Faber, and Hannah Rogers)


Saturday, May 7

Morning session – The Traveling Scholars Seminar

9:00 – Part 1

10:00 – Coffee break

10:30–12:00 – Part 2

The Traveling Scholars are the twelve participating graduate students from the Universities

of Chicago, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Wisconsin–Madison.


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.


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