Paper Session: Sounding Ecological Trauma
Olusegun Titus (Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria)
Sounding the Trauma of Oil Exploitation and Environmental Degradation in Nigeria Popular Music
The discovery and production of oil in Oloibiri community in the late 1950s in Nigeria has brought unimaginable environmental crisis to the Niger Delta area where the oil is extracted. Oil exploration also marked the beginning of environmental degradation of the air and aquatic life as well as the impoverishment of the people that inhabit the region. While the transnational corporations’ profits from oil, many musicians have also seen oil exploration and its attendant environmental degradation of Niger Delta to produce an art form rooted in resistance. Music produced by artistes such as Felix Liberty popularly known as Lover Boy and Inatimi Alfred Odon popularly known as Timaya, has served as a marker of resistance to how Nigerian government and oil transnational corporations pollute the environment and looting the economic life of the people. Music as an art of resistance has therefore cemented a synergy between activists and enclaves of extraction in an attempt at creating awareness of transnational economic looting and promotes environmental sustainability. The music produced by these artistes seeks to draw attention to the destructive effects of oil multinationals on the people’s economic lives as farmers and fisher folk. This article engages Rob Nixon’s concept of slow violence and environmentalism of the poor and unpins the discourse on ecomusicology theory, cultural history, and ethnography, textual and musical analysis. The paper suggests that music is powerful enough to explain the Transnational Corporations’ (TNC) theft of African resources. TNC do not merely destroy the economies and environments, they steal and loot African resources. In carrying out this research the selected musicians and their relations were visited and interviewed. Music produced by artistes such as Felix Liberty popularly known as Lover Boy and Inatimi Alfred Odon popularly known as Timaya, , that focuses on environmental degradation. The songs were played severally and interpreted. The songs were translated from pigin to standard English. Niger Delta selected community members were interviewed to ascertain the import of these songs and how the songs explains and represents their yearnings and how it has affected their orientations and struggles. I conclude that music has potential to project the environmental and human degradation conditions and increase awareness and develop eco resilience and reduce eco anxiety among the developing countries like Nigeria
Olusegun Titus is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Music, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. He obtained a PhD in Musicology from University of Ibadan. His research focuses on ecomusicology, medical musicology, music and migration, urban studies and peacebuilding. He has published in high impact journals. He is a Fellow, IFRA-Nigeria 2012; Fellow, Leventis and visiting scholar, University of London 2014; Fellow, Ife Institute of Advance Studies 2017; Fellow, AfOx-TORCH and visiting scholar Oxford University 2019 and Fellow, ACLS/AHP 2020.
Kate Galloway (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, US)
Listening to and Embodying Environmental Trauma: On the Silences and Soundings of Extraction in Environmental Sound Art
I explore music and sound art that serves as a remedy to extractive music in an era of perpetual ecological violence, institutionalized climate change denial discourse, environmental catastrophe, and ongoing settler-colonial trauma inflicted upon traditional Indigenous lands and its past and present communities and stewards. Bridging the fields of trauma studies, sound studies, and the environmental humanities and placing them in conversation, I explore a range of examples where environmental trauma is embodied, codified, and aurally translated in sound art. Extractive music refers to music where compositional and listening practices ambiguously serve as an ecological remedy while also inflicting environmental harm. I am using extraction to refer to the removal industrial contaminants embedded in the nonhuman environment by human industry, but I am also referencing traumatic acts of natural resource removal—including the extraction of sound from a specific location using field recording—by the settler-colonial extraction industries. How is actual world resource extraction and social and ecological trauma animated, scored, and represented in sound art? For example, soundscape compositions remove, rework, and remediate site-specific sounds to create immersive soundscapes that listeners can occupy from the comfort of their high-quality headphones. And while the digital music industry appears to produce less material discard, it is not a form of carbon-neutral listening, demanding high energy use and large acreages of server farms (Devine 2019). I illustrate the material, social, and environmental realities of music that is complexly caught up in embodied and sonorous contemporary ecological trauma politics, as I listen to examples of anti-extractionist and reparative activism in sound art focused on ecological trauma and the climate crisis.
Kate Galloway is on faculty at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her research and teaching address sonic responses to environmentalism, sound studies, digital culture and interactive media, and Indigenous musical modernities and ecological knowledge. Her monograph Remix, Reuse, Recycle: Music, Media Technologies, and Remediating the Environment examines how and why contemporary artists remix and recycle sounds, music, and texts encoded with environmental knowledge. Her work is published in Ethnomusicology, MUSICultures, Tourist Studies, Sound Studies, Feminist Media Histories, and Popular Music.
Shelby Oxenford (The University of Texas at Austin, US)
Archiving the Air: Ambient Music and Fukushima
Following the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident triple disasters in northeastern Japan (3.11), Fukushima-based musician Saito Koji composed a record of the atmosphere of the aftermath in a series of minimalist, ambient loops titled “Helplessness” and “Hope.” Likely intended to be a series of ten tracks of each, the project stopped after five “Helplessness” tracks and five “Hope” tracks, and Saito stopped releasing music with the label he had been working with for the project. He has since continued to frequently release and then quickly delete other ambient, minimalist tracks, some of which explicitly relate to the disasters, on his Bandcamp website, thereby creating an unstable archive of everyday life in post-3.11 Fukushima. Borrowing from media theorist Paul Roquet’s work on the ambient, I argue that Saito’s music does the work of “reading the air” of the aftermath of the disasters, rendering nuclear anxiety and trauma legible by other means. Always at risk and on the verge of disappearing, Saito’s music writ large, and the “Helplessness” and “Hope” loops in particular, form, borrowing from the works of Ann Cvetkovich and Abigail De Kosnik, an anarchic archive of feeling of disaster. This anarchic archive allows us to think beyond potentially pathologizing language surrounding trauma, and instead to think about what power there can be in the repetition and lingering of the ambient. Saito’s works allow us to consider what it means to live everyday life in the aftermath of and in the midst of ongoing risk of harm from disaster, and how both harm and healing might be able to take place.
Shelby E. Oxenford is a lecturer in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on postwar and contemporary Japanese literature and media, and she is currently at work on a book project regarding how narratives were interrupted, generated, and reworked in the aftermath of the triple disasters of 3.11 in Northeastern Japan. She is otherwise interested in comparative approaches to how legacies of trauma have been accounted for, or not, in contemporary Japan and Korea.
Paper Session: Sonic Activism in Response to Trauma
Destiny Meadows (University of Miami, US)
Negotiating Trauma through Music Video Creation during the United States HIV/AIDS Epidemic (1987-1995)
The early years of the United States HIV/AIDS epidemic (1981-1985) were marked by governmental indifference towards the virus. Apathy by US leadership towards the crisis and the resulting inaction by the government subsequently led to the deaths of thousands of Americans. Sensing a need for education, members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies took matters into their own hands, creating music videos promoting and normalizing safe sex. Creators often partnered with non-governmental agencies, such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), formed in 1982, and later the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), established in 1987, to produce these videos, with the goal of disseminating them through public access television for widespread viewership. Musicological scholarship on the AIDS epidemic as primarily focused on the creation of popular music by “Top 40” artists in raising the mainstream public’s awareness (Tift 2007, Attinello 2018). In this paper, I instead analyze the archival music videos of activist creators and organizations produced at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic (1987-1993). I argue that these videos, which were created specifically for members of the LGBTQ+ community, provided an effective way to disseminate information while helping creators and viewers alike deal with the subsequent trauma and loss stemming from the virus. These videos encouraged individual empowerment and education during a critical moment in history for the LGBTQ+ community. Situating my paper in the context of Matthew J. Jones’ research on community and engagement in the arts during the AIDS epidemic, I position this mobilization of activists as an extension of the earlier gay rights movement of the 1970s. In doing so, I emphasize the agency of these creators in striving to dismantle homophobic systems of oppression and encouraging the normalization of safe sex in the LGBTQ+ community.
Destiny Meadows is an M.M. candidate in Musicology at the University of Miami. In 2019, she received her bachelor’s degree from Furman University in clarinet performance. Currently, her research centers on music and advocacy during the United States HIV/AIDS epidemic, focusing on grassroots organizations such as ACT UP and GMHC. Previously, she presented research at the Southeast Chapter of the American Musicological Society on the interconnection between Ballet Russes operas Les Sylphides and Les Biches.
Stephen Wilford (University of Cambridge, UK)
Ytnahaw ga’: Music, Sound and Public Trauma in Postcolonial Algeria
In February 2019 widespread anti-government protests took place throughout towns and cities across Algeria. These coalesced into Hirak, a political movement which continues to call for democracy and greater social equality, and millions of Algerians have joined the protests over the subsequent months. Inevitably, music (particularly singing and chanting) have become integral to Hirak, with the songs used during protests being drawn from a range of sources. In this paper I explore the ways in which music and sound have helped to shape Hirak, with particular focus upon the negotiation of public and private space through sonic practices. My analysis is framed by the legacies and lived realities of the social and political trauma manifest in colonial and postcolonial Algerian society, which have shaped both Hirak’s aims and its use of music.
The paper examines the sources of these songs and the spaces in which they are performed, thinking through the ways in which social inequalities and political censorship have served to foreground particular voices within postcolonial Algeria, while obfuscating others. How, I ask, have music and sound been employed to negotiate and reify hegemonic power structures and to challenge political regimes and ideologies? And how do the songs of Hirak reflect the collective trauma of colonialism, a war of independence, a civil conflict and an unequal postcolonial society?
Since the emergence of the global Covid19 pandemic, the movement’s weekly protests have been cancelled due to health concerns, and a number of participants have been targeted by the authorities. However, Hirak continues remotely, with the Internet and social media enabling Algerians to voice their anger. As such, I also consider the important role of digital forms of musical distribution and communication, and the ways in which individuals employ songs to deal with the personal and collective trauma evident in Hirak.
Dr Stephen Wilford is an academic in the Faculty of Music at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Wolfson College Cambridge. His work focuses upon Algerian musics, both in North Africa and the diaspora, and his current research explores Franco-Algerian musical and sonic encounters throughout the colonial and postcolonial periods. He is particularly interested in ideas of collective identity, cultural memory, diaspora and transnational flows of music. He is an elected committee member of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology and serves on the Ethnomusicology Committee of the Royal Anthropological Institute.
Stephanie Benzaquen-Gautier (University of Nottingham, UK)
‘The Littlest of Stones’: Xiu Xiu’s Sonic Memorials to the Ungrievable
Since the early 2000s, Californian experimental band Xiu Xiu’s frontman Jamie Stewart has dedicated a substantial part of his music and compositions to issues of violence and trauma. Over time, he has created specific forms of memorialization intertwining the intimate and the collective. His own story (the suicide of his father and its long-term impact) is interwoven with stories of others: friends, collaborators and unrelated, anonymous people who are subjected to all kinds of violence and often deprived of voice (abused children, exploited migrants and workers, victims of wars and disaster). Stewart sometimes pinpoints particular stories such as Mary Turner’s, a young black woman lynched in Georgia in 1918, and Gul Mudin’s, the young Afghan farmer murdered by the U.S. army platoon ‘Kill Team’ in 2010. Drawing on Judith Butler’s notion of the ‘ungrievable’ (Frames of War, 2009), the paper proposes to explore how the open and public mourning for ‘lives that do not matter’ performed in/by Xiu Xiu’s songs becomes the basis for a militant position. Stewart is also active on social media. He regularly comments on gun violence, police brutality, LGBTQ rights, neoliberal exploitation, racism, worldwide conflicts and ecological issues. Through this platform, he stimulates his fan base into supporting a range of organizations either providing migrants with legal counsel, fighting for abortion rights or protecting the environment. Stewart’s style is generally highly emotive and confrontational, and at times ‘over the top’. The paper builds on cultural theorist Jennifer Doyle’s study of ‘difficulty’ and ‘emotion’ in contemporary art (Hold It Against Me, 2013) to examine the relation between trauma, affect and politics of representation in Xiu Xiu’s extensive body of work. It tries to flesh out methodologies for analyzing the interaction of aural, visual and textual forms of remembrance. By discussing Stewart’s songs, compositions, concerts, videos, poetry, social media communication and collaboration with visual artists and directors (Danh Vo, Susanne Sachsse), the paper aims to find a critical language that can address (non-canonic) performances of traumatic memory at the crossroads of indie rock, popular culture, art, everyday life and political activism.
Stephanie Benzaquen-Gautier is an art historian and ERC-Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the project Cultures of Occupation in Twentieth Century Asia (COTCA) at the University of Nottingham, UK. She has published on issues of images, remembrance and political violence in journals such as Dapim: Studies on the Holocaust, Media, Culture & Society, Mémoires en Jeu and the Journal of Perpetrator Research. She has conducted research as Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien and the ICI Institute for Cultural Inquiry in Berlin (2018-2019), the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC (2012), the Stone Summer Theory Institute at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago (2010).
Paper Session: Media Representations of World War II
Anita Jorge (University of Poitiers, France)
Harmonizing the Traumatic Sounds of the Blitz in Official British WW2 Documentaries
“[T]he whistle or the explosion or the drone – these are the things that terrify. Fear seems to come to us most of all through our sense of hearing.” This is how one Mass-Observation investigator described the reaction of Londoners to the characteristic noises of the Blitz. His conclusions were based on the testimonies of civilians, whose experiences of the sounds of the Blitz (air-raid sirens, bombs falling and exploding, the drone of enemy airplanes, or later, V-1 flying bombs) were highly traumatic. From the beginning of the Blitz in September 1940, discourses were formulated by the medical community about the pernicious physical and psychological impact of the sounds of war to which Britons were exposed, and several attempts were made at counteracting their effects. In particular, it was feared that too much nervous exhaustion would cause the British people’s morale to deteriorate, and would ultimately help Hitler win the war. The government, through the Ministry of Information, therefore endeavoured to channel propaganda principles aiming at “domesticating” and rationalising these sounds in order to neutralize their distressing potential.
This paper will focus on one of the manifestations of these discourses: official documentary films produced by the Films Division of the Ministry of Information during the Second World War. At the beginning of the conflict, some official films were audio-visual catalogues explaining to civilians how to interpret the sounds that they were hearing, in order to defuse the reactions of fear and anxiety associated with them. But even more characteristically so, a great number of films sought to “harmonize” the sounds of war and establish a musical order within discrete sounds, through a creative sound aesthetics. For instance, such phrases as the “symphony of war”, the “orchestra of bombs”, the “overture of bombers”, the “voice” or “melody of the guns” were often to be heard in the films. The paper will also analyse the symphonic structure of certain films, such as Humphrey Jennings’ Listen to Britain.
Anita Jorge holds a PhD in British cultural history from the University of Lorraine, France, and graduated from the École Normale Supérieure of Lyon. She currently teaches British history and translation at the University of Poitiers. Her PhD thesis examined the representation of the soundscape of WW2 Britain in British official documentaries of the period.
Siv B. Lie (University of Maryland, College Park, US)
Sounding the Unspoken: Performance, Erasure, and Romani Holocaust Commemoration
This paper explores the erasure of Romani trauma and efforts to remediate this erasure through performance. For centuries, Romanies (also known as “Gypsies”) in Europe have been targets of racial violence. In France, anti-Romani legislation from the early 20th century enabled the smooth implementation of Romani internment camps, deportations to concentration camps, and further racist decrees under Nazi occupation and Vichy rule during World War II. To this day, French institutions have largely failed to acknowledge the Romani victims and survivors of this period. This failure contributes to ongoing racism faced by Romanies across the nation. At the same time, some members of French Romani communities maintain traditional prohibitions on speaking openly about past traumas and the deceased. In this paper, I examine tensions around racial identity and memory through the development of Samudaripen, a recent French theatrical production. Samudaripen juxtaposes sound art, music, verbal narrative, dance, and visual imagery to evoke the brutality of Romani persecution under the Nazi regime. The Romani and non-Romani creators of Samudaripen emphasize the pedagogical utility of these expressive fusions in criticizing mainstream Holocaust historiographies and present-day treatment of Romanies, but the confrontational manner in which traumatic events are depicted risks alienating the very people it intends to represent. By analyzing video recordings of the production alongside interviews I conducted with its creators and other Romanies, I argue that Samudaripen’s provocative use of sound and other media challenges erasures perpetuated across racial lines. I draw on insight from anthropological, (ethno)musicological, and historical studies of trauma and commemoration to assess whether Samudaripen constitutes a valuable addition to Romani struggles for recognition and reparations despite its incongruence with the customs of some of those it represents.
Siv B. Lie is an assistant professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is interested in relationships between cultural production, race, and politics. Her research in ethnomusicology and linguistic anthropology examines how Romani (“Gypsy”) groups use music and language to advance their own sociopolitical and economic interests. Her current book project, Django Generations: Hearing Ethnorace, Citizenship, and Jazz Manouche in France, shows how music and language shape ethnoracial and national belonging among French Manouche populations. Through ethnographic, performance-based, and archival research methods, her work explores the politics of expressive practices and the commodification of culture.
Alexandra Lloyd (University of Oxford, UK)
Picturing Sound and Trauma in Marcel Beyer and Ulli Lust’s Graphic Novel Voices in the Dark (2013)
The multimodal and embodied storytelling afforded by comics and graphic narratives has made them a popular and productive vehicle for depicting trauma and memory (Rifkind and Davies; Rothberg; Aarons; Earle). Indeed, trauma studies and comics studies have long been intertwined, most famously in Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1980-1991) which established comics as a legitimate vehicle for Holocaust representation. One area of such research that has received relatively little critical attention, however, is the pictorial representation of sound. How do comics creators draw and textualize auditory phenomena in a medium that, unlike a purely literary text, can show as well as tell, but that still relies on the reader’s imagination to create acoustic worlds.
In this paper I examine the intersection of sound, trauma, and graphic storytelling in Ulli Lust and Marcel Beyer’s Voices in the Dark (2013), a graphic novel adaptation of Beyer’s 1995 novel Flughunde [The Karnau Tapes]. Set in the Third Reich, it foregrounds the aggressive soundscape of the period. Its central character is a sound technician working for the Nazis, who dreams of creating an auditory archive, recording soldiers’ dying utterances on the battlefield and collaborating with the SS to conduct voice experiments on concentration camp prisoners. Thus, this text provides an unusual example of a perpetrator’s perspective as trauma is enacted.
My reading is informed by a cognitive approach to comics that takes account of readerly practices and engagement (Kukkonen, Mikkonen, Khordoc), and by Michelle Balaev’s ‘pluralistic model’ of trauma theory that moves beyond a focus on the ‘unrepresentable’ in ways that could better accommodate analysis of sound and its visual representation. I analyse the ways in which the text maps sound and trauma, considering both medium-specific techniques and the wider implications of the way sound can be made complicit in violence and persecution.
Dr Alexandra Lloyd is a Fellow by Special Election in German at St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford. She has published widely on post-war Germany, most recently in her book Childhood, Memory, and the Nation: Young Lives under Nazism in Contemporary German Culture (forthcoming 2020) and as a contributor to Documenting Trauma in Comics: Traumatic Pasts, Embodied Histories, and Graphic Reportage, ed. by Dominic Davies and Candida Rifkind (2020). Her current project examines depictions of Nazism in contemporary German-language comics and graphic narratives. She is also a Knowledge Exchange Fellow at The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).
Paper Session: Sounding Trauma on Screen
Reba Wissner (Columbus State University, US)
Depictions of Music Making in Fallout Shelters on 1950s and 1960s Television
During the early Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s, the topic of potential nuclear weapons attack on the United States was everywhere. During this time, families were urged to build fallout shelters in their homes into which they could bring their families and survive any attack. Knowing many people also lived in cities and apartments and could not build their own shelters, local governments were urged to build community fallout shelters for those residents. As a result, television civil defense films about moving into shelters during an attack abounded and even fictional television episodes took on the topic. But hardly anything could lessen the fear that people had about having to use these shelters. Arthur G. Neal writes in his book, National Trauma and Collective Memory: Extraordinary Events in the American Experience (2005), fallout shelters were notoriously traumatic places where people would have to spend a minimum of 2 weeks in overcrowded conditions with lined barrels for toileting needs, government supplied food, and only the clothes on one’s back while waiting to see if the world that they once knew still existed or was completely annihilated.
Both government civil defense films, which aired on television, and fictional television episodes, depicted music making in fallout shelters during Atomic Bomb attacks. While it may seem incongruous, some of the shelters in these films and episodes are equipped with pianos and guitars and singing along to these instruments was commonplace. Consistent with recent research by Garrido et al. (2018) that shows music making can function as a coping mechanism for trauma, I propose that these depictions served two purposes: to illustrate a coping mechanism that could be used in civil defense emergencies and a way to lessen the traumatic effect that depictions of Atomic war could have on viewers.
Reba Wissner is Assistant Professor of Musicology at Columbus State University. She received her MFA and PhD in musicology from Brandeis University and her BA in music and Italian from Hunter College of the City University of New York. She is the author of three books, A Dimension of Sound: Music in The Twilight Zone and We Will Control All That You Hear: The Outer Limits and the Aural Imagination, and Music and the Atomic Bomb on American Television, 1950–1969.
Ana Djordjevic (University College Cork, Ireland)
I’m Dreaming of a Better Past: (Yugo) Nostalgia in Manchevski’s Film Before the Rain
In post-Yugoslav cinema war trauma was often shown in connection to nostalgia characters (and film makers) expressed towards the loss of the country they shared (Yugoslavia) and the values and the way of life it represented. This reflects Svetlana Boym’s description of nostalgia as “longing for a home that no longer exists or has never existed” (Boym, xiii). In her seminal work The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic Books, 2001) Boym continues stating that nostalgia usually develops as a “double exposure, or a superimposition of two images – home and abroad, past and present, dream and everyday life” and the moment one tries to force it into one image, it breaks the frame (Boym, xiv). The character of Aleks in Milcho Manchevski’s film Before the Rain (1994) is a good example how this breaking of the frame occurs when one returns home after living abroad for over fifteen years, and experiencing trauma in Bosnian war in early 1990s.
The soundtrack for this film is originally composed music highly influenced by traditional music Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and surrounding areas. However, one scene in the film stands out as it is underscored by a pre-existing song Sanjam (I’m Dreaming) by Yugoslav rock’n’roll band Indexi. In this paper I will analyse this scene in in the context of yugonostalgia, a form of nostalgia that emerged in former Yugoslav republics after the dissolution of the country in 1991. In broadest terms, yugonostalgia is often described as longing for the good old days of prosperity and cohabitation in “brotherhood and unity” between nations. My aim in this paper is to investigate why Yugoslav popular music heritage played an important role in yugonostalgic narratives after the breakup of the country and how is that connected to the (non)acceptance of the war trauma as shown in Before the Rain.
Ana Djordjevic (1991), PhD student of musicology at Department of Music, School of Film, Music and Theatre, University College Cork. Her PhD research project is Once upon a time there was a country: post-Yugoslav war cinema and its music (supervisor – Danijela Kulezic-Wilson). She holds MA degree in musicology from Faculty of Music, University of Arts in Belgrade, Serbia. Participated on several conferences in Belgrade, Banja Luka (Bosnia), Graz (Austria), Munich (Germany), and published several papers in collective conference editions and musical journals.
Friday 11:30-1pm: Keynote: Lucy Dhegrae (National Sawdust, Brooklyn, US)
Losing My Voice, Finding My Artistry: Creativity, Healing, and Post-Traumatic Growth
Lucy Dhegrae is a singer committed to changing and challenging how vocal music is perceived, performed and programmed. Hailed as an “adventurous mezzo-soprano” and “raconteur” (The New Yorker) known for her “vocal versatility and an omnivorous curiosity” (The New York Times), she moves easily between a broad variety of styles, and can be found “everywhere new music is being sung” (New York Classical Review). Since 2013 she has been an advocate and public speaker for the organization RAINN, and recently presented a multi-concert project entitled The Processing Series, exploring trauma’s relationship to the voice, at National Sawdust (Brooklyn) as an Artist-in-Residence.
Roundtable: Journal of American Musicological Society Music and Trauma Colloquy
Since 2019, Maria Cizmic and Jillian Rogers have been planning a colloquy for publication in the Journal of the American Musicological Society on the subject of music, sound, and trauma. This colloquy, still in preparation, brings together scholars at various career stages who are currently working at the intersections of music studies, sound studies, and trauma studies to reflect on various applications of trauma studies in their own work and what music studies can contribute to the interdisciplinary conversation around trauma. In this roundtable, participants will provide brief summaries of their in-progress contributions to the JAMS colloquy, followed by a discussion moderated by conveners Cizmic and Rogers. Through a lively conservation on their current work and its observations and implications, the colloquy’s participants will address what music and sound studies might gain from trauma studies.
Erin Brooks is Assistant Professor of Musicology at the State University of New York–Potsdam. While research interests include opera, film, gender and sexuality, disability, and urban geography, her current work on trauma focuses on historical sound studies. At AMS national meetings, she co-organized a panel on trauma studies in 2017 and presented on sonic trauma in 2018; she has also shared this research at Durham University and the Royal Musical Association. In addition to forthcoming work on sonic trauma during France’s l’année terrible, Erin is currently engaged in a project on sound, trauma, and the polio epidemic and is one of the co-organizers of this conference.
Molly C. Doran is a PhD candidate in musicology at Indiana University Bloomington. Her dissertation, “Representing Trauma and Suffering on the Late-Nineteenth-Century Operatic Stage: Gender, Hysteria, Maternity, and Culture in France,” examines representations of women’s trauma and suffering in French opera, focusing on the performance of hysteria and maternity in works by Charles Gounod, Ambroise Thomas, and Jules Massenet. Combining critical analytical approaches from musicology, performance studies, and trauma studies, her work demonstrates how operatic performance, both historical and contemporary, can signify forms of witness-bearing. Molly currently resides in Providence, RI and is a lecturer at Northeastern University and a member of the piano faculty at Dedham School of Music. Recent awards include a Chateaubriand Fellowship to support four months of research in Paris during spring 2020 and the Dissertation Year Fellowship awarded by IU’s Musicology Department for the current academic year.
Sarah Gerk is Assistant Professor of Musicology at Binghamton University (SUNY). An expert on Irish immigration and nineteenth-century US music, she has examined Irish cultural trauma associated with the Great Famine in US musical life, particularly during the Civil War. She has published in the Journal of the Society for American Music and American Music, as well as several edited volumes.
Eric Hung (Music of Asian America Research Center, US) (he/him/his) is Executive Director of the Music of Asian America Research Center, and Adjunct Lecturer in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. His research focuses on Asian American music and public musicology. He is also an active pianist and conductor who has performed in Germany, Austria, Hong Kong, Australia and throughout North America. Prior to joining the nonprofit world full-time, he was a tenured professor at Westminster Choir College of Rider University. Hung holds a Ph.D. in musicology from Stanford University and an MLIS in Archives and Digital Curation from the University of Maryland.
Jenny Olivia Johnson (b. 1978 in Santa Monica, CA) is a composer, sound artist, and music scholar, as well as an Associate Professor of Music at Wellesley College. Her scholarship is concerned with sound, memory, childhood trauma, and synaesthesia, and she has contributed essays on these topics to Women & Music, Transcultural Media Review, and the Oxford Handbook on Music and Queerness. Her compositions and artwork range from electroacoustic chamber songs and contemplative solo works to short amplified operas and interactive sound sculptures with lighting. Her music has been performed widely by ensembles throughout the US as well as internationally, and her sound art has been exhibited at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (in collaboration with artist Daniela Rivera), and at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. Her first solo album, “Dont Look Back,” was released on Innova Recordings in 2015, and her second album, “Sylvia Songs,” was released on Innova in May 2018. She is currently finishing “The After Time,” an electroacoustic headphones opera about the erotics of grieving, and her immersive installation “DIVE (Lucy’s Last Dance)”–a recreation of an NYC dive bar central to the opera’s story–is currently on display (and viewable virtually) at the Davis Museum.
Tammy L. Kernodle is a musician and scholar that teaches and researches in the areas of African American music and gender and music. She has worked closely with a number of educational programs including The American Jazz Museum, National Museum of African American History and Culture, NPR, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the BBC. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, and anthologies. Kernodle is the author of biography Soul on Soul: The Life and Music of Mary Lou Williams, served as Associate Editor of the three-volume Encyclopedia of African American Music and the Editorial team for the revision of the Grove Dictionary of American Music. She is currently Professor of Musicology at Miami University in Oxford, OH and the President of the Society for American Music.
Fred Maus (University of Virginia, US) teaches music at the University of Virginia. He has written on music and narrative, gender and sexuality in relation to discourse about popular music, embodiment, music therapy, and other subjects. He was a founding member of the editorial board of the journal Women and Music and for several years its book review editor; he served as the first Chair of the Queer Resource Group of the Society for Music Theory. Recent essays include “Listening and Possessing” (forthcoming), “Sexuality, Trauma, and Dissociated Expression” (2015), “Berlin Postcards” (2015), “Classical Concert Music and Queer Listening” (2013), and “Narrative and Identity in Three Songs about AIDS” (2013). He is co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Music and Queerness (forthcoming).
Mary Ellen (Molly) Ryan is an independent scholar who received a PhD in Musicology from Indiana University in 2016. She is the author of “‘Our Enemies Are Gathered Together’: The Politics of Motets During the Second Florentine Republic,” which appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Journal of Musicology. Molly has presented her work on trauma in relation to motet performance during and after the Sack of Rome at Durham University’s 2018 conference “Trauma Studies in the Medical Humanities” and integrates her work on music and trauma into her current musical practices as Director of Music and Liturgy at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Port Clinton, Ohio.
Chairs: Maria Cizmic (University of South Florida, US) & Jillian Rogers (Indiana University, US)
Maria Cizmic is the author of Performing Pain: Music and Trauma in Eastern Europe (Oxford University Press). In this work, Cizmic looks to trauma studies in order to analyze the ways in which music composition, embodied performance, and music in film can be understood to represent trauma. By focusing on late-20th century composers in Eastern Europe, Cizmic argues that this generation of composers participated in a broader late socialist culture focused on historical and cultural memory. Her areas of research and teaching also include 20th-century American experimental and popular music; film music; disability studies; embodied performance, technology, and mediation. She has published in Twentieth-Century Music, American Music, Music and the Moving Image, and numerous edited collections. Maria Cizmic is currently Associate Professor in the Humanities and Cultural Studies Department at the University of South Florida.
Dr. Jillian C. Rogers is Assistant Professor of Musicology at Indiana University. Jill’s research centers on music and sound as embodied phenomena, and especially on relationships between music/ sound and how people have experienced and coped with trauma. Her interests in French modernism, affect and psychoanalytic theory, sound studies, and trauma and performance studies coalesce in her book, Resonant Recoveries: French Music and Trauma Between the World Wars. With Michelle Meinhart, Jill is currently editing a special issue of Nineteenth-Century Music Review on music, war, and trauma in the long nineteenth century. Jill’s interests in French culture, gender and sexuality, and disability studies are apparent in two special issues she is developing with colleagues: one with Kimberly Francis on Lili Boulanger, and one with Fanny Gribenski on intersections between sound, music, and power in France’s long nineteenth century. Finally, Jill is a founding researcher for the Sonic Histories of Cork City Project – a digital humanities public history project that investigates what Cork, Ireland may have sounded like in the city’s rich, historical past.
Paper Session: Trauma and Experimental Opera
Joy Calico (Vanderbilt University, US)
Experimental Opera as a Site of Trauma and Coping: Chaya Czernowin’s Infinite Now
Because opera’s superpower is spectacle, I find myself asking if it is even possible for the genre to treat the subject of trauma ethically, and without lapsing into exploitation. The opera Infinite Now (2017) suggests that it is. This staging and sonification of trauma culminates in a first tiny glimpse of recovery, yet it avoids the genre’s historic pitfalls of sensationalist spectacle and redemptive narrative arc. Instead, in the absence of conventional plot, this experimental piece is an intensely disorienting, immersive audience experience, catalyzed by staging and realized in sound design. Infinite Now is defined visually and aurally by an aesthetic of extreme slowness as a manifestation of the inability to move on from an experience, the temporal distortion of remaining stuck in an infinite now. The key to this is Czernowin’s use of electronics, which allows her to build a vast, glacially-paced soundscape unrestrained by the physical limits of singers or instrumentalists, even while the pit is filled with the latter and the stage is populated by the former. The sound world consists of pre-recorded electronics as well as live actors, singers, and instrumentalists, each of which is miked. An engineer diffuses, localizes, mobilizes and mixes these sounds as a form of spatial dramaturgy to make the hall like “the inside of a head/heart/body,” meaning the audience occupies an impossible space: the interior of another person. The libretto is fragmentary and its meaning elusive, as it consists of two unrelated texts in multiple languages, each recounting its own traumatic experience. I would argue that Czernowin and her team have in fact created an opera about trauma without exploitation; the question is whether this is an experience of trauma that an opera audience is willing to have.
Joy H. Calico is Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Musicology at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. She is the author of two books, both from University of California Press: Brecht at the Opera and Arnold Schoenberg’s ‘A Survivor from Warsaw’ in Postwar Europe. Her current project is a book about opera since Salome through the lens of convention, and she has recently published work on operas by Olga Neuwirth, Kaija Saariaho, and Helmut Lachenmann. She is former Editor-in-Chief of JAMS, and currently serves on the AMS Board of Directors.
Megan Steigerwald Ille (University of Cincinnati, US)
“When the gut outgrows the spirit:” Representing Trauma and Erasure in The Industry’s Sweet Land
Although operatic performance represents one form of colonial expansion, the genre is seldom used as the means by which audiences are asked to confront the historical trauma inflicted by colonialism and western hegemony more broadly. Sweet Land, a site-specific opera that premiered in February and March 2020 in Los Angeles, however, was composed with these intentions in mind. Composed by Du Yun and Raven Chacon and produced by experimental opera company The Industry, Sweet Land uses iterations and repetitions of two U.S- American myths: the first Thanksgiving, and westward expansion as a way to confront audiences—and the opera industry—with the violence and erasure of colonization. While Naomi André has explored the consequences of segregationist violence on twentieth-century opera reception, and Juliana M. Pistorius has considered coloniality in operatic performance, there has been relatively little critical attention paid to the role of the creative and rehearsal process in creating experimental operatic works that depict narratives of historical trauma.
In this paper, I explore how the creative team and performers navigated and performed the violence of historical erasure in Sweet Land. Sweet Land combines site-specific performance with musical-narrative fragmentation to present a vision of western hegemony through the lens of settler-colonialism. Using ethnographic accounts by performers, librettists, and composers, I argue that Sweet Land envisioned a new definition of opera in which creators and performers had creative agency to alternately subsume, deploy, and re-envision lived experiences of racial and ethnic violence. I conclude by turning to another form of erasure that cut short the run of Sweet Land: the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced The Industry to create a digital version of the opera. This final modality thus hints at the elision of past, present, and future forms of erasure, trauma, and indeed, creative restitution brought to light by this production.
Megan Steigerwald Ille is an Assistant Professor of Musicology, Educator at the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. Her research focuses on the roles of place and digital mediation in the twenty-first century U.S. opera industry. She is currently working on a book on the Los Angeles-based opera company The Industry titled Opera for Everyone: Experimenting with American Opera in the Digital Age, that considers the impact of experimental spectatorship practices on contemporary operatic performance. She has articles forthcoming in the Journal of the Society for American Music and the Opera Quarterly.
Heather Aranyi (Northwestern University, US), “Systemic De-Sensitization and Trauma-Informed Practices from Warm-Ups to Post Performance: Utilizing Performance to Help the Body Heal from Trauma”
Trauma Informed Practice is a critical tool for all clinicians working with the voice. As a faculty member and master teaching artist at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Professor Aranyi has developed concrete tools to teach the connected voice and performance practice in a trauma informed pedagogical manner to children and adults. She has been featured in six documentaries by the Lyric Opera and has led numerous trainings around the country on trauma informed practice. Her workshop will teach clinicians how to recognize signs of potential disassociation, different methods of teaching about the breath, and how to utilize the connected force to help people heal from trauma. Physiological mechanisms that are activated in the connected voice will be discussed and examined in the workshop. Participants will learn how some activities can inadvertently re-traumatize students. Participants will leave with specific exercises which she has developed over two decades to assist children and adults who are healing from trauma.
Professor Heather Aranyi M.Ed., M.M. teaches at The Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Northwestern. She is also the Coordinator for The Wildfire Pre-Accelerator Program at The Garage at Northwestern. Outside of Northwestern, she is on faculty at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, an ordained Cantor who serves at Congregation Beth Am, and the founder and CEO of Aranyi Enterprises.
She is a noted keynote speaker and thought leader and has received numerous honors in recognition of her innovative work, including a McCormick Fellowship. Her proposal investigating the role of the connected voice in healing of trauma was recently awarded a prestigious IDEA Dialogue at the Buffett Center for Global Studies at Northwestern University. The IDEA dialogue convened a multi-disciplinary group of renowned scholars to investigate how the connected voice and breath can help the body heal from trauma. The Lyric Opera has featured her work in six documentaries.
Paper Session: Musical Institutions and the Traumas of Racism and Sexism
Ayesha Casie Chetty (University of Cincinnati, US)
Being Black, Being an Opera Singer: How Elite Music Institutions Facilitate Trauma
Western classical music in general, and opera as a sub-genre within this genre, is a white cultural product, within a field that is constantly reproducing its image of whiteness. While the number of non-white singers, specifically black singers have increased within this field, there is still a lack of representation, both in schools as well as on stages. Music schools, the training grounds for careers in opera, are predominantly white both in personnel and in curricula. Opera singers in training have to conform to specific images and mold their bodies to be both aurally and visually conforming instruments to have any chance of success in the field. While there is significant research on the therapeutic benefits of musicking, there is scant research on how musical training, particularly in established educational institutions can be harmful or traumatic experiences, and how musicians experience these. This paper uses qualitative data from semi-structured interviews with 25 black opera singers to analyze their experiences within these institutions, demonstrating some of the ways in which emotional trauma can be inflicted on and experienced by these singers in predominantly white music schools, and in predominantly white professional or semi-professional operatic institutions. This research reveals the palpable effects that white-washing opera and the image of opera singers have on young black singers training for careers in this field.
Ayesha Casie Chetty is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the University of Cincinnati. Her research lies at the intersection of culture, race, gender, and bodies, with a focus on music.
El Schoepf (University of Baltimore, US & Gestalt Therapy Institute, US) and Katy Shaffer (University of Baltimore, US)
Music Students’ Experience of Trauma and Oppression
Researchers in the field of counseling psychology have sought to understand the effect that oppressive environments have on the individual through studying concepts like privilege (Adams, 2013), microaggressions (Sue, 2010), and internalized oppression (Tappan, 2006). Recently, scholars have begun to examine inequity in classical music education stemming from class, gender, and racial issues (Bull, 2019). There is still a need, however, to understand how systemic forces such as racism, sexism, and classism function in the classical music training environment and the impact that systemic inequity has on student (and artist) mental health. The authors conducted exploratory research into these issues using a mixed-methods approach that collected data on mental illness symptoms, stigma, and experiences of privilege, oppression, and educational trauma in music students currently enrolled in a degree-granting program (BM, MM, DMA, or GPD) in the United States. Using a qualitative approach and examining the classical music training environment through the lens of counseling psychology, the authors will present preliminary data on the phenomenological experiences of music students. By turning a critical eye to the system in which classical musicians are educated, we hope to illuminate how the embedded nature of racism, classism, and sexism in classical music education results in complex relational trauma for students and musicians in marginalized groups, and how attending to this trauma by centering historically marginalized voices might provide social healing and justice for the field of classical music.
El Schoepf, M.S.(they/she) is a social science researcher who studies and teaches about power, privilege, and oppression in the performing arts. After burning out of a performing career, El sought to improve mental health services in the performing arts sector by becoming a therapist. Their research about stratified economies’ effect on human behavior and experience served as inspiration for an experiential simulation game they developed called “Star Ensemble: Exploring Power and Privilege in Classical Music.” El holds degrees in counseling psychology and music and is currently a trainee at the Gestalt Therapy Institute of Philadelphia.
Katy Shaffer, Ph.D.(she/hers), is a counseling psychologist who trains mental health counselors at the University of Baltimore. Her research work includes investigations of the effect of multicultural psychology courses on undergraduate students’ knowledge and appreciation of diversity issues, the effect of racism and attachment style on trauma symptoms in BIPOC, the effects of Whiteness in the clinical training environment, and the effects of systemic inequities in music education on music students. Katy’s connection to music is one of deep appreciation, including past performance in voice and piano and scholarly inquiry using a critical lens with her research collaborator, El.
Jeffrey Crabtree (UTS and JMC Academy, Australia)
Indications of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms as a Consequence of Workplace and Sexual Harassment in Music Industry Workers in Australia and New Zealand
The impact of digital technology on the music industries has been felt by consumers, major music distribution companies and by music makers. The widespread changes have included the disruption to old business models, the generation of new ones, and the democratization of access to potential audiences. Emerging themes in contemporary music studies include the increased assumption of risk by those at the grass roots and the need to adopt entrepreneurial business models amidst a highly fragmented environment (Hughes et al. 2016). A recent Australian study has identified the existence of widespread toxicity within the entertainment industries, pointing to the normalisation of workplace abuse within the contemporary music industries (Van den Eynde et al. 2015). Gender discrimination and sexual harassment have been found to be widespread in the creative industries of The Netherlands (Hennekam & Bennett, 2017), and a more recent study also reported widespread workplace and sexual harassment in the UK music industry (Perraudin, 2019)
This paper will discuss findings from a study that aims to answer the following question: what is the extent and nature of workplace abuse in the contemporary music industries of Australia and New Zealand? Specifically this presentation will discuss reports from a wide range of music practitioners (n=33 qualitative, n=148 quantitative) that point to a range of PTSD-like symptoms in victims, including the shattered assumptions of self worth as well as a loss of trust in others and the music industry. Other PTSD-like symptoms will also be discussed including both avoidance and reduced participation, which have led to harassment victims leaving the industry. The survey and interview questions for this study were adapted from the NAQ-R, a widely used measure for workplace harassment: (Einarsen, Hoel & Notelaers 2009).
Jeff Crabtree is the subject coordinator of Music Business and Professional Practice at UTS and he teaches in the Master of Creative Industries at JMC Academy, Sydney. His PhD thesis on workplace harassment in the music industry is currently under examination. His trajectory as a performer and composer in contemporary music has involved producing and recording all manner of music, including music associated with his research Masters at Macquarie University in 2004. He co-authored Living With A Creative Mind, a book discussing the experiences of living a life in the creative industries, including the specific impact of psychological factors as well as toxic work cultures on the lived experience of a creative career.
Paper Session: Traumas in the Era of T****
Cameo Flores (Arizona State University, US)
“Cielito or Son de la Negra?” Mexicanidad and the Trump Administration
Throughout history, sociopolitical statements have been conveyed through popular music’s lyrical contents to express cultural trauma. Following its international popularization in the 1930s and 1950s, the mariachi evolved to symbolize Mexicanness throughout the world. In the case of many United States Chicanx (1) communities, mariachi music is not simply popular; the mariachi itself is crucial to Chicanidad, or Chicano-ness (2). While the mariachi repertoire is extensive, utilizing genres far beyond its original genres of cancion ranchera, son jarabe, and corrido (3), many scholars agree (4) that “Cielito Lindo” and “Son de la Negra” are among the most popular and recognizable songs associated with the modern mariachi to date. At the crossroads between mariachi as an expression of mexicanidad (5) and the popularity of mariachi songs, Chicanx communities have used the mariachi as a mode of protest in anti-immigrant political settings. After briefly tracing the history of popular mariachi and analyzing U.S. immigrant policies and media mariachi representations, I will argue that border policy protesters utilized “Cielito Lindo” and “Son de la Negra” between January 2015-December 2019 to express mexicanidad, and to defy the anti-immigrant and anti-mexicanidad presidency of Donald J. Trump.
(1) “Chicanx” or “chicano” refers to an individual who descends from Mexico in the United States
(2) Chicano identity
(3) Canción ranchera, son jarabe, corrido
(4) Donald Candelaria, 2006, Rodríguez, Russell, 2006, Henriques, Mulholland, Mary-Lee, 2007, Juaregui, Jesus, 2012
(5) Also known as “Mexicanness,” mexicanidad encapsulates what it means to be Mexican
Cameo Flores is a second year graduate student studying for her Master’s of Ethnomusicology degree at Arizona State University. Following many years dancing and performing mariachi music and folkloric ballet, she received her BA in Latin American Music from the University of Nevada, Reno. Her research interests include borderland musics, immigrant work musics, mariachi performance, gender embodiment/performance through music, Chicana/x feminisms, and Latinx identity expression in the United States. She hopes to earn her PhD of ethnomusicology, specializing in Chicana/x musics.
Emma Reading (Lawrence University, US)
Bearing Witness to What You Cannot Heal: Sound Recording, Family Separation at the U.S.-Mexican Border, and the Fraught Connections of Tertiary Witnessing
In today’s globalized mediascape, media documentation of trauma exposes us daily to a wide variety of violent acts. For activist media, these representations are considered an awareness-generating prerequisite to rallying the public to create transformative structural change that remedies and prevents trauma. Yet, how does the audience’s sensory experience of documented trauma impact the realization of this change?
I ask this question of sound recording, using as a case study the investigative journalism group ProPublica’s 2018 recording of traumatized, sobbing migrant children separated from their parents under the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy. To examine the listener’s sensory experience of this documented moment of trauma, which represents only one of the multitudes of human rights abuses continuing to happen at the U.S./Mexican border, I expand upon Caroline Wake’s (2013) theory of tertiary witnessing. With respect to this recording, tertiary witnessing describes how listeners experience themselves as physically, temporally, and emotionally present at the traumatic act, a media-dependent sensory experience that is bluntly juxtaposed with the listener’s actual spatiotemporal distance. This contrast elicits an awareness of the structural realities which determine who observes and who experiences trauma (Spivak), an initial understanding of structural inequality that could fuel deconstructive thought and the generation of alternate visions of society key to realizing transformative change (Freire). In this context, however, this awareness highlights the moral dilemma of the privileged listener who must reconcile their free access to the trauma of the subaltern with their inability to generate meaningful, healing connections from this contact, resulting in a demoralized attitude antithetical to action. The sensory experience of tertiary witnessing, thus, undermines ProPublica’s goal of alleviating trauma through structural change, accentuating how media representations radiate trauma’s effects in a globalized world where the depth of connections across space and privilege has not kept pace with their availability.
Emma Reading is an aspiring music therapist and applied musicologist. She graduated summa cum laude from Lawrence University with a Bachelor of Music in flute performance and a Bachelor of Arts in global studies in 2019, and is currently preparing for further training in music therapy. Her interests include the intersections between sound studies, media, and trauma, film studies and opera, ecomusicology, and contemporary classical music. Emma is developing a career as an educator, therapist, and activist that expands the boundaries of musicology beyond the academy to serve multiple populations in her current and future communities.
Nathan Fleshner (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, US)
Snapshots of Trauma in 1967, 2016, and 2020: Malvina Reynolds and the Search for Truth as a Path to Recovery
The 2016 U.S. Presidential election was a cataclysmic and traumatic moment. For myself and many Americans, it served as a stark reality check for our thoughts on society. It caused a traumatic distrust of our friends and family, the kind of trauma that leads to intense introspection. There are socio-political topics that serve as PTSD-like triggers for revisiting this traumatic experience. Many of these topics are encapsulated in an album, Malvina Reynolds Sings the Truth, released in 1967. The late 1960s were inundated with many of the exact issues that remain traumatic in present day, including racial and social inequality, climate change, religious fundamentalism, and anti-intellectualism.
This paper addresses the musical search for truth as a therapeutic activity. It locates the album, Malvina Reynolds Sings the Truth, within both the historical events of the late 1960s and the post-truth era of present day, creating historical connections that help to frame and contextualize some of our current socio-political issues. This historical comparison is addressed as a path toward a potentially therapeutic perspective on the current reemergence of similar traumatic events. It relies on scholarship from philosophy and psychoanalysis to establish a framework for viewing the process of seeking the truth as a therapeutic act. In doing so, it draws from Wittgenstein’s famous linking of philosophy with the therapeutic process and the work of Simon Blackburn and Harry G. Frankfurt, both of whom equate a refutation of the truth with a kind of sociological pathology. Drawing from the work of Freud and more recent psychoanalysts such as Adam Phillips, it closes with the idea of psychoanalytic truth and how current events might be viewed as a therapeutic session in which society is again dealing with historical traumas from both the 1960s and 2016.
Nathan Fleshner (Ph.D., Eastman) is Assistant Professor of Music Theory at the University of Tennessee. His research focuses on mental illness, trauma, and the psychoanalytic process in music, but also includes popular music and the use of iPad apps for both theory pedagogy and music cognition. His research has been published in multiple journals and the edited volumes, Music Video Games: Performance, Politics, and Play and The Oxford Handbook of Hip Hop Studies. He also writes on music and the medical humanities for the website, The Polyphony, associated with the Institute for the Medical Humanities at Durham University, UK.
Paper Session: The Politics of Repression: Soviet-Era Traumas
Oksana Nesterenko (Stony Brook University, US)
Sounding Incomprehensible: Music Representation of the Experience of Leningrad Siege in Alexander Knaifel’s Agnus Dei
The concept of “unrepresentability” of trauma, the impossibility of assimilating it into “normal” memory, has been particularly influential in studies of the memory of the Holocaust, and more recently addressed in the discussions of the Siege of Leningrad (Kirschenbaum 2006). During the Siege (September 1941 – January 1944), about one million residents died of starvation, and many more witnessed slow death of their relatives – an urban disaster that could had been prevented, had the Soviet government valued human lives. The aesthetic responses to these events in literature and art have been recently addressed in scholarship, with the focus on challenges of representing experience that defies representation (Barskova 2017). Yet, there are no studies of this phenomenon in music, in this particular context.
In 1985, composer Alexander Knaifel (b. 1943) created Agnus Dei for four instruments acapella, using the excerpts from the diary of Tatiana Savicheva, an eleven year-old girl, who died of starvation along with her family during the Siege of Leningrad. This two-hour long piece is characterized by slow pace, long silences and prevalence of sustained sounds in the low register, all of which create an effect of unbearable passage of time. By deliberately creating the sound that causes suffering in his unorthodox requiem, Knaifel wanted “to get to the core of the unbearable experience,” which, as he believed, no one could accurately describe.
In this presentation, I will discuss the sounds and the reception of Agnus Dei, which was performed in Europe numerous times to a great acclaim. Comparing this piece to other two works by Leningrad composers that also addressed trauma and suffering – Boris Tishchenko’s Requiem (1966) and Galina Ustvolskaya’s Three Compositions (1971-75) – I will ask: why are the listeners so eager to suffer?
Oksana Nesterenko is a PhD candidate in Music History and Theory at Stony Brook University. Her dissertation, “A Forbidden Fruit? Religion, Spirituality and Music in the USSR before its Fall,” was supported by the Association of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), the American Musicological Society (AMS), and Paul Sacher Foundation. Oksana has presented her work at numerous conferences and published her research in Perspectives of New Music journal. She serves on advisory board of the annual Ukrainian Contemporary Music Festival in New York and is a co-founder and host of ExtendedTechniques.com, a podcast and blog about contemporary music.
Katherine Pukinskis (Amherst College and Longy School of Music, US)
Return, Education, and Commemoration in Latvian Song Celebration Performances of ‘Pūt, vējiņi’
“Pūt, vējiņi” is a traditional Latvian folk song best known in its choral setting by Andrejs Jurjāns. The song has been programmed in many of the quinquennial Latvian Song Celebrations held since its premiere in 1910, often performed as part of the event’s closing concert. In 1985, “Pūt, vējiņi” was stricken from the festival; the song’s significance in Latvia’s cultural identity caused concern for the occupying Soviet government. However, after the close of the formal program, the 10,000-voice choir stayed on the steps of the Soviet-built amphitheater for an impromptu performance of two banned songs emblematic for Latvians: Jāzeps Vītols’ “Gaismas pils” and Jurjāns’ setting of “Pūt, vējiņi.” The festival conductors each took turns leading a verse of the strophic setting, so no single person could be named as leading the “protest.” In 2018, the festival’s honored conductors each took a verse to lead at the year’s closing concert, paying homage to the impromptu event in 1985.
This paper posits the return of the 1985 conducting format for “Pūt, vējiņi” as a mode of commemoration and intergenerational community-forming in Latvia. The complication of this work, however, is that the generation-specific interaction with the traumas associated with the Soviet occupation slows the intergenerational work of the festival. Latvians born after 1991 have a different connection to the Song Celebration than that of their parents and grandparents; their experience of culture preservation through song is historical rather than lived. Using past research on cultural memory (Anderson 1983, Smelser2004), ritual studies (Bell, 1997), and recent work on traumatic stress studies and transgenerational trauma (Kazlauskas and Zelviene 2016, Rush 2020), I explore this particular recreation of “Pūt, vējiņi” as a complex recipe of re-summoning cultural trauma, experiential education, and commemoration.
Katherine Pukinskis is a composer-scholar based in Western Massachusetts. She teaches composition and music theory at Amherst College and the Longy School of Music. Both her work in composition and research explore storytelling and voice—tracking how words and ideas travel in music, across the world, and over time. Her research focuses on cultural identity, diaspora, traditional folk and choral music, and activism, with particular emphasis on Latvia and 20th-century American art song. Current projects include compositions inspired by dissents written by female Supreme Court Justices, and research about prosody in Margaret Bonds’ settings of poetry by Langston Hughes.
Maria Fokina (Indiana University, US)
A Requiem for the Unburied: Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony (1943)
Emerging at the peak of World War Two and in the triumphant aftermath left by the Seventh Symphony (1942), Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony (1943) had an ambiguous reception. While some praised the symphony for its artistic experimentation and formal brilliance, many also considered the symphony to be ideologically flawed. Denied the Stalin Prize, the symphony faced many unfavorable reactions concerning its depiction of suffering and wartime loss. An analysis of these reactions begs the question—what did the symphony portray that challenged Soviet paradigms of wartime musical expression? Performing an analysis of the symphony through the lens of trauma theory explicates the symphony’s conflictual stance on wartime trauma. While many scholars, both inside and outside Russia, have theorized on the symphony’s reception and the work’s nature, none of this literature considers the possible implications of war trauma captured internally in the symphony, nor how these factors could have contributed to the piece’s conflicted reception.
In this paper I argue that Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony enacted an open discourse of grief within a cultural climate that largely condemned such uninhibited expressions of mourning. In doing this, the symphony painted a dystopic reality that contradicted the utopian visions of patriotism and collectivism that the Soviet government professed. Through an examination of personal testimony, press responses to the symphony, and musical analysis, I examine Soviet attitudes to constructions of memory and trauma, as well as Shostakovich’s response to this position in the Eighth Symphony. By investigating the Eighth Symphony in this way, I illuminate the role that music played in voicing trauma within the societal climate of the Stalinist regime, while also evaluating the functions that constructions of mourning have played in Soviet musical history.
Maria Fokina is currently a Ph.D. student in Musicology at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, she holds a Bachelor of Arts (Music and Latin) from the University of Sydney, Australia. Her recent research interests include Russian music at the turn of the twentieth century, intersections of music and magic, and musical constructions of trauma and memory. Fokina has given conference presentations and guest lectures in both Europe and the United States, most recently at the American Musicology Society Mid-West Chapter 2020 meeting.
Friday 6pm-7:30pm: Keynote
Laura Brown (Seattle, WA, US), “Soothing the Traumatized Heart: Music, the Polyvagal Model of Trauma, and Healing of Complex Trauma”
Persons who are subjected to repeated, unavoidable trauma, neglect, and disruptions to attachment during their earliest years are likely to develop what is now referred to as Complex Trauma. Different from classic PTSD, Complex Trauma affects all aspects of a person’s interpersonal functioning as well as their relationships with themselves, and their existential and spiritual paths. Many people with Complex Trauma have adapted neurologically to the inescapable pain of their younger years by freezing and shutting down, going into what is known as the “dorsal-vagal” pattern of response. But to no one’s surprise, one of the paths out of this shut-down, frozen, and sometimes collapsed place is through music — in particular, through vocal music. This presentation will introduce the audience to the construct of Complex Trauma, and then take a turn into my personal experiences as a singer as they have affected my capacity to resonate with the unconscious of traumatized people. I will explore how the integration of singing into psychotherapy can open a pathway for individuals with attachment wounds to move out of their frozen dorsal-vagal states, tolerate and soothe themselves as they enter Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) activation, and finally move into earned secure attachment, the open-hearted state of the ventral vagal. I will share my “hearts broken and healing” playlist with the audience, and invite them to sing along as the music plays.
Laura Brown’s Bio:
I grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio where I first became active in movements for social justice that have shaped the direction of my life’s work. Choosing a career in psychology over one as a vocalist, I received a B.A cum laude in 1972 from Case Western Reserve University, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1977. I completed a predoctoral internship in Clinical Psychology at the Seattle Veteran’s Administration Medical Center.
I have served on the faculties of Southern Illinois University, the University of Washington, and the Washington School of Professional Psychology, and have taught and lectured through the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, Taiwan and Israel. In the early 1980s I hosted one of the first radio call-in shows by a psychologist.
Everything that I do is motivated by the drive to create social justice, whether it’s the way that I practice psychotherapy or the manner in which I teach. This principle of infusing social justice into everything that I do is visible and known to everyone who interacts with me, and is a focus of the training clinic that I founded. I make the construct of “Tikkun Olam”, the Hebrew term for healing the world, central to my work, teaching my trainees that psychotherapy is Tikkun Olam, one hour and one life at a time. Thus, I try to inspire by example, and by continuously asking the question, “what is the one small thing that we can do to empower another person.”
The bulk of my scholarly work has been in the fields of feminist therapy theory, trauma treatment, lesbian and gay issues, assessment and diagnosis, ethics and standards of care in psychotherapy, and cultural competence. I have authored or edited fourteen professional books including the award-winning Subversive Dialogues: Theory in Feminist Therapy as well as more than 150 other professional publications, and have been featured in six psychotherapy training videos.
A Fellow of ten American Psychological Association divisions, the Association for Psychological Science and the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, I was awarded the Diplomate in Clinical Psychology in 1986 by the American Board of Professional Psychology and am a Distinguished Practitioner and Member of the National Academies of Practice in Psychology.
I have served on the editorial boards of numerous journals, and currently am a consulting editor for Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, Trauma Psychology, Ethics and Behavior, and Journal of Trauma and Dissociation. I am Clinical Professor in the Dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington.
I am a former President of APA Divisions 35 (Society for the Psychology of Women), 44 (Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Issues), and 56 (Trauma Psychology) and of the Washington State Psychological Association.
I founded, and until June 2015, directed, the Fremont Community Therapy Project, a low-fee psychotherapy training clinic in Seattle.
In the Fall of 2000, I was the on-site psychologist for the reality show Survivor: The Australian Outback.
In 2003 I took up the study of Aikido, in which I hold the rank of Shodan, or black belt, which I earned at the age of 64. I now integrate aikido’s principles of open-hearted connection and peaceful resolution of conflict into my understanding of the therapy process.
Xochi Flores and Cambalache (Los Angeles, US), Title TBA
Xochi Flores, M.A., is a mother of three young women, a community worker, popular educator, musician, scholar, baker, and maestra. She works for several Restorative Justice non-profit organizations in Los Angeles where she works as a teacher to the reentry population, as well as to others who are working toward restorative justice in Black and Brown communities. She has worked with communities in the US, and in Mexico in developing multidisciplinary projects in music, poetry, dance, baking and motherhood to strengthen relationships in families and communities. She has a long and successful fundraising and grant writing track record in her arts and movement community as her passion for each project comes through in each proposal. Xochi is also a founding member of the Son Jarocho/Chicanx group, Los Cambalache who’ve been active in their community since 2009. Being a life-long learner, Xochi is currently an aspiring seamstress who loves using fabrics and patterns that juxtapose one another to express the multiple layers of her identity.
Michelle Téllez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona. She writes about transnational community formations, Chicana feminism, and gendered migration for academic journals, books and as public scholarship. A founding member of the Chicana M(other)work collective, the Arizona Son Jarocho Collective, and the Binational Arts Residency project, Dr. Téllez has a long history in grassroots organizing projects and community-based arts and performance. She co-edited The Chicana M(other)work Anthology: Porque Sin Madres No Hay Revolución, published in March of 2019. Her forthcoming book, Autonomy in the Spaces of Neoliberal Neglect: Las Mujeres de Maclovio Rojas, will be out Fall 2021.
Cesar Castro is a Maestro in the Son Jarocho tradition and is part of the team that Flores developed to look at how we community workers are perpetuating the trauma of women of color in these perceived spaces of justice. Cesar has worked with students in the tradition for 30 years and has developed a pedagogy for collective song and verse writing to address trauma, erasure and toxic masculinity in the Son Jarocho tradition. He is a maestro in verse writing, playing jarana, dance and he teaches in community centers, high schools, Occidental College and in California State Prisons through Arts in Corrections program.
Cambalache (from a Spanish word that means exchange) , is a group of musicians from East LA., who play Son Jarocho music from Veracruz, Mexico, popular on the Gulf Coast, a cultural region shaped by indigenous and African culture, as well as Spanish. Cambalache promotes traditional Son Jarocho music that draws the audience in to participate in their performances in the spirit of the fandango, a traditional celebration based on music and dance.
Cambalache was founded in 2007 and led by Cesar Castro (Master Luthier Sonero and Jarocho from Veracruz, Mexico). Castro began studying Son Jarocho at the age of 11 with renowned harpist, Andres Alfonso Vergara. He continued his studies with Gilberto Gutierrez of El Grupo Mono Blanco, and at age, 16, he joined the group formally. With Mono Blanco, Cesar not only travelled through Mexico, the United Status and Europe, he began teaching this cultural tradition in community centers, schools and universities in Mexico City and Veracruz. From Gilberto Gutierrez he also learned laudería, how to make instruments used in the Son Jarocho tradition.
Born and raised in East LA, Chuy Sandoval’s early musical background was formed in playing punk rock. He has been an active church musician in the greater Los Angeles area for over ten years and has had the opportunity to work with several OCP (Oregon Catholic Press) artists and composers. Chuy holds a Bachelor of Music in classical guitar performance from CSULA. Chuy was introduced to the traditional form or Son Jarocho in 2007 and has been an active and serious student of the genre ever since.
Juan Perez, on the upright bass, has performed and recorded with one of the most renowned Jarocho bands from Veracruz “Son de Madera” for seven years, and has played with Quetzal for 10 years. Juan is widely recognized as the “go to” Chicano bass player for all Chicano-Jarocho recordings, performances and for his overall knowledge of the genre.