Posts RSS Comments RSS

Spring 2012 EthNoise! Schedule

Our Spring 2012 schedule for EthNoise! has been finalized and we are pleased to welcome a great group of presenters.

APRIL 12 – Gregor Kokorz, Mellon Visiting Scholar at the University of Chicago


APRIL 19 – Fernando Rios, Visiting Assistant Professor in Ethnomusicology, School of Music, University of Maryland, College Park


APRIL 26 – Marvin D. Sterling, Associate Professor, Indiana University Department of Anthropology


MAY 10 – Philip V. Bohlman, Mary Werkman Distinguished Service Professor of Music and the Humanities, University of Chicago


MAY 17 – Dr. S. Gregory, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Anthropology, Kannur University, Palayad, Thalassery, India


MAY 24 – Lillian Wohl, PhD Student in Ethnomusicology, University of Chicago


MAY 31 – Robert L. Kendrick, Professor of Music, University of Chicago


We look forward to seeing you there.    As always, we will meet on Thursday afternoons at 4:30, in Goodspeed Hall, Room 205.

Comments Off

Bennett Zon, Feb 21st

Announcing a special workshop co-sponsored by the Music History/Theory Workshop, the EthNoise! Ethnomusicology Workshop, the 18th/19th Century Cultures Workshop, and the Nicholson Center for British Studies.  On February 21, @3:00pm at the Fulton Recital Hall, Professor Bennett Zon, from Durham University UK, will present his work on “Evolution and spiritual selection in Victorian musical culture.”

ABSTRACT:  The history of religion and science has often been caricatured as strewn with mortal conflict. Early books on the topic, like John William Draper’s History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874) or Andrew Dickson White’s A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896) did nothing to dispel this view.  The battle between religion and science was, however, never as consistently divisive as these books might suggest, and during the Victorian period there was at times an amicable, albeit dynamic, relationship between the two. Like twins separated at birth, religion and science occasionally rediscovered one another in the booming culture of post-Darwinian Britain, to find abundant similarities and curiously engrossing differences. This is the story of such a relationship, exploring the influence of evolution within the science and religion of Victorian Britain, and then tracing its impact on England’s leading music philosopher, Joseph Goddard (1833–1911).

Because Goddard published regularly throughout most of the Victorian period his work provides a helpful glimpse into the development of Britain’s musicological mind. That mind was deeply immersed in contemporary scientific, religious and philosophical debates, not least as they relate to changes in evolutionary theory. Indeed, as evolutionary theory evolved, so too did musicology. Goddard’s philosophy of music reflects those changes very clearly, from his early days as a flag-waving Spencerian to his later, more circumspect time as a devout Darwinian. Like many other intellectuals of the time, however, Goddard fell sway to the Darwinian argument, abandoning neither his good Spencerian principles nor his fundamental belief in the spiritual nature of the universe. To the extent that Darwin failed to resolve his own religious conflict, he was similarly compromised.  Darwin calls it his ‘muddle’, and it is that so-called muddle between scientific knowledge and religious belief, played out in vast swathes of Victorian intellectual culture, which one finds represented and resolved in Goddard’s philosophy of music.

This paper charts the history of Darwin’s muddle as emblematic of Victorian debates about religion and science, looking closely at the relationship of natural theology and the emerging science of evolution. It examines the resolution of that relationship into a theology consonant with evolution yet true to its religious roots, and then situates that theology broadly within Goddard’s philosophy of music.

Persons who require assistance to participate fully in this event should contact Andy Greenwood at in advance.

Comments Off

Feb. 9th, Dr. Kelly Askew

Please join us for a special EthNoise! session cosponsored with the African Studies Workshop, as we welcome Dr. Kelly Askew (Associate Professor, Anthropology and Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan).  We will meet on Thursday, Feb. 9th, in Regenstein Library, Room 264, at 4:30 for her talk, “‘Poetry in Motion’: Ethnography vs. Cinematography in a Swahili Music Documentary.

Poetry in Motion: 100 Years of Zanzibar’s Nadi Ikhwan Safaa is a (2011) documentary film about the oldest taarab orchestra in the world: Zanzibar’s Nadi Ikhwan Safaa (“The True Brotherhood Club”). Taarab is a genre of sung Swahili poetry popular along the coasts and off lying islands of Kenya and Tanzania. The music of coastal East Africa is an aesthetic manifestation of the confluence of Indian Ocean dhow trade networks with caravan trade networks from central and southern Africa for it was at the East African coast and through Swahili middlemen that these two trading systems would meet. In taarab performance, therefore, one hears the rhythms of local ngoma dances, South Asian vocal timbre, and Arabian instrumentation. Swahili, a Bantu language with significant Arabic vocabulary, ties these together into an urban genre that varies in musical inflection up and down the coast as do the dialects that mark Mombasa Swahili as distinct from Zanzibari Swahili. In this presentation, I wish to share and invite discussion about the challenges we faced in trying to escape from the formulaic genre that “African music documentary” has become.

The “African music documentary” genre was created around West and South African musical forms. Among other things, it entails cutting the visual to a driving beat. But what does one do when the musical form, though “African,” does not have a beat as driving as expected? How does one maintain visual interest? How does one accommodate Western expectations about African music when the selected musical form (a variety of orchestral music) is not easily identifiable as “African”? How do you elicit audience interest in a genre for which conventional performance practice is the affectation of studied disinterest? And how do you deal with the problem we faced of centering the film on a single event—the 100th anniversary concert—and having that event go catastrophically badly? Do you stick true to “documentary value” whatever the damage to the film’s original objectives?

I welcome this opportunity to share these dilemmas from the filming and post-production processes of Poetry in Motion, showing a few selected clips from the film and interspersing them with discussion about the challenges they entailed. I expect this to lead us into a more general discussion about generic constraints in film production and the use of editorial—not to mention artistic—license in reconciling documentary value with cinematic value.







Comments Off

February 2nd, Rachel Adelstein

Please join us at the Ethnoise! workshop this Thursday, February 2nd at 4:30, in Goodspeed Hall room 205.  We will welcome Rachel Adelstein (PhD Candidate, U Chicago, Ethnomusicology) as she presents “Kol Isha:  Jewish Women’s Voices In Prayer And Song”

Abstract: This presentation traces the paths by which women’s singing voices found their way into the contemporary non-Orthodox synagogue.  I address the sources of traditional Jewish cultural objections to women singing in public, many of which are still in force in traditional societies today.  I draw on historical sources to demonstrate how women gradually claimed space and presence in public sonic spaces so that their eventual emergence as cantors occurred with relatively little resistance.  I discuss the physical challenges that women liturgical singers faced upon encountering a beloved repertoire composed specifically for the male voice, and I draw on ethnographic research to show some of the ways that women have adapted to the vocal challenges of the contemporary cantorate.

Rachel Adelstein, PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, where she wrote her thesis on music as a carrier of Holocaust memory. Her current research interests include contemporary Jewish liturgical music, American vernacular music, and issues of gender and women’s agency. In her spare time, she is a shape-note singer and a Scottish country dancer, and has recently taken up the gaohu (the soprano Chinese violin).

We look forward to seeing you there.

Photos: Hazzan Arlyne Unger (top) and performing khaznte Bas Sheva in the film Catskill Honeymoon (bottom)


Comments Off

Jan 26th, Nitasha Tamar Sharma

Please join us for an upcoming Ethnoise! workshop on Thursday, January 26th, at 4:30 in Goodspeed Hall, Room 402.

Dr. Nitasha Sharma (Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University) will present a paper titled “Post-9/11 Brown: U.S. South Asian Rappers and a Critique of U.S. Empire.”

This talk draws from Dr. Sharma’s decade-long ethnographic research on South Asian American, or desi, hip hop artists. This multimedia presentation expands her book’s focus on South Asian/Black relations to a transnational scale by drawing upon recent examples of music made by desi rappers who make links with revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa. Dr. Sharma is an Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University and she is the author of Hip Hop Desis (Duke University Press, 2010).


Comments Off

Jan 12th, Nathan Bakkum

Please join us for our second Ethnoise! workshop of the quarter.

We welcome Nathan Bakkum (Director of Musicology, Columbia College Chicago).  He will present a paper titled:

“Out But In: Between Discourse and Practice in a London Jazz Quartet.”

The discourse surrounding the production of “authentic” jazz has long coded the music as a product of African-American communities, focused on apprenticeship and live performance as primary educational modes. This discourse marks American musicians as insiders while forcing improvisers of other nationalities into hyphenated, hybridized musical identities. For the young British jazz quartet Empirical, this outsider status has not halted a focused, sustained, personal engagement with the jazz tradition. The ensemble’s 2009 recording, Out ’n’ In, presents eleven performances based on the music of Eric Dolphy. Rather than presenting a repertory project, Empirical undertakes a modern re-imagining of Dolphy’s work, based on a consideration of the processes and relationships undergirding the original recordings. The group sidesteps the traditional apprenticeship model, looking to recordings as their primary sources for understanding of the tradition. While their outsider status informs their reverent, intimate relationship with their source materials, Empirical’s intense, practical study has led the group to a collective understanding of experimentation and play as central ideologies demonstrated within Dolphy’s music. Through ethnographic and musicological analysis, this article explores several ways in which Empirical bridges the gap between these discursive and performative worlds through their active engagement with the jazz canon.
Nathan Bakkum serves as Director of Musicology at Columbia College Chicago, where he teaches courses in music history and popular music studies (including rock, jazz, and hip-hop) and coordinates the department’s offerings in music history and music appreciation. He holds a Ph.D. in History and Theory of Music (2009) and an M.A. in Ethnomusicology (2006) from the University of Chicago, an M.Mus. (2002) in Double Bass from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a B.Mus. (1999) in Music Education from DePaul University.  His research interests include jazz historiography, the production and reception of musical recordings, and intersections between history and anthropology. As a bassist, he has studied with jazz legend Richard Davis and Chicago jazz stalwart Larry Gray.

Thursday, January 12, 4:30
Goodspeed Hall, Room 205

Persons who believe they may need assistance to participate in this event, please call Will Faber in advance at 773.987.5299.


Comments Off

Jan 5th, Alisha Lola Jones

Please join us for the first Ethnoise! of the winter quarter.  Alisha Lola Jones (U Chicago) will present “‘This Prayer Is UnSpoken': Breaking Silence and Negotiating Queerness in Black Gospel Performance.”

This paper examines performances and discourses of two gospel artists,
Ton3x and Jungle Cat, who embody longstanding tensions and
contradictions concerning queerness and black Christian identity.
Through a comparative description and analysis, I argue that these men
attempt to break the silence around issues of sexuality that persists
among gospel practitioners. Silence breaking is, in many ways, a
highly creative act through which these gospel artists launch
critiques and renegotiate their identities through social media.
Expressing a progressive black Pentecostal masculinity through musical
gesture and sound, they intentionally push boundaries of gender
identity while carving out new social and spiritual “homes” through
bodily performance. In so doing, they also give voice to “unspoken”
forms of gospel praise.

We will convene at 4:30 on Thursday, Jan 5th in Goodspeed 205.

Persons who believe they may need assistance to participate in this event, please call Will Faber in advance at 773.987.5299.

Comments Off

Winter 2012 Schedule

Our winter 2012 schedule for Ethnoise! has been finalized and we are pleased to welcome a great group of presenters.

January 5-    Alisha Lola Jones, U Chicago
January 12-  Nate Bakkum, Columbia College Chicago
January 19-  Michael Gallope, U Chicago
January 26-  Nitasha Tamar Sharma, Northwestern
February 2-  Rachel Adelstein, U Chicago
February 9-  Kelly Askew, Michigan
February 23- Suzi Wint, U Chicago

We look forward to seeing you there.    As always, we will meet on Thursday afternoons at 4:30, in Goodspeed Hall, Room 205.

Comments Off

Dec 8th, Michael O’Toole

We are excited to host Michel O’Toole, Phd Candidate in the Music Department at the University of Chicago on December 8th, at 4:30 in Goodspeed Hall, room 205.  He will present a paper titled  ‘”This is my therapy”‘: Learning, Practicing, and Rehearsing at the ‘Berlin Conservatory for Turkish Music.'”

Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please email Will Faber in advance at


Comments Off

Nov 10th, Alisha Lola Jones and Rachel Adelstein

Please join us for Ethnoise! the Ethnomusicology Workshop on Thursday, November 10th, at 4:30 in Goodspeed Hall, Room 205 for presentations by University of Chicago graduate students Alisha Lola Jones and Rachel Adelstein.  They will dry-run papers prepared for the upcoming Society for Ethnomusicology/ Congress on Research in Dance Annual Meeting.

Alisha Lola Jones will present “Pole Dancing for Jesus: Gesture, Masculinity and the Circus of Sexual Ambiguity in Gospel Performance.”

Rachel Adelstein will present “City of Sisterly Love: The Women Cantors Network Conference As a Site Of Feminine Spirituality.”

We look forward to seeing you there.
Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please call Will Faber in advance at 773-987-5299.


Comments Off

« Newer Entries - Older Entries »