U of T Ethnomusicology @ SEM 2023

Eight graduate students, two faculty members, and one staff member from University of Toronto are on the program at this year’s Society for Ethnomusicology Annual Meeting in Ottawa. Catch us giving papers on topics as diverse as Iranian women in classical music, listening skills in a Mexican garbage dump, community music archiving in Quebec, and blindness in Korean pansori! Search “Toronto” in the SEM program to find them all.

Congratulations to Dr. Nadia Younan!

Dr. Nadia Younan (PhD) is a Canadian-Assyrian-Italian successfully defended her doctoral dissertation in ethnomusicology in the summer of 2023. Her research on the intersections of collective memory, trauma, and resilience in Assyrian music and dance expressions is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Nadia holds a Master of Arts, Ethnomusicology (York University, 2013), and a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Specialized Honours in Music (York University, 2011). Her multi-sited, ethnographic fieldwork also examines the transnational network of Assyrians in diaspora and the significance of expressive culture under circumstances of exile and displacement.

Prof. Joshua Pilzer’s New Book Quietude

Congratulations to Prof. Pilzer on the publication of his book Quietude: A Musical Anthropology of “Korea’s Hiroshima!”

From Oxford University Press:

Most of us the world over do not know much about the nuclear experience, let alone the 70,000 Korean victims of the atomic bomb or their arts of life and survival. Quietude: A Musical Anthropology of “Korea’s Hiroshima” gives new insight into the overlooked and abused people who have lived and died on the margins of East Asian modernity. This book is an ethnography of Korean first- and second-generation victims of the atomic bombing of Japan focused on the everyday arts that make life possible and worthwhile.

Author Joshua D. Pilzer recounts the stories and songs of atomic bomb survivors and their children in Hapcheon, Korea, offering a corrective to the enduring, multifaceted neglect and marginalization they have faced. Struck by the quiet of “Korea’s Hiroshima,” Pilzer sheds light on its many sources: notions of Japanese soft-spokenness, vocal disability, the quiet contemplation of texts, the changes to the human heart as one grows older, the experience of war, social marginalization, traumatic experience, and various social movement discourses. He considers victims’ uses of voice, speech, song, and movement in the struggle for national and global recognition, in the ongoing work of negotiating the traumatic past, and in the effort to consolidate and maintain selves and relationships in the present.

To purchase and learn more, visit the publisher’s website.

A Jackman Humanities Institute Fellowship for Prof. Farzaneh Hemmasi

In the fall of 2023, Prof. Farzaneh Hemmasi holds a Jackman Humanities Institute Faculty Fellowship. Her project is entitled “Sound, Community, and Tolerance in Toronto’s Kensington Market” During the fellowship period, she will be working on a website sharing the multimodal outcomes of a community engaged ethnographic research project called the Kensington Market Soundscape Study on the perceived increase of sound and noise in a downtown Toronto neighbourhood’s public realm since March 2020, the beginning of the global Covid-19 pandemic. The multi-faceted website will include sonic and visual documentation of KM community members accounts of their experiences with neighbourhood sound and annotated, neighbourhood soundscape recordings in online maps of Kensington Market.

JOIN ROUNDTABLE ON Kensington Market Soundscapes STUDY ON NOV 16

Please join the Ethnography Lab for the roundtable discussion: Sounds of/like A Mixed Use Neighborhood, Community and Conflict in Post-Lockdown Kensington on November 16. At this roundtable, members of the Kensington Market Soundscape Study will present preliminary research and methodological reflections from their summer work at Kensington Market and at the Market’s Pedestrian Sundays. Topics will include a multimodal experimental film presentation, a presentation on soundwalks as a method, and multimedia sound recording, among others.

Date: November 16, 2022
Time: 5-6 PM
Location: AP 246, Department of Anthropology

Read About Kensington Market Soundscapes Project on Ethnography lab

A new blog post titled “From Cultural Critique to Community Engagement: An Introduction to the Kensington Market Soundscape Study by Farzaneh Hemmasi” appeared on Ethnography Lab. Read about what Professor Hemmasi and a team of seven graduate and undergraduate students from ethnomusicology, anthropology and urban planning have been working on.


We are happy to announce that our Ph.D. candidates Brad DeMatteo and Nil Basdurak were awarded 2023 Graduate Fellowship of School of Cities. Congrats to both!


Nil’s paper titled “Aurality of Femicides, Deep Citizens, and Islamic Populism in Turkey” presented at the 2021 SEM’s Annual Meeting (virtual) received the following awards:

  1. An honourable mention for the Society of Ethnomusicology’s Religion, Music, and Sound Section Student Paper Prize that recognizes the best student paper at the Society for Ethnomusicology annual meeting that engages with religion through the lens of ethnomusicological research presented. 
  1. The Wong Tolbert Student Paper Prize, that recognizes the most distinguished student paper on women and music that demonstrates a deep engagement with social theory, including but not limited to feminist, queer, and/or gender theories, presented at the SEM Annual Meeting. 

Jack Harrison Lands a Postdoc At the University of Warsaw!

We are happy to announce that our recent graduate Jack Harrison landed a postdoc position in a grant financed by the National Science Center of Poland, to be carried out at the Department of North American Cultures and Languages, Institute of English Studies at the University of Warsaw. The title of the grant is “Figurations of interspecies harmony in literature, film and other cultural texts of the English-speaking sphere, from the mid-19th to the 21st centuries.” Congrats, Jack!

Upcoming SEM 2021 Annual Conference Presentations

Once again, the University of Toronto Ethnomusicology graduate students will have a strong presence at Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) 2021 Annual Conference! Following are the presentations that will be delivered:

Brad DeMatteo– “An American Samleing: Memory, Narrative, and Change in Cambodian American Multivocality”
Hamidreza Salehyar – “Suffering, Redemption, and Economization of Emotions in Shia Mourning Rituals in Iran”
Keegan Curry – “Sound Mapping and the Production of Place-Based Identities at Ethno-World.”
Kristen Graves – “Sounds from the Discarded: Tactical Listening in the Oaxaca Garbage Dump.”

Due to the increasing threat of the Covid-19 pandemic over the past several weeks, the Society for Ethnomusicology’s Board of Directors has decided to shift the 66th Annual Meeting to an entirely virtual format. The meeting will be held online on the dates currently scheduled: October 28-31, 2021, with a virtual pre-conference symposium on October 27.

The Ethics of Songs: Joshua Pilzer on “Changbu taryeong”

Prof. Joshua Pilzer delivered a presentation titled “Changbu taryeong (Ballad of Entertainer)” as part of The Ethics of Songs series. You can view the presentation on survivors’ musical responses to sexual violence below.

Jeff Packman’s New Book!

Prof. Jeff Packman‘s new book Living from Music in Salvador: Professional Musicians and the Capital of Afro-Brazil (Wesleyan University Press 2021) is now available. Living from Music in Salvador is an examination on of music as labor, and musicians as laborers, in Salvador da Bahia, an urban state capital widely regarded as Brazil’s most African city. Drawing on fieldwork that spans sixteen years, the book explores local musicians’ lives and labours as members of a flexible workforce in a setting that is culturally rich but economically poor.


Polina Desssiatnitchenko (PhD 2017) has been appointed Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology & Musicology at Waseda University in Tokyo, and is currently teaching her first courses, albeit online from her home in Baku, Azerbaijan. She will move with her family to Tokyo just as soon as the lifting of Covid restrictions allows for travel. Congratulations Polina!

Polina has also been very busy completing her book manuscript and performing on tar. In December 2020 she was interviewed the BBC World Service program The Forum about Azerbaijani mugham. That same month, she was engaged to perform by the Ukrainian Embassy in Azerbaijan. Ukraine wished to offer a “Christmas present” for the Azerbaijani nation and hired musicians to make an arrangement of the Ukrainian song “Shchedryk” for Azerbaijani instruments. It was recorded on the mountain peaks in the north of Azerbaijan. Here is the video from YouTube…


Doctoral candidate Nil Basdurak resourcefully repurposed student assignments to address the pandemic when the upper-level undergraduate elective she was teaching was moved online and no student practicum was possible. Instead, Nil asked her students in An Introduction to Sound Studies to create podcasts that captured sounds and experiences of the unique situation in which we have found ourselves, locally and globally. You can read about and hear the results by clicking here.


Prof. Farzaneh Hemmasi’s new book Tehrangeles Dreaming: Intimacy and Imagination in Southern California’s Iranian Pop Music (Duke University Press) is now available. Los Angeles, called Tehrangeles because it is home to the largest concentration of Iranians outside of Iran, is the birthplace of a distinctive form of postrevolutionary pop music. Created by professional musicians and media producers fleeing Iran’s revolutionary-era ban on “immoral” popular music, Tehrangeles pop has been a part of daily life for Iranians at home and abroad for decades. In Tehrangeles Dreaming Farzaneh Hemmasi draws on ethnographic fieldwork in Los Angeles and musical and textual analysis to examine how the songs, music videos, and television made in Tehrangeles express modes of Iranianness not possible in Iran. (Visit the link above to learn more…)

Farzi’s Angels

Angel – 3
Annette Angel
Josh Angel
Jim Angel
Jeff Angel
Josh Beer Angel
Angkor Angel
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Doctoral candidate Nadia Younan has her first peer-reviewed publication, surely the first of many! Titled “Stateless Rhythms, Transnational Steps: Embodying the Assyrian Nation through Sheikhani Song and Dance,” it appears in the latest edition of the Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales (35, 3 & 4, 2019) and looks at the close connection between expressive culture and ethnic identity in the Assyrian line dance and song genre sheikhani in the performance context of a community twice made transnational – first in the homeland, second in diaspora.


Nil Basdurak received an “honorable mention” for the 2019 Charles Seeger Prize, recognising the most distinguished student paper presented at the SEM Annual Meeting. Her paper was titled “The Little Buskers of Istanbul: Ethico-political Soundscape of Children’s Street Labour.” Following on from Emily Wang’s success in the Seeger Prize last year, and the other prizes won by our students, it attests to the outstanding quality of our doctoral candidates. Congratulations Nil!


Massive congratulations (again!) to Yun Emily Wang, who has accepted a tenure-stream position in Ethnomusicology at Duke University! She takes up the post in 2020 on completion of her current postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University.


Congratulations to Yun Emily Wang (PhD 2018), currently Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Music at Columbia University, for winning the 2018 Charles Seeger Prize of the Society for Ethnomusicology. (Read an interview with Emily on the SEM website.) The Seeger Prize recognises  the most distinguished student paper presented at the (2017) SEM Annual Meeting. She won for her paper “Shopping and Chopping: Sound, Diasporic Intimacy, and Everyday Movements in Chinese Toronto. The paper was also awarded the Clara Henderson Prize of the SEM Dance, Movement, and Gesture Section, and the Martin Hatch Award from the Society for Asian Music, both representing the best graduate paper relevant to their respective fields. Emily hits for the cycle!


After almost 30 years, many of them as the lone ethnomusicologist at the U of T, Jim Kippen has followed his wife Annette Sanger in retiring from active duty. In late March 2019, colleagues Josh, Jeff, and Farzi mounted a Symposium (“The Jymposium”) featuring several of Jim’s colleagues in Indian music studies — notably Allyn Miner (U Penn) and Max Katz (William & Mary) — and former students including Rob Simms, Margaret Walker, Lowell Lybarger, and Ameera Nimjee. A memorable concert followed with Jim (tabla) accompanying Allyn (sitar), Rob Simms (Kurdish tanbur), Ameera (kathak dance), Jim & Annette’s Balinese gendèr ensemble Seka Rat Nadi, and Josh’s band The Bols with their amazing Beatle covers.


Congratulations to Meghan Forsyth (PhD 2011), who is now Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at Memorial University, Newfoundland. She was also the recipient of the President’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2017. Her current research explores intradiasporic transnationalism and secular pilgrimage in the context of the pentennial Congrès mondial acadien (Acadian World Congress), as well as the social history of instrumental music of les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec. She is co-author with Dr. Ursula Kelly of The Music of Our Burnished Axes: Songs and Stories of the Woods Workers of Newfoundland and Labrador (ISER Books, 2018).


Congratulations to Ameera Nimjee (BMus 2009, MA 2011), who on finishing her doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago landed a tenure-stream position at the University of Puget Sound. Her research explores how performers of South Asian music and dance traditions navigate creative economies, as they encounter issues of citizenship, religion, race, and gender. Articles-in-progress include studies on the place of song in the migration of South Asian Muslims through East and South Africa, and the creative processes of Bollywood choreographers.


Congratulations to Hamidreza Salehyar for winning the Student Prize from the British Forum for Ethnomusicology, which recognises an outstanding paper presented at their annual conference (2017). Hamidreza won for the paper “Beyond Resistance and Subordination: The Paradox of Popular Music in Shi’ite Rituals in Post-Revolutionary Iran.” Hamidreza, sweeping up, was also awarded the Society for Ethnomusicology Religion, Music and Sound Section’s Student Prize for his 2018 paper presented at the 2018 Annual SEM Conference, “Ritual, Martyrdom, and Shia-Iranian Nationalism in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”


At the recent Society for Ethnomusicology conference, Alia O’Brien was awarded the 2017 Wong Tolbert Prize from the SEM Section on the Status of Women, which recognizes the most distinguished paper dealing with women and music involving a deep engagement with social theory, for her paper “al-Batin, al-Wali, al-Zahir: Regimes of Silence and Voicing in Muslim Toronto.” Congratulations Alia!


Congratulations to Katie Young (MA 2014), now a PhD candidate at Royal Holloway, University of London, for winning the 2018 Student Prize from the British Forum for Ethnomusicology, which recognises an outstanding paper presented at their annual conference. She won for her paper “’If You Know Arabic, Indian Songs Are Easy For You’: Hindi Film Songs and the mawlid in Tamale, Northern Ghana.” Well done, Katie, we miss you and are thrilled to see you thriving.


Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology Josh Pilzer was featured on the program discussing his work with comfort women survivors on November 30, 2018. You can hear the interview here. Josh’s segment starts at about the 40 minute mark.


Polina Dessiatnitchenko defended her dissertation “Musical and Ontological Possibilities of Mugham Creativity in pre-Soviet, Soviet, and post-Soviet Azerbaijan” in May 2017. After another year of research in Baku, Polina took up a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. She has also become a highly accomplished performer on the tar. She has also created a wonderful website about her work, along with many audio and video performances. Many, many congratulations Polina — we are immensely proud of you!


Congratulations to Gabby Jiménez (and her supervisor Jeff Packman) for successfully completing and defending a superb doctoral dissertation: “Versioning Mexico City: Musical Performances, Gender, Sexuality, and the Musical Production of Place.” Since graduating, she has been busy pursuing other research and writing, and has just published an article with the online Sound Studies Blog called Sounding Out! Her piece “Voices at Work: Listening to and for Elsewhere at Public Gatherings in Toronto, Canada (at So-called 150” examines the voices directed at decolonial efforts at some public gatherings — rallies, protests, marches, and memorials — in Toronto between March 2016 and June 2017.