Friday, March 25, 2022

1:45-3:15 PM EST: Popular Subalterity

Chair: Alexander W. Cowan


The Dionysian Orpheus of Thiago Pethit: homoerotism, indie music, and tropicalism

joão marcos copertino; Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University


Orpheus is the myth of music, figure of immense creativity and an inspirational myth for many operas. When Brazilian songwriter Thiago Pethit decided to create his album Mal dos Trópicos (Queda e Ascensão do Orfeu da Consolação), he engaged with a vast tradition on topic, from Gluck’s opera to Jean Cocteau’s works. The unfolding of the myth, however, stressed the homoerotism present in the mythical construction, associating to a tropicality inherent to carnivals celebration in Brazil. However, carnival, usually a more Dionysian party than Apollonian, is also a tool that Pethit uses to subvert predicaments within both the idea of Orpheus and the continuous looming decay that follows the idea of being a nation from the tropics. The continuous sense of decadence associated with tropical environment, especially to Brazil, is transformed through a cannibalization of the Greek myth, and its subversion: a death followed through ascension, only possible through a homoerotic carnival. Pethit, then, crafted a multimedia project, in which music language – as all arts – is progressively becoming impure. Contradicting other forms of Orpheus in Brazil, as Black Orpheus, Mal dos Trópicos presented a new reflection on both the queerness of Latin America in its appropriation of European Culture, and the subversion of the myth.


The Shape of Cumbia to Come, Neo Macondismo or Colombian Avant-garde?

Nico Daleman


The notoriety of Colombian music releases such as Lido Pimineta’s “Miss Colombia” and Meridian Brother’s “Cumbia Siglo XXI” has placed an imaginary of sophisticated Tropicalia tailored for the global (north) market demands. Nevertheless, Cumbia’s appearance in the global musical scene is not the start but rather the culmination of a lengthy process of exploration and reinterpretation of Caribbean music that has been taking place in Colombia for the past thirty years. Borrowing the concept of “Macondism” from the literary studies, this presentation explores the dynamics of romanticization and commodification of Caribbean culture while considering the processes of regional, cultural and class appropriation. Through pragmatic creolization, RoloET or Cumbia Tropicanibal define a musical genre that transcends musical stereotypes and challenges the hegemonic binaries between pop and art music, kitsch and good taste, and urban and folk. A deeper analysis begs the question: Is the shape of cumbia to come a genuine avant-garde language that avoids previously imposed clichés, while sounding uniquely Colombian, or is this a renaissance of “World Music” disguised as queer, diverse and postcolonial?


Hyperpop: An Unbridled Queer Sonic Space

Zane Larson; University of Iowa


An unholy conglomeration of clanging pots and pans, chipmunk voices, and chaos. Hyperpop has been described as having these attributes by many who have happened to stumble across it. However, this musical microgenre has found its home in many queer spaces, garnering a cult following in LGBTQ+ communities. Furthermore, many artists that create hyperpop music identify as queer (especially gender non-conforming), adding another intrinsically linked queer layer to this genre.

I focus on defining the microgenre of hyperpop and the nuances of its musical attributes. My analytical exploration of this genre will focus on vocal manipulation and hyperpop’s refusal to adhere to previously established musical normative structures. Vocal manipulation by means of intentional auto-tune and pitch-shifting is used by artists to create a salient aesthetic with capabilities to reach extremes of vocal ranges and blur the boundaries between voice and instrument. Alterations to previously established structures of form, rhythm, and harmony are also a vital aspect to this genre that give it a distinct identity. Additionally, I examine how hyperpop interacts with queerness, specifically focusing on the concepts of camp and queer phenomenology (Ahmed 2006), the idea that disorientations disrupt and reorder expectation. I use music from a diverse set of artists that expands on these ideas, but predominantly focus on the music of 100 Gecs, Namasenda, and Charli XCX.

These musical attributes and stylistic markers of hyperpop have bloomed into to a new art form deeply entrenched in queer sensibilities. In this genre, creators and fans alike can explore queer idiosyncrasies within the music itself and the culture surrounding it. Hyperpop provides a path forward that breaks from the traditionally heteronormative sect of pop music and pop music culture, designating a postgender and unbridled queer sonic space.


3:30-5:00 PM EDT: Voices from the Margin

Chair: Siriana Lundgren


“The Jew in You”: Recent Yiddish Protest Songs and Diasporic Identity

Nathan Friedman; University of Toronto


Protest songs have been an important part of Yiddish culture since the days of the General Jewish Labour Bund in late-19th century Eastern Europe and they have remained integral to the broader repertoire of the Yiddish revival that began in the 1970s. Since the late 1980s, Yiddish artists have adapted pre-existing songs and written new ones to engage with contemporary issues, often expanding their subject matter to be more inclusive concerning gender and sexuality within Judaism as well as more concerned with topics affecting both Jews and their non-Jewish neighbours, a process that has intensified in recent years.

In this paper, I examine songs in Yiddish and English by artists such as Daniel Kahn, Geoff Berner, Brivele, and Tsibele that engage with issues such as economic inequality, police abolition, and anti-fascism. Scholarship on Yiddish has noted the language’s ability to build a bridge between historical and contemporary injustices, and I explore how these artists draw explicit links between recent political developments and their historical antecedents prior to WWII. I also draw on recent Jewish cultural theory on diaspora, both to explain the model of society that these artists advocate in their songs, and to explain how they relate to contemporary notions of Jewish identity. Several scholars have identified Yiddish culture as an emerging avenue for identity construction for Jews in North America and Europe, specifically one that is dependant on neither religion nor on ties to Israel. Ambivalence or hostility towards Zionism was a central feature of pre-WWII Bundism, and is reflected in both the historical repertoire and the more recent songs discussed in this paper.


Communicating Rage: Multifaceted Resistance as Sonic Protest in Rage Against the Machine’s Self-Titled Album (1992)

Patrick S. Mitchell; College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati


Rage Against the Machine (RATM) is an interracial alternative-rock band widely known for their eclectic musical style and polemic protest lyrics. The Los Angeles group released their self-titled debut album Rage Against the Machine (1992), in the months following a revolutionary moment of racial tension and civil unrest during the Rodney King Riots. Political unrest fueled RATM’s critique (or rage) of issues surrounding capital accumulation, systematic racism, and U.S. imperialism. Sociologists Andrew Green (2015), Nick Holm (2007), and Jeffery Hall (2003) have considered RATM’s protest in their study of the band's lyrics as the main vehicle of resistance—however, have reduced their music to descriptions of “genre-bending.” These studies fail to observe the significance of the genres prevalent in RATM’s sound (i.e., funk, metal, rap and rock). Funk and rap were tools of protest in predominantly Black working-class communities while metal and rock, mainly performed by White musicians, resisted hegemonic White bourgeois society. This begs us to consider the question: How did RATM sonically communicate their rage towards systems of oppression? My study of RATM’s self-titled album considers both the band’s music and vocality to articulate the full depth of their protest. I argue that RATM constructed a sonic protest through means of synthesizing interracial musical genres. My investigation reveals the inherent rebellion instilled in the fabrics of funk, metal, rap, and rock within the context of RATM’s music. Specifically, I identify the band’s use of funk riffs (Morant 2010), metal breakdowns (Susino 2019), rap flow (Komaniecki 2019), and timbral distortion. Funk riffs function as harmonic ostinatos, metal breakdowns complicate the rhythmic structure, rap flow establishes consistency of prose, and distorted guitar timbres from a range of genres complicates the sonic experience. Moreover, I use Kate Heidemann’s technique for describing vocal timbres (2016) in my analysis of singer Zack de la Rocha’s enraged vocality. My examination of RATM’s album demonstrates that their music.


Vocality in Exile: The Indigenization of Scottish Bagpipes in a Palestinian Refugee Community

Jessie Rubin; Columbia University


In this paper I will situate the Sumud Guirab, a mixed-gender bagpipe troupe located in the Palestinian refugee camp Burj Shemali in Tyre, Lebanon. The troupe illuminates the complexities of musical repertoire and instrument circulation that result from colonial military presence and indigenous adaptations. Though there are myriad folk stories that make claims about the origin of the bagpipe in the region, it is commonly accepted that the Highland bagpipe gained traction in Palestinian communities as a result of Scottish military presence during the British Mandate era from 1923–1948, and subsequently remained popular in Palestinian communities in exile. The Sumud Guirab highlights a paradoxical power dynamic: though the Scottish were part of the British occupying force in Palestine in the 1920s through the early 1940s, performers in the troupe express solidarity with contemporary Scottish resistance against the British occupation of Scottish land. That being said, the music of the Sumud Guirab does not simply represent some symbolic connection between Scots and Palestinians manifested at a sonic level but also represents a consequential material practice. In this presentation I will draw from my own ethnographic research and historical inquiry to demonstrate the multifactorial effects of colonialism in its history: we see that a Palestinian population has mined the dominant culture for their own anti-imperialist resistant cultural forms. The bagpipe, then, is a complex signifier: it is a domesticated “foreign” object curated and reconfigured to become a part of a newly-invented tradition, carrying a repertoire with distinct meanings in place.

5:15-6:45 PM: Faculty Roundtable Discussion

Moderator: Yvette Janine Jackson

Participants: Alex E. Chávez, University of Notre Dame

Ana María Ochoa Gautier, Columbia University

Noriko Manabe, Temple University

Shana L. Redmond, University of California, Los Angeles

Trevor Reed, Arizona State University


Roundtable participants will each provide a short meditation on the theme of the conference, decolonization and decoloniality, and/or post-colonialism, followed by relevant discussion.

8:00-9:30 PM: Resourcefulness

Chair: Cana McGhee


Un-listening the Archive, or How to Listen After the End of the World

Jessie Cox; Columbia University


I begin my theoretical project with a thinking of listening as resource intensive, a notion of listening teased out in relation to AI technologies by Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler in “Anatomy of an AI System.” Their analysis points to the hidden resources necessary to make this listening technology work: from the minerals mined, to the labor used to mine both minerals and data to train the AI, to global networks of commerce and the spaces articulated by such movements.

In this paper I think through different investments and mined resources necessary for listening as it pertains to music. From the materials to build instruments to the training and dissemination of “repertoire” for musical understanding, which is to say the archive that, after Jacques Derrida, allows for analysis, or, more generally, hermeneutics, as well as of course being the possibility to deposit musical works somewhere so as to be listened to. If the question of listening is tied up in questions of global resource networks that make archives possible then how can one think this with the question of blackness, as that which structures the body of the archive? How the extraction of for example lithium, widely known to damage our planet as well as being lethal to many black lives, is not only a facilitator for the creation of smartphones, but also structures our notion of music through the formation of an archive and how such is accessible. This technology then in turn allows for both the continuation of anti-black ideological reproduction but also allows for the inspiration for political action to fight an anti-black world (e.g. Black Lives Matter protests).


Adapted Concert Programming: Best Practices for Neurodiverse Populations

Jenna Richards; University of Ottawa


Attending a concert may be daunting for neurodivergent individuals and those who support them (Umeda and Jirikowic 2019; LaMarre et al. 2019; Thompson et al. 2020). While traditional performance environments may not feel welcoming or amenable for neurodivergent individuals, such as those on the autism spectrum, with FASD, or Down Syndrome, arts organizations have recently made efforts to produce concerts that address barriers to accessibility (Shiloh and LaGasse 2014). These adapted concerts, most frequently labelled Sensory Friendly Concerts (SFCs), attempt to create environments suitable for neurodiverse communities, supporting individuals and groups who are often underrepresented in performance contexts. This paper explores adapted music performances for neurodiverse communities, reflecting on social constructs of disability and outlining how SFCs aim to improve quality of life and rights for individuals with disabilities.

Derived from 1990s theatre practices (Shiloh and LaGasse 2014), SFCs focus primarily on environmental and physical adjustments. Contributing a set of best practices (Bretschneider et al. 2005; Kempe 2018) for SFCs, recommendations stem from an interdisciplinary content review assimilating Community Music Therapy (Stige 2004; Ansdell 2005), music and disability studies (Howe et al. 2015), and inclusivity and accessibility in performance (Shiloh and LaGasse 2014; LaMarre et al. 2019; Umeda and Jirikowic 2019). Additionally, a focus on the lived experiences of neurodiverse groups aligns these practices with disability theories (Bakan 2008; Hadley and McDonald 2018; Hayhoe 2018).

Modifications include various seating options, tactile stimulation, stretch breaks, noise-cancelling headphones, and silent rooms. Visual aids and preparatory materials are recommended to introduce and familiarize concert elements to attendees, alleviating certain anxieties for neurodivergent individuals and their families. Future areas of research include accessibility practices for normative performance opportunities, not only those specifically designated as sensory friendly. Equally relevant is the integration of disabled performers in SFC context, which is yet to be surveyed.


Breathing-With: A Microbial Song

Shelley O'Brien; York University


This video essay thinks-with microbes and sound, and queers the relationship between colonization and settler breath/voice, entangling the breath/vocals of a settler scholar with ideas of animus and microbial interpenetration. With a wordless cycling song and time-lapse microbe Petri dish art, the project troubles Western, anthropocentric ideas of air in a pandemic.

In the field of soundscape ecology (pioneered by Bernie Krause), many scholars have shown that human anthropogenic noise has crescendoed at the expense of the biophony. I thus breathe/voice a ‘biophonic’ niche in an ‘anthrophonic’ setting, sowing the playing-field of multi-species and multi-entity kin relations right in the thick of things (ever-present anthropogenic noise — “productive” sounds of capital, colonialism, and the freedom convoy).

While the above entities come with assumptions that time is linear, space is empty and individual is king, breathing-with microbes can re-tune this body to biophony. The voice in this essay re-members and re-sonates the relationship between microbes, breath, air, aerosols and humans, and suggests a re-configuring of matter(s).

This video essay also offers a re-playing of breath/voice in the (apocalyptic/pandemic) west, where there is heightened focus on (the contamination and contagion of) breath and aerosols, and hardened separation of self-from-world. Breath is animus, breath is life (and life is a dirty and entangled affair) — it contains microbes even as it carries words and sound. We were never pure/alone.

Finally, this piece keens in response to an inability to listen. It honours the jurisdiction of microbes, breath and biophony, amplifying their increasingly sanitized decrescendo. It screams into chasms of defensive indifference to myriad oppressions and injustices that characterize this time-being. It sings with an otherwise-possible: that this perpetuation of violence can and will one day no longer be endlessly replicated.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

10:00-11:45 AM EDT: Decentering Europe

Chair: Christina Misaki Nikitin


The Nostalgic Modernists: Tradition and Pop in Por Por Music of Accra, Ghana

Bai Xue; The Graduate Center, The City University of New York


           In the region of La, Accra in Ghana, local truck drivers have been performing ensemble music using squeeze-bulb honk horns called Por Por at drivers’ funerals since before Ghana’s independence (in 1957). This genre of music remained unknown by the world until 2005, when American ethnomusicologist Steven Feld collaborated with Ghanaian photographer Nii Yemo Nunu and recorded the world’s first Por Por music album, Por Por: Honk Horn Music of Ghana. This essay is an analytical study of the Por Por music genre, emphasizing analysis of tracks from the album and drawing connections between Por Por and African highlife music as well as the Kpanlogo dance. I argue that Por Por music is a hybrid of nostalgia and modernism: on one hand, it is deeply rooted in African traditional music; on the other hand, it shows strong influences from African popular music.

First, I shall provide an overview of the Por Por genre, arguing that it is a significant part of the culture and community of La, Accra, and should never be removed from this cultural context. Next, I argue that Por Por horns function as pitched instruments instead of percussion instruments, citing my transcriptions of the tracks from the album and my interview with Steven Feld. After a digression on the tuning of the Por Por horns, I present my observations of the album, focusing on the African Standard Pattern, the highlife time line, the Kpanlogo time line, and the five-stroke Clavé pattern. My aim is to argue that the Por Por music displays fundamental duality: it possesses the seriousness of African rural ritual music and the casualness of African urban recreational music.


Volga Guazú. The Controversial Origins of Chamamé

Eugenio Monjeau; Graduate School of Education, Harvard University


           Chamamé is a folk music genre from the Argentine northeast. Although popular in the entire country, its heart lies in the province of Corrientes, part of the Argentine Litoral. Thousands of people listen to chamamé every day, but the genre was relegated to a marginal place in Argentine musicology for many years. This started to change only recently. In 1992 the Argentine musicologist Rubén Pérez Bugallo published a seminal work in the Latin American Music Review. There, Pérez Bugallo went into great lengths to integrate chamamé to other, more “prestigious” expressions of Argentine folk music.

His hypothesis was that all Argentine folk music shares a common origin, namely, the music brought by the Spanish conquerors to the American continent. Each Argentine region (or Peruvian, Bolivian, Paraguayan) found its own way of expressing that heritage. Chamamé would be a mixture between that Spanish origin (the so called Cancionero Ternario Colonial) and the polkas and mazurkas brought to Argentina by Polish, Ukrainian, Hungarian immigrants in the 19th century. These people not only brought their rhythms and dances, but more especially the instrument of chamamé par excellence: the accordion.

Pérez Bugallo’s hypothesis, as captivating as it is, has its shortcomings. It specifically denies any Guaraní origin to chamamé. This denial contradicts what two important groups of people have to say about the subject: firstly, chamamé musicians, who usually resort to the alleged Guaraní origin of the genre in their search for artistic inspiration, as if they were looking in the past for the music of the future. Secondly, Correntino immigrants in Buenos Aires. These immigrants consistently speak of the Guarani origin of chamamé, as a mythology of sorts which can help them cope with being away from home. In this lecture I will explore these tensions between musicology, musicians, and audiences.


From KOMUSO to MONSTER: Electroacoustic Collaborative Works for Shakuhachi

Devon Osamu Tipp; University of Pittsburgh


Since the 1970’s the shakuhachi has enjoyed a growing presence in global art music. Despite the instrument’s tremendous impact, it has a limited presence in spaces concerning electro-acoustic composition and live processed sound, a potentially limitless field of musical and artistic collaboration. Composers who approach shakuhachi, those with and without personal experience with non-Western instruments, sometimes fear criticism from vanguard performers, scholars, teachers, and audiences. However, my current collaborations show that electronics often calmed the nerves of possible collaborators, as writing for non-Western instruments without prior exposure can be daunting. This lecture-recital ponders issues of ethics in cross-cultural collaborations and ponders the meaning of hybridity and synthesis in global art music. It is my hope that my collaborations with composers/musicians from a wide variety of backgrounds will result in hybrid works that do not merely imitate source materials but seek to transform them into new unique artistic works.

My lecture recital MONSTER presents excerpts from four recent compositions: “An Ocean” by Gleb Kanasevich, “MONSTER” by Mark Micchelli, “A Fire that Never Dies” by Ryan Garvey, and “!rule the world!” by Cullyn Murphy. These works use musical idioms from Japanese and Western art music, free jazz, and noise music. These composers cleverly utilized fragments and rudiments from traditional source materials that are recombined and mutated through electronic means to become hybrid musical beings (Everett 2004). These works manipulate shakuhachi sounds through fixed media and live processing, which in my view represents a sonic manifestation of the expanding global art music scene as described by Luigi Antonio Irlandini (2018), as well serve as a microcosm of my continuing dialogue with traditional Japanese music and experimental music.

12:15-1:30 PM: Black Decolonialities

Chair: Jonathan Gómez


The (Black) Mysticism of Tim Maia and Jorge Ben

Rômulo Moraes; The Graduate Center, CUNY


In 1974 and 1975, two Brazilian musicians went on to release records that would forever stun their audiences: Tim Maia's Racional, and Jorge Ben's A Tábua de Esmeralda. Both were conceptual pieces that appealed to deeply esoteric sensibilities. Racional was a work of propaganda for a niche cult that Tim Maia had joined a year before, one that employed a mix of alien conspiracies and umbanda to claim the supremacy of the Portuguese language. A Tábua de Esmeralda, on the other hand, combined more traditional occultist elements of Christian theology, Medieval alchemy, and the philosophy of Hermes Trismegisto.

An analysis of these strange – and highly celebrated – albums cannot ignore that both Tim Maia and Jorge Ben were Afro-Brazilians and explicitly integrated aspects of the black diaspora into their art. For Fred Moten, there is a clear relation between blackness and mysticism insofar as the black experience is unintelligible, transcendent and even anterior to any ontology. In this case, it would seem that both Racional and A Tábua de Esmeralda are symptoms of a black consciousness that finds no way to express itself if not through a cosmic supercodification. In the context of Brazilian society, where the myth of "racial democracy" is widespread, the emergence of such black mysticisms is even more relevant. Explaining Tim Maia's Racional and Jorge Ben's A Tábua de Esmeralda through a comparative lens can then be a gateway to explaining the existential situation of Afro-Brazilians themselves, then and now.


It’s About Musicianship, Pedagogy, and Lineage: Reflections on a Historically Black College and University Music Department Ecosystem

Kevin P. Green; University of California San Diego


Aesthetically speaking, there are spaces in which “musical blackness” exists in formal educational settings, and others where it is undervalued. This blackness can be defined by choices of repertoire, the use of particular performance practices, the implementation of certain pedagogical methods, or by integrating formalized learning with knowledge gained in various venues outside of academia. Presently, music as part of a compendium of cultural practices for Historically Black College and University (HBCUs) marching bands is receiving mainstream attention, however, the modes of training and playing within HBCU music departments as a whole, and the connections student musicians forge within the vicinities where these institutions reside, is being ignored.

Mirroring the style of scholars Ruth Behar and Jessica B. Harris, I offer a series of interconnected autoethnographic vignettes in order to help listeners understand how attendees of these programs learn, what we learn, and the ways music as lived culture is a reflection of African American life in general. I contend that in a time where culturally relevant pedagogy is being investigated, versions of this have already existed for a number of musicians who chose to attend HBCU institutions. These writings are penned from my perspective as a drummer, percussionist, and Jackson State University music education student in the early 1990s, and the musical interactions I had with this community of musical beings. My observations detail my time within the musical ecosystem of Jackson, Mississippi, and the intersections of formal departmental training, “church training” within the black church, and “street training,” while playing gigs on the Chitlin’ Circuit and other venues, or through establishing ties to Malaco Records recording artists. These areas of music making, and the identity of being both student and working musician, did not exist in isolation of each other, but were intertwined through a series of networks and ideas that included students, working players, and faculty. These musings detail the lineage in pedagogy, practice, and musicianship that was and is shared amongst us.


Camilla Williams, the "Black Butterfly": Rethinking Race in Madama Butterfly

Annie Kim, Brown University


On May 15, 1946, lyric soprano Camilla Williams made her operatic debut as Cio-Cio-san in the New York City Opera production of Madama Butterfly. With this historic performance, Williams became the first regularly contracted Black singer with a major American opera company and the first Black singer to sing the role of Butterfly. Williams recalled of her debut, “I just walked on and started singing and moving. All my lessons throughout my life, all my performances, even the toe-dancing I had done as a child came in to buttress my performance. All I know is that I became Butterfly.” This paper explores Williams’s performance and its unsettling of “sonic blackness,” which Nina Eidsheim has characterized as the perception of an essential and racialized Black voice. Building upon Eidsheim’s work as well as scholarship in voice and performance studies, I analyze contemporaneous newspaper reviews and Williams’s personal autobiography to argue that her performance revealed the constructed, white Western racial imaginations that are at the heart of both sonic blackness and Cio-Cio-san’s exoticized Asianness.

Significantly, Williams understood her successful performance as one that was not despite her Black womanhood and body, but because of their very materiality. In contrast, audiences often conflated Cio-Cio-san’s scripted Asianness with Williams’s Blackness as interchangeable Others. Though her performance could be seen as yet another example of typecasting, to consider it only in this way would be to perpetuate the problematic flattening of racial difference. Therefore, this paper attends to the complexities of Williams’s historic yet vastly understudied debut, focusing on how she negotiated between ideas of Blackness and Asianness while embracing her liminality as a “black butterfly.”

2:45-4:30 PM EDT: Keynote Address

Chair: Suzannah Clark


“Alive and Kicking”: In the Archive, in the Round and in the Key of Insurgent Sonic Study


Daphne A. Brooks, Yale University

4:30-5:15 PM EDT: Southern-Pian Society Session

Chairs: Stephen Ai, Sara Viola Speller


Please note that this event is intended for those who identify partially or wholly as people of color, including and especially queer people of color. We ask you respect the space we are carving for ourselves.


Harvard’s Southern-Pian Society (SPS) will host a meeting for the scholars of color attending the conference. Pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea – or whatever you’d like – and join us for a time of decompression and fellowship. This is an optional, casual event where we will provide space for feedback, conversation, and contemplation.

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