Visiting Scholar Series

Each semester the Department of Music presents visiting scholars who are leaders in their fields. All lectures are free to the public. For more information call 412-624-4125 or e-mail

2022–23 Visiting Scholars

Emily Bingham: "My Old Kentucky Home: The Astonishing Life and Reckoning of an Iconic American Song" 

September 30, 2022, 1–3 p.m. 
340 A&SC Instruction Room, Hillman Library

Abstract: How did a minstrel song about the slave trade become a beloved melody, a celebratory anthem, and an integral part of American folklore and culture? In her talk, Bingham will explore topics from her recent book, research for which was conducted at Pitt with support from the Center for American Music.

Pittsburgh-native Stephen Foster’s 1853 “My Old Kentucky Home,” presented slavery as carefree while also telling a wrenching story of a man sold to die in the sugarcane fields of the Deep South. The sentimental song—sung by white men in blackface entertaining white audiences—was a sensation in 1853 and has been with us ever since. Its lyrics and meaning have been protested, altered, mythologized in thousands of performances—from Bing Crosby to Bugs Bunny to John Prine and Prissy in Gone with the Wind—and enshrined as the state song of Kentucky.                                      (Photo: Jon Cherry

In casting an unflinching eye on our cultural inheritance, which echoes with a nation’s enduring ability to forget the realities of slavery, Bingham offers a deeply researched and incisive biography of one of America’s most iconic melodies.


Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Emily Bingham holds a B.A. summa cum laude from Harvard University and earned her M. A. and Ph.D. in history at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She has taught at the University of Louisville and Centre College, and is currently Visiting Honors Faculty Fellow at Bellarmine University. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in Vogue, Salon, Ohio Valley History, The Journal of Southern History, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and New England Review. She is the author of My Old Kentucky Home: The Astonishing Life and Reckoning of an Iconic American Song (2022), Irrepressible: The Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham (2015), Mordecai: An Early American Family (2003), and, as editor with Thomas A. Underwood, The Southern Agrarians and the New Deal: Essays After I’ll Take My Stand (2001).

Emily BIngham's visit is co-hosted by The Center for American Music at the University Library System.


Fumi Okiji: "Aesthetic form in musique informelle and the new thing"

November 4, 2022, 1–3 p.m.
Cathedral of Learning CL0213

Abstract: While a diversity of scholarship has found remarkable consensus in narrating the emergence of the new thing, and, incidentally, the contemporaneous developments in the European and Euro-American avant-garde, as the rejection of external forms and an accompanying absorption in what might be understood as raw sonic material, I am interested in what aesthetic form contributes to the picture. I propose that the new thing be recognized as an unadulteration of the core motivation of the music we call jazz—namely, the pursuit of moments of complete communion; in other words, the pursuit of aesthetic form.


Fumi Okiji arrived at the academy by way of the London jazz scene in which she took an active part as a vocalist and improvisor. She works across black study, critical theory, and sound and music studies. Her research and teaching looks to black expression for ways to understand modern and contemporary life, which is to say, she explores works and practices for what they can provide by way of social theory.

She is currently focused on a second book project, tentatively entitled Billie’s Bent Elbow: The Standard as Revolutionary Intoxication. As an ongoing part of her research and teaching, she experiments with approaches to study and writing, drawn from sound practices. She is a member of Le Mardi Gras Listening Collective, a group of friends who, whenever possible, study, listen to music and eat good food together.


Ian Copeland: "Sonic Humanitarianism: Musical Aid Between Affect and Efficacy"

February 3, 2023, 1–3 p.m.
Cathedral of Learning Room 216

Abstract: When a humanitarian project utilizes musical strategies, who benefits? The target community in which the musical practices are imagined to reside? Or humanitarians themselves, drawn in by a fusion of service and adventure? This presentation tackles this question through an ethnomusicological analysis of several international aid organizations that operate in the Republic of Malawi. I argue in favor of a repositioning of music’s role in development encounters: rather than presume sound’s normative efficacy, I demonstrate that the affective surplus produced by many musical interventions can lead to interpersonal consequences that are unintended, overlooked, and, from the perspective of project designers, even counterproductive. But by moving beyond a normative indictment, I simultaneously suggest that musical participation can ratify outsiders’ good-intentioned altruism, thereby rendering a parallel efficacy that complicates an easy conflation of “bad (humanitarian) politics” with “bad (humanitarian) music.”


Ian Copeland is a Postdoctoral Associate in African Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, where he is also appointed to the Department of Music. His primary research interests include the musical and interpersonal ramifications of international aid, volun-tourism, and HIV/AIDS activism in the Southern African nation of Malawi; his recent writing can be found in Ethnomusicology Forum (2022) and The Art of Emergency (Oxford, 2020). Ian received a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Harvard University in 2022; his research has been funded by the Fulbright Program, the Presser Foundation, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and a 21st Century Fellowship from the Society for Ethnomusicology.


2021–22 Visiting Scholars

Jonathan De Souza: "Intercorporeality in Musical Ensembles"

Friday, January 21, 4–5:30 p.m. 

Abstract: Many scholars have examined bodily aspects of listening and performance. Yet they have often prioritized individual bodies. Meanwhile, music-theoretical discussions of social interaction tend to examine small ensembles, such as classical chamber groups or jazz combos, without asking how sonic interplay might be physically grounded. How, then, can accounts of musical bodies and musical interaction be integrated? The phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty offers a model here, insofar as his concept of “intercorporeality” connects embodiment and intersubjectivity. For Merleau-Ponty, human perception, cognition, and action do not start with isolated minds; rather, such processes are inherently social and physical. We interact with others from birth, and such interactions shape our bodily and perceptual capacities. This means that social relations are fundamentally embodied, and embodiment is fundamentally social. Moreover, many activities are impossible without partners, from early infant-caregiver interactions to various forms of work, sport, dance—and collective music making. From this perspective, an ensemble is not simply a collection of essentially discrete bodies. Instead, this approach highlights distributed corporeal structures and fluid boundaries, dynamic networks of bodies sounding together.


Jonathan De Souza is an Associate Professor in the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario, where he is also an Associate Member of the Brain and Mind Institute and Associate Faculty in the Centre for Theory and Criticism. He is co-editor, with Benjamin Steege and Jessica Wiskus, of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of the Phenomenology of Music. In 2020, his book Music at Hand: Instruments, Bodies, and Cognition received an Emerging Scholar Award from the Society for Music Theory.


Yun Emily Wang: Listening Incommensurably: Sounding “out” as homonationalist double-bind in Toronto’s Queer Taiwanese Diaspora

Thursday, March 31, 4–5:30 p.m. 

Abstract: In this paper I analyze two ethnographic moments of sounding “out” among a group of queer Taiwanese immigrants in Toronto by tracking the incommensurables in each instance. 

The first case study took place in a private home in 2014, when my interlocutors exchanged stories of navigating racism in North American queer culture and the ways in which Taiwan’s pending legalization of same-sex marriage produced polarizing family dynamics stretching across the Pacific Ocean. This discussion of intersectional politics was soundtracked by an electronic dance music track consisting of an auto-tuned anti-queer Christian sermon that had gone viral in Taiwan a few months prior, and my interlocutors interacted with the track as non-verbal commentaries that complemented the discussion. The second followed Taiwanese Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling in 2017, when my interlocutors marched in Toronto’s annual Pride Parade. They broadcasted Mandopop queer club anthems with amplifiers on a small hand truck and invited parade bystanders to “party along” and celebrate Taiwan, drowning out the other queer Asian groups. In such politically charged moments of collective listening, singing along, and dancing, my interlocutors engaged with multiple sonic publics that participated in what Jasbir K. Puar calls “homonationalism-as-assemblage” (2015), the processes through which nation states claim sovereignty through queer-friendliness at the expense of the racially and economically marginalized.

Investigating the incommensurabilities between Canadian and Taiwanese queer politics, between sounding and listening, between openness toward an emergent Asian Canadian queer futurity and its own foreclosures, ultimately, I demonstrate the necessity of failures and complicity in efforts toward an otherwise world.


Yun Emily Wang is Assistant Professor of Music and Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies at Duke University. Working at the nexus of sound studies, Asian American and diaspora studies, and intersectional queer and feminist thought, Emily is broadly interested in how the politics of difference orient people’s experience of sound. Her current book project is an ethnography of everyday sounding and listening practices among Chinese-speaking immigrants interfacing the cunning of Canadian multiculturalism. With case studies on queer diaspora, aging in a geriatric care facility, and the gendered geography of intimacy, this book ultimately argues for the political potentials of strategic mishearing in minoritarian life.  

Emily’s work has been recognized by multiple prizes at the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Society for Queer Asian Studies. Her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of Toronto was supported by grants from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council and the Government of Ontario, among others. She was previously a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Music at Columbia University.


Alisha Lola Jones: "It's Just Like FIRE!" : Black Musical Masculinites and the Art of Enflaming Worship

Thursday, April 7, 2 p.m. 

Abstract: Prompted by common multi-sensory language of fire to describe one's spiritual activation by the Holy Spirit, this talk explores topics in Flaming?: The Peculiar Theopolitics of Fire and Desire in Black Male Gospel Performance (2020). Dr. Alisha Lola Jones' new book examines the rituals and social interactions of African American men who use gospel music-making as a means of worshiping God and performing gendered identities. Prompted by the popular term "flaming" that is used to identify over-the-top or peculiar performance of identity, she argues that these men wield and interweave a variety of multivalent, aural-visual cues, including vocal style, gesture, attire, and homiletics, to position themselves along a spectrum of gender identities. Through a progression of transcongregational case studies, Flaming? observes the ways in which African American men traverse tightly knit social networks to negotiate their identities through and beyond theworship experience.


Dr. Alisha Lola Jones is an associate professor in the music department of the University of Cambridge. She is a board member of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), a member of the strategic planning task force for the American Musicological Society (AMS), and a co-chair of the Music and Religion Section of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Additionally, as a performer-scholar, she consults museums, conservatories, seminaries, and arts organizations on curriculum, live and virtual event programming, and content development. Dr. Jones’ book Flaming?: The Peculiar Theopolitics of Fire and Desire in Black Male Gospel Performance (Oxford University Press) breaks ground by analyzing the role of gospel music-making in constructing and renegotiating gender identity among black men. Dr. Jones' book has been awarded the 2021 Ruth Stone (SEM), Music in American Culture (AMS), and Philip Brett (AMS) Prizes.  Her research interests extend to global pop music, musics of the African diaspora, music and food, the music industry and the marketplace, and anti-oppressive ways of listening to black women. A little-known fact is that Dr. Alisha Lola Jones and her sister Rev. Angela Marie Jones are co-owners of Paradise Media Group, a Black women-owned radio company based in Oxford and Henderson, NC. She and her husband Rev. Calvin Taylor Skinner are bicontinental as partners in ministry and love.


2020–21 Visiting Scholars

Nadia Chana: "Tanya Tagaq’s (Concert-Going) Publics"

Thursday, April 15, 4 p.m.

Abstract: This talk unfolds from a performance in a concert hall on Musqueam territory in Vancouver, British Columbia: a collaboration between Inuk (singular of Inuit) singer Tanya Tagaq and Greenlandic mask dancer, Laakkuluk. This performance allows me to consider slippages between audiences and publics as well as the modes of address both come to expect in concert halls and related venues. Taking up those whom Tagaq call “some people”—“I find it a little ridiculous that some people can take a bite of hamburger from McDonald’s, but if they saw a dead cow on the ground, they’d go, ‘Ewww!’”—I engage with Tanya Tagaq both in her capacity as a performer and as a kind of literary critic: in performing for these implicitly settler publics, Tagaq reads them. I attempt to read these publics alongside her, suggesting that Tagaq has used over time the affordances of mainstream settler conceptions of Indigeneity (writ large) to produce what is at once legible enough to draw in settler audiences and yet increasingly viscerally unsettling for those audiences. Ultimately, thinking alongside Tanya Tagaq helps us rethink conventional notions of publics by bringing into view dominant settler publics: those publics that remain invisible to themselves as publics even as they exert considerable force in shaping concert halls and adjacent spheres.


Nadia Chana grew up in amiskwaciwâskahikan/Edmonton (Alberta) singing in choirs, a context that directly shapes her work however invisibly. An assistant professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a faculty affiliate of Project Spectrum, Nadia thinks about racialization, ecological crisis, settler-colonialism, modes of address, ethnographic refusal, singing, and listening.


Music and Movement Virtual Conference

January 22–24, 2021
Department of Music, University of Pittsburgh
Keynote Co-speakers: Dr. Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas
Dr. Michelle Heffner Hayes 

The Music and Movement Conference seeks to bring scholars, musicians, composers, and performing artists together in conversation regarding the dynamic relationship between movement and music. Each panel will feature both paper presentations and performances, underscoring the ways in which the various subdisciplines of music and the performing arts can inform and reinforce one another.

The full conference schedule and program can be found here.

Find out more at


Kunio Hara: “Music, Sound, and Nostalgia in My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies

Thursday, October 29, 4 p.m.

Abstract: In this presentation, Kunio Hara explores the essential role of sound and music in how we experience two classics of Japanese animation: Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro and Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies.

Although developed and released simultaneously as a double feature by Studio Ghibli in 1988, the worlds that the two films depict could not be more different. Similarly, Miyazaki and Takahata established differing working relationships with their musical collaborators. Miyazaki, on the one hand, turned to his trusted musical partner Joe Hisaishi early in the production. For the soundtrack of this project, Hisaishi suggested fashioning a collection of newly composed children’s songs as a starting point. On the other hand, Takahata took a more conventional path, using his keen directorial ear to interleave Michio Mamiya’s emotionally restrained underscoring with diegetic music that, at times, creates harrowing and devastating effects. 

As a result, the two composers’ contributions to the films interact with their narratives in dissimilar ways, accentuating the gulf between the bucolic fantasy of Miyazaki’s Totoro and the stark realism of Takahata’s Fireflies. At the same time, the two soundtracks highlight the directors’ shared ideas about the ability of sound and music to conjure powerful memories in surprising and unexpected ways.


Kunio Hara is Associate Professor of Music History at the University of South Carolina. His main area of research is 19th-century Italian opera, particularly the works of Giacomo Puccini. Kunio’s initial interest in Puccini’s musical representation of Japanese people and culture in Madama Butterfly developed into the exploration of the careers of Japanese opera singers, such as Tamaki Miura and Yoshie Fujiwara, who actively engaged with the opera. His article on Miura’s final performance of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in Japan under U.S. occupation appeared in the journal Music and Politics. Later this fall at the national meeting of the American Musicological Society, Kunio will present a paper on Fujiwara Opera Company’s U.S. tour in the 1950s.

Kunio’s research also focuses on how the idea of nostalgia operates in Puccini’s operas and how the operas’ engagement with nostalgia contributes to their continuous popularity into the twenty-first century. Kunio’s article in the Journal of the Society for American Music studies the role that nostalgia played in the reception of the première of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West in New York City’s Italian American newspapers. Examination of nostalgia in other musical settings has resulted in an article on Tōru Takemitsu’s Nostalghia, a memorial composition for Andrei Tarkovsky named after his eponymous film, as well as his recent book Joe Hisaishi’s Soundtrack for “My Neighbor Totoro,” published as part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Japan series. 

Kunio also serves as the chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee of the AMS Pedagogy Study Group and is currently on the editorial board of the Journal of Music History Pedagogy

Co-hosted by the Department of Music and the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures (Japan Studies) at the University of Pittsburgh, in collaboration with Department of Modern Languages at Carnegie Mellon University.

Generous support from the Japan Iron and Steel Federation and Mitsubishi endowments at the University of Pittsburgh.


Sara Gulgas (PhD 2017): "The Expression and Reception of Emerging Adulthood in Rock"

Thursday, October 1, 4 p.m.

Abstract: Since the 1960s, music critics have questioned artists’ incorporation of baroque musical elements into rock and have charged artists with either flaunting a newfound maturity in a self-serious manner or laying pretentious claims to cultural accreditation. Both interpretations are in direct contrast to rock music’s associations with adolescent entertainment. While artists sonically referenced baroque instrumentation and style in order to evoke associations with high society, respectability, the parental generation, and/or the all-encompassing past, they also used music from the distant past to accompany lyrical expressions of nostalgia for their relatively recent childhood. The anachronism created between the music and the lyrics can be interpreted as an ironic turn away from sentimentality for the past, but it can also be interpreted as an artist’s struggle to maintain an adolescent fanbase while transitioning into adulthood. I focus on these transitional moments in the careers of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Vampire Weekend, and Panic at the Disco as they relate to baroque rock’s inception in the 1960s and its revival in the early 2000s. I argue that baroque musical elements in rock should not be dismissed as posturing, but rather they should be heard as artistic expressions of emerging adulthood.


Sara Gulgas is an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Arizona where she teaches courses on American popular music, the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and jazz history. Her research interests include popular music studies, film and media studies, memory studies, and the sociology of music. She is currently working on a scholarly monograph entitled Baroque Rock and the Memory Politics of Musically Representing the Past. She has presented her research as a part of the American Musicological Society-Rock Hall Lecture Series as well as at national and international conferences. Her work has been published in IASPM-US Music Scenes, Resonance Interdisciplinary Music Journal, Bruce Springsteen and Popular Music: Essays on Rhetoric, Social Consciousness, and Contemporary Culture, and Heavy Metal at the Movies


2019–20 Visiting Scholars

Shana Redmond: “Antiphonal Life: The Returns of Paul Robeson”

Wednesday, February 19, 6 p.m.
Frick Fine Arts Auditorium

Abstract: In “Antiphonal Life: The Returns of Paul Robeson,” Redmond provides an experimental cartography of Paul Robeson’s afterlife. Tracing his sound and its materialization in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, she establishes the global scope of his musical practice as well as the imagination of those who call him back.

Shana L. Redmond is the author of Everything Man: The Form and Function of Paul Robeson (Duke UP, 2020) and Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora (NYU Press, 2014). A public facing scholar, her recent publications include critical profiles for NPR and Women Who Rock (2018), as well as the liner notes for the “Us” soundtrack (2019). She is Professor of Musicology and African American Studies at UCLA.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.



Robin James: “‘Bad Guy,’ ‘High Hopes,’ and Chill Moods:
post-probabilist resilience in today’s pop music”

Tuesday, November 19, 7 p.m.
Frick Fine Arts Auditorium

Abstract: Building on my work in Resilience & Melancholy, I discuss how post-probabilist neoliberalisms—neoliberalisms that depart from the Gaussian, probabilist neoliberalisms I studied in the book—impact contemporary popular music in the US. Using Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” Panic! At the Disco’s “High Hopes,” and Spotify’s “chill” playlists as case studies, I’ll show how the pop music industry and pop aesthetics are adapting to neoliberalism’s transformation of market value into capacity or resilience. I will also show that, in this context, inequality becomes a measure not of abnormality, but of dis/orientation, and explain how this impacts both performances of gender, race, and sexuality, and the use of pop music to regulate and manage mood or orientation for maximum capacity-building. 


Robin James is Visiting Associate Professor of Music at Northeastern for the 2019–20 academic year. Her permanent appointment is as Associate Professor of Philosophy at UNC Charlotte. She is also co-editor of The Journal of Popular Music Studies. Robin is author of three books: The Sonic Episteme: acoustic resonance, neoliberalism, & biopolitics (Duke University Press, 2019), Resilience & Melancholy: pop music, feminism, and neoliberalism (Zero, 2015), and The Conjectural Body: gender, race and the philosophy of music (Lexington Books, 2010). Her work on feminism, race, contemporary continental philosophy, pop music, and sound studies has appeared in The Guardian, LARB, BELT Magazine, The New Inquiry, Noisey, popula, SoundingOut!, Hypatia, differences,
Contemporary Aesthetics,
and the Journal of Popular Music Studies. She loves dogs, gardening, running, and face-melting industrial techno.


Tomie Hahn: When nothing makes sense in performance and research

Monday, October 7, 6 p.m.
Frick Fine Arts Auditorium

Abstract: Tomie invites you to listen to surreal stories of performance and research. In this presentation she examines silence and the absence of sensory information. Noticing holes—or noticing “nothing”—is tricky. One needs to be culturally sensitive to inferences, pauses, as well as linkages that appear and then disappear. Awareness of transmission, masking, or entropic data transmission involves challenging multisensory consciousness—or even the boundaries of our perceptual bandwidth.

Tomie Hahn is an artist and ethnomusicologist. She is a performer of shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute), nihon buyo (Japanese traditional dance), and experimental performance art. Tomie’s research spans a wide range of area studies and topics including: Monster Truck rallies, issues of display, the senses and transmission, gesture, meditation, and relationships of technology and culture. Her book, Sensational Knowledge: Embodying Culture through Japanese Dance was awarded the Alan P. Merriam prize (Society for Ethnomusicology). She is a Professor in the Arts Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she is also the Director of the Center for Deep Listening. Tomie loves to smile.

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