Over the past several years I have been exploring the social dynamics of sound and listening in different contexts. The work I do draws from ethnomusicology, sound studies, the anthropology of the senses, and the ethnographic study of violence. My core research projects -- on the sonic dimension of the Iraq war, Soviet and post-Soviet musical practices, music in the post-9/11 world, and the multifaceted significance of voice and vocality --share a common thread: they all explore the capacities and limits of sonic cultures in a complex world of often-violent change. The focus on violence, implicit in my early work, has intensified in recent years, as has my engagement with sound studies. But the emphasis on (a) the efficacy and fragility of cultural processes, (b) the phenomenology of listening, and (c) the persistence and transformation of sonic practices in the wake of social disruption has remained fairly consistent throughout.
My students and I wrestle with a lot of the same issues in the classroom. We ask questions like: what kind of work does your voice do when you project it out into the world? What are the cultural factors that shape the way you listen to music, or to non-music? (And how do you decide which is which, anyway?). How does sound create social space? How do spaces inflect your perceptions of sounds? What happens when music becomes weaponized? How can music participate in the processes of reconciliation? How does listening relate to looking, smelling, touching? How can music alter your perception of time? When you hear music in your head, how does it get there, and what does it sound like? What music gives you goosebumps, and why? We explore these and other questions by reading, talking, writing, listening, singing, and composing together.