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Oct 11 – Marti Newland and Paul T. Kwami

All are welcome to the first EthNoise! of the year, featuring Marti Newland and Paul T. Kwami

On the Value of Quietness: Dr. Paul T. Kwami Conducting the Fisk Jubilee Singers®

Thursday, October 11 at 4:30 p.m. in Goodspeed Hall, room 205

The Fisk Jubilee Singers, an acapella concert spiritual ensemble comprised of Fisk University students directed by Dr. Paul T. Kwami, continue to perform the concert spiritual singing tradition established by the original ensemble in the 1870s. Renowned for their vocal virtuosity, the Singers regularly present themselves in concert with dignified poise and without the appearance of a choral conductor. This critical examination of Kwami’s conducting describes how his divergence from traditional ideals of Western choral conducting shapes the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ distinct style of self-led performances. Drawing from fieldwork and Kevin Quashie’s The Sovereignty of Quiet (2012), I discuss how Kwami’s mode of conducting educates the Singers about how to manage politics of racial inequality through a quiet presence and make audible their repertoire’s message of Christian faith.

After a brief documentary screening, we will be pleased to present Dr. Paul T. Kwami, Musical Director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers® and Marti Newland, Ph.D. Candidate in Ethnomusicology at Columbia University.

There is a pre-circulated paper, available here: Newland UChicago EthNoise Paper

Also, follow this link for a sample of the music to be discussed:


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May 24th – Lillian Wohl

Please join us for the Ethnoise! workshop this Thursday, May 24th at 4:30, in Goodspeed Hall room 205. Lillian Wohl, PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology, will present: 

“The Café and the Espectáculo: ‘Diasporic Cannibals,’ Collective Remembrance, and Musical Mate[realities] in Jewish Performance at the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA)

The 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires (the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, or AMIA) endures as a lasting site of profound significance, central to the question of Jewish belonging in Argentina. In the wake of this attack, cultural forms have come to bear greater importance as markers of Jewish identity within both secular-ethnic and religiously observant Jewish communities, where a renegotiation of the forms and values of personal and communal interests intersect with public, politicized discourses on memory, justice, and oblivion. While the AMIA building was rebuilt and re-inaugurated in 1999, and now functions as a working mutual aid society, library, archive, and administrative center, it is through the social worlds provided by musical engagement that community participants explore a variety of expressive practices to commemorate Jewish heritage through the performance of Jewish music and memory. As the most important center for Jewish music appreciation in Argentina, the AMIA plays a critical role in determining the character of Jewish music in Buenos Aires, disseminating music, and providing support to musicians traveling in the region. In this paper, I will discuss two spaces of musical performance, the Café Literario and the weekly espectáculos performed in the Auditorio AMIA.I offer an understanding of these disparate musical materials performed at AMIA, by analyzing them through the theoretical lens of cultural cannibalism. Proposed by the Brazilian theorist of the early 20th century, Osvald de Andrade, and appropriated by the Brazilian tropicalists in the 1960s, “cultural cannibalism” refers to a style of creative engagement that mixes disparate pop, traditional, and radical aesthetic elements to form a comprehensive mode of self-expression and self-definition with decisively political connotations. I believe that an exploration of the social and aesthetic processes of incorporation that define the politicized, Jewish experience in Buenos Aires point to a “diasporic cannibalism” at work in the commemorative musical practices at AMIA, where performers localize musical forms and traditions from the wide variety of styles associated with the global Jewish diaspora across historical periods. 

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May 17th – Gregory Savarimuthu

Please join us for the Ethnoise! workshop this Thursday, May 17th at 4:30, in Goodspeed Hall room 205.  We are excited to welcome Dr. Gregory Savarimuthu, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Anthropology at Kannur University in Kerala, India, as he presents: 


“Aesthetics, Expressive culture and Indigenous Communities: A Bottom-up Perspective on Development”


Discussant:  Kaley Mason, Assistant Professor of Music, University of Chicago



The term ‘aesthetics’ has been subjected to philosophical discourse since ancient times. It has been understood differently and its nature has been expounded differently by different scholars. In most discourses, the close association between nature and aesthetics has been obvious though there may be differences in the details of its manifestation. Since the tribal people have been known for their symbiotic relationship with nature in their traditions and culture, eco-aesthetics with reference to the tribal people has a special significance and relevance. The present paper looks into this dimension and analyses its implication in the modern society, particularly with reference to development.


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May 10th – Philip V. Bohlman

Please join us for the Ethnoise! workshop this Thursday, May 10th at 4:30, in Goodspeed Hall room 205.  We are excited to welcome our own Philip V. Bohlman, Mary Werkman Distinguished Service Professor of Music and the Humanities at the University of Chicago, as he presents:

“In Praise of Musical Thought”


This workshop session will break from our usual format in that we will circulate the paper in advance, and we strongly encourage everyone to read it generously since it will not be read out during the session.  Ethnoise will be moving in this direction in the future in order to facilitate a deeper level of discussion which will benefit presenters and workshop participants alike.  Please click on the following link to download the paper:

Bohlman EthNoise Paper


Dr. Bohlman will be joined by two graduate student discussants from the Department of Music:

Rehanna Kheshgi, PhD Student in Ethnomusicology, University of Chicago

Andy Greenwood, PhD Candidate in History and Theory of Music, University of Chicago



This presentation grows out of the John F. Larchet Memorial Lecture Dr. Bohlman delivered at University College Dublin on April 4th, in which he made a case for a more comprehensive music historiography of musical thought. In particular, and in the spirit of John Larchet, whom the talk commemorates, Bohlman followed the development of South Asian musical thought into Irish musical thought, both converging in the Irish and Bengali Enlightenments. The Larchet Lecture was also the final event of a daylong meeting of the Irish Musicological Society, devoted to questions of the meaning and survival of musical scholarship and pedagogy in an Ireland in financial crisis, which forms part of the political backstory for this presentation. The presentation engages in disciplinary domains spreading from ethnomusicology into historical musicology and music theory. As a result of the response, criticism, and discussion generated during our workshop, Bohlman plans to continue developing the ideas presented into a new paper commissioned for the 100th anniversary of musicology in Ireland.


Philip V. Bohlman is the Mary Werkman Distinguished Service Professor of Music and the Humanities in the College. As an ethnomusicologist, he continues to seek new ways of combining performance and research in his research on Jewish music and modernity. As Artistic Director of “The New Budapest Orpheum Society,” the Jewish cabaret troupe and ensemble-in-residence at the Humanities Division, he has initiated two new projects that follow the 2009 CD, Jewish Cabaret in Exile (Cedille Records). Intensive fieldwork remains a regular component of his research. From 2008 to 2011 he conducted research, funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, in Kolkata and Varanasi, India, and in May 2010 he was engaged in an intensive field study of the Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo, Norway. Since 2009, he has taught and conducted workshops as Honorary Professor at the Hochschule für Musik, Theater and Medien (Hannover) and at the Centre Marc Bloch (Paris-Berlin). Among his recent books are Music, Nationalism, and the Making of the New Europe (Routledge, 2011), Balkan Epic: Song, History, Modernity (with Nada Petkovic; Scarecrow, 2012), and Hanns Eisler (1898–1962): In der Musik ist es anders (with Andrea F. Bohlman; Hentrich & Hentrich, 2012). His future projects include the five-volume, Oxford Musics of the World, and the Cambridge Introduction to Ethnomusicology. Ongoing fieldwork includes studies of music in the Muslim communities of Europe and of religion and the arts in India.


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April 26th – Marvin Sterling

Please join us for a joint workshop session sponsored in part by EthNoise!, The Arts & Politics of East Asia Workshop, and the Caribbean Studies Workshop this Thursday, April 26th at 4:30, in Goodspeed Hall, Room 205. Marvin Sterling, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University, Bloomington, will present:


On the Cultural Politics of Tradition:

“Domesticating” Dancehall Reggae in Contemporary Japan.


Michael Bourdaghs, Associate Professor of Modern Japanese Literature in EALC at UChicago, will be the discussant for the workshop.


For 60 years, the “sound system” has been the sonic heart of Jamaican dancehall culture. Sound systems are small groups of young men (and more rarely women) who play Jamaican music and banter in patois over high-powered audio systems before hundreds or thousands of attendees. In recent years, this subculture has reached international shores. In 1999, Japan-based Mighty Crown entered an otherwise all-Jamaican sound system competition in Brooklyn, New York, and to the surprise of many, won the event. Three years later, Junko Kudo, a dancer part of Japan’s burgeoning “reggae dance” scene, was similarly the only Japanese performer in Jamaica’s National Dancehall Queen Contest; she, too, won her event. Dancehall reggae has since become a sustained subcultural, and even in some measure, mainstream popular cultural phenomenon in Japan, attracting millions of fans and making the country one of the world’s most vital reggae markets. In this presentation, I trace the roots of Japanese reggae from the early 1970s until the present, focusing on the musical productive and performative strategies through which a distinctive “J-reggae” has come into being. I argue that these strategies significantly invoke discourses of the traditional that are deeply interlinked with those of modernity in Japan, a modernity shaped by the specter of Western domination that Japanese have long had to negotiate.  I focus on the link between these discourses of the traditional and a contemporary ethos of cultural internationalism in recessionary Japan, in which many Japanese reggae practitioners imagine global southern countries like Jamaica as simultaneously signs of these artists’ cultural and sociopolitical cosmopolitanism, but also as tradition-bound and thus instructive symbols of Japan’s own potential rebirth.


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April 19th – Fernando Rios

Please join us for the Ethnoise! workshop this Thursday, April 19th at 4:30, in Goodspeed Hall room 205.  We will welcome Fernando Rios, Visiting Assistant Professor in Ethnomusicology at the University of Maryland, College Park as he presents:


“They’re Stealing Our Music”: The Argentinísima Controversy,
National Culture Boundaries, and the Rise of a Bolivian Nationalist Discourse”


Abstract: In Bolivia, the notion that foreigners incessantly appropriate the country’s folkloric music has served as a powerful elicitor of national sentiment since the early 1970s. This presentation examines the rise and consolidation of this nationalist discourse through the lens of the Bolivian anger that erupted following the Argentine charango player Jaime Torres’ 1973 performance in the nativist film Argentinísima. I argue that this reaction was connected to growing local concerns regarding Argentine as well as Bolivian blurring of national culture boundaries in the realm of Andean folkloric-popular music performance practices. I also contend that the Bolivian appropriation discourse that took shape in this period facilitated the localization of certain folkloric musical styles, specifically those that Argentine and other non-Bolivian artists also performed, by foregrounding Bolivian nationalist meanings and refuting alternative interpretations. In closing, I suggest that ethnomusicologists may wish to expand the range of topics normally considered as examples of localization or indigenization to include expressive practices that are not clearly of foreign origin and that serve as emblematic national traditions.


Fernando Rios is Visiting Assistant Professor in Ethnomusicology at the University of Maryland, College Park, where in the fall term he will begin his appointment as Assistant Professor. His research, which is based on fieldwork and archival research conducted in Bolivia, Argentina and France, explores folkloric musical representations of Andean mestizo and indigenous expressive practices in relation to Bolivian nation-building projects and international artistic trends. His recent published work includes articles in Ethnomusicology Forum (“The Andean Conjunto, Bolivian Sikureada and the Folkloric Musical Representation Continuum,” 2012), Ethnomusicology (“Bolero Trios, Mestizo Panpipe Ensembles and Bolivia’s 1952 Revolution,” 2010) and Latin American Music Review (“La Flûte Indienne: The Early History of Andean Folkloric-Popular Music in France and its Impact on Nueva Canción,” 2008).

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April 12th – Gregor Kokorz

Please join us at the Ethnoise! workshop this Thursday, April 12th at 4:30, in Goodspeed Hall room 205.  We will welcome Gregor Kokorz (Mellon Visiting Scholar at the University of Chicago) as he presents “Listening to Difference: Reflections on how to write a history of ethnomusicology”.

Abstract:  The history of science continues to follow still too often an engrained yet highly problematic model of progress, and the history of ethnomusicology does not represent an exception. But what are the alternatives? My talk will focus on several 19th century discourses that contributed to the rise of ethnomusicology adopting a model of conflict centered on the question of difference.  Offering a reading of ethnomusicology as a challenge to Western musical thought not only allows a different approach to the history of science, but enables also to interpret the ethnomusicological discourse as a truly modern one that contributes to the experience of destabilization in the era of modernity.

Dr. Gregor Kokorz holds a Ph.D. in musicology from the Karl-Franzens University, Graz, Austria with a doctoral thesis titled “In Search for Difference. Ethnomusicology in the Mirror of Modernity” (2008). He has been a member of the interdisciplinary research project “Modernity. Vienna and Central Europe around 1900” at the University of Graz and a research assistant at the Center for Austrian and Central European Studies at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, CA. Since 2011, he has been engaged in the research project “Music – Identity – Space” at the Austrian Academy of Science, working on a series of essays on music and national identities titled “Musical Space, Trieste around 1848.” Presently he is a Visiting Mellon Scholar at the University of Chicago. His research focuses particularly on the issues of modernism, the history of science, and cultural transfer.

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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.

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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.

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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.







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