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Amanda Black
“Sonic Gentrification: Tourism, Periphery, and Privilege in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico”
(under the direction of David Garcia)

As the people of the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, face a new reality of unprecedented violence, tourism continues to be a pillar of the economy. Many scholars have delved into the topic of tourism and its exacerbating effects on inequality. Geographers have theorized the articulations between gentrification and tourism, while ethnomusicologists have examined the role of musicians in creating touristic environments in the Caribbean. In the case of San Miguel de Allende, population 161,000, historians and sociologists have examined the arrival of US Americans to what was once a small mountain town. The uninterrupted international media acclaim for San Miguel as the “Best City to Visit” belies the significant problems related to inequality in the city, including water scarcity, extreme income inequality, and crime. Scholarship has yet to analyze the long-term cultural effects of relative deprivation for locals in the face of tourists’ and new residents’ privileged access to and control over cultural events, space, and the sounds shaping their city. I argue that sound and music may be molded, instrumentalized, and controlled so as to weave gentrification and inequality into the social fabric of a city. My research examines the ways in which the combined forces of tourism, US immigration, and gentrification shape the musical, cultural, and sonic boundaries of the city of San Miguel. I employ an ethnographic and multimedia approach to document cross-genre sound difference between the center and periphery, and examine local musical and sound responses to cultural displacement, especially the emergence of hip hop.

Jamie Blake
“Architects of Russian America: Transnational Musical Networks Post 1917”
(under the direction of Annegret Fauser)

The Russian Revolution of 1917 set in motion unprecedented waves of human migration and permanently altered Russian culture expressions both at home and abroad. My dissertation centers on Russian music and musicians in the United States from the revolutionary period through the early Cold War. During this time, Russian émigré artists were vital emissaries of transnational experience, as defining Russianness on a global stage had become increasingly crucial to the construction and preservation of identity. Moreover, these musicians functioned not in isolation, but as part of tightly entangled networks, and I examine the impact of these networks for composers like Sergei Rachmaninoff and Igor Stravinsky, as well as for performers like Serge Koussevitzky. Drawing on archival research and reception histories, I approach performance as a cultural contact zone, with particular emphasis on the ways in which Russianness might have been presented or masked. Ultimately, my dissertation reveals both perceptions of Russianness in America and the impact of Russian émigré artistic networks on up-and-coming American musicians such as Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein.

John Caldwell
“Songs from the Other Side: The Lives of Pakistani Music in India”
(under the direction of Michael Figueroa)

This dissertation investigates the phenomenon of Pakistani music crossing the border into India in the decades since Partition (1947). I approach this project from several angles, looking at musicians, works, sites of collaboration, recordings, performances, and audience reception with an emphasis on the role of music in forging national, transnational, and regional communities in spite of political onflict. Although the border-crossing happens in both directions, I will primarily investigate Pakistan-to-India cultural flows, because in some sense these happen “against the grain,” with India being the culturally dominant entity in the region and a site of majoritarian resistance to Pakistani and Muslim cultural expression. Although the Indian film industry legitimized some Pakistani music, other music, particularly the ghazal genre, was often transmitted in the form of LP and cassette recordings, hand-carried from Pakistan into India and played at student coffee shops and private gatherings. In order to reconstruct this informal history, one component of my dissertation will be an ethnography of Indian listeners and fans who discovered Pakistani music in the 1960s and 1970s and formed its core audiences. In other case studies I will explore how music inhabits the border itself, specifically at the symbolic Wagah border crossing, and how offshore recording studios and television companies bring Pakistani music into contest and collaboration with Indian music. More broadly, I seek to understand the strategies of resistance inscribed in “music from the other side”—the symbols and icons deployed, the networks formed, and the narratives produced.

Alexandra Kori Hill
“A Creation of Tradition: New Negro Modernism in the Concertos of Florence B. Price”
(under the direction of Mark Katz)

African American composer Florence B. Price (1887–1953) is best known as the first Black woman whose symphony was premiered by a major orchestra. But Price’s impact on American classical music and Black cultural life extended beyond that exciting day in 1933. Through her more than 40–year musical career, Price developed a style built upon western classical and African American folk idioms, part of a compositional school aimed at establishing a Black folk aesthetic. This has led to descriptions of her style as neo/Afro-Romantic, an extension of the exceedingly popular music nationalisms of the mid–late nineteenth century.

However, Price’s aesthetic also reflects an area of artistic expression and theorizing that requires more critical study in 20th century Black music analyses: New Negro modernism (1890s–1960s). My dissertation looks at Price’s three concertos—Concerto in One Movement (1934), Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major (1939), and Violin Concerto No. 2 (1952) —as examples of New Negro modernist expression. New Negro modernists like Price focused on the (re)creation of tradition, building a corpus of symphonies, concertos, art songs, and concert spirituals that showed the specificity and consistency of a Black vernacular-classical aesthetic. As each concerto showcases Price’s stylistic precedents, they also showcase experimentation; idiosyncrasies of form, harmonic character, and melodic development illustrate the multiple ways Black music idioms could operate in conjunction with established features of the concerto genre. Studying Price’s concertos in the context of New Negro modernism expands our comprehension of her stylistic contributions to American classical music, Black creative life, and US vernacular-classical traditions.

Grace Kweon
“Music for the Struggle by Asian Americans: Performing Race, Activism, and Community, 1968-1975”
(under the direction of Andrea F. Bohlman)

The Asian American Movement (AAM) was a social movement for racial justice in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s that led to the creation of an “Asian American” collective consciousness. To study how music figured in this identity construction, my research examines the activities and products of Yellow Pearl, an Asian American folk trio formed in 1970 by three New York–based activists of the AAM. I will utilize archives of event flyers, meeting notes, photographs, press articles, and correspondence relevant to Yellow Pearl to understand how notions of Asian Americanness created music and was generated by musical performance. I also interrogate how the medium of records, sheet music, and live concerts forged or limited musical networks within the AAM. I focus on this moment of Asian American history to examine the robust disagreements and discussions about the racial and political constructions of Asian American identity. Through my research, I hope to uncover a musical network of listeners and participants and analyze how they mediated music into different cultural products. I bring together musical scholarship on Asian Americans that has been ethnographic and historical by looking at this moment, which has powerful resonance in living memory, but my project is driven through archival work. This study foregrounds the musical activism of Asian Americans as an example of how coalitional politics and musical communities intersected in a moment of racial and political turmoil in US-American history.

Michael Levine
“Lo Encontré en El Paquete: Media Piracy and Cultural Exchange in Cuba’s Offline Internet”
(under the direction of David Garcia)

Reparto is one of the most popular genres of music in Cuba today, but it is neither heard on radio nor television. It is only accessed, for most Cuban citizens, through the pirate digital media network referred to as el paquete semanal (the weekly package). Reparto’s community of Black Cuban artists provides a productive means to investigate the cultural production made possible through this network. A complete circulation of digitized musical products, from production to consumption, is accessed from el paquete semanal. I argue that this process performs a central role in restructuring cultural production. Separated from the world wide web and surrounded by challenging political and economic structures, Black Cuban artists use el paquete semanal to receive, record, and remix their culture.

Zhizhi (Stella) Li
The Mundane Pageantries: Radio and Ritual in Pre-War Japan, 1925–1937
(under the direction of Andrea Bohlman)

Since the first broadcast in March 1925, Japanese radio welcomed the rapid increase of listeners in step with the quick spread of the technology. It was also during this time that a growing ideal of a modern, powerful nation arose on both sides of the radio receiver. My dissertation studies the intersection between radio and ideology by looking at how radio produced and implemented rituals that contributed to the formation of modern ideologies. I suggest that within the historical context of pre-war Japan, radio as a sonic practice created, deployed, and reproduced participatory rites and in the process composed the material existence of Japanese state ideology. By thinking interdisciplinarily across various domains including music, history, media, space, and religion through the common thread of sound, I ask 1) how rituals were sonically mediated through radio and 2) how radio listening itself became a ritual practice.