56th BEAM meeting with Daniyal Ahmed (Habib University, Karachi)

“The Transgressive Musicality of Ustad Noor Bakhsh”
Daniyal Ahmed (Habib University, Karachi)

Thursday, June 22, 6 pm

Please note that this will be BEAM’s first event at the Musical Instrument Museum. We hope you can join us at the Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung, Seminarraum, 10785 Berlin. As usual, plan to make time for an informal chat at a nearby restaurant after the talk.


This audio-visual presentation begins by recounting my journey across the Makran Coast of Balochistan, to find the  Balochi Benju maestro, Ustad Noor Bakhsh. This presentation at BEAM is part of Ustad Noor Bakhsh’s debut European tour; itself a chapter in my continuing engagement with this spellbinding musician. Balochistan straddles the space between modern day Pakistan and Iran, and its sounds evoke fragrances from Persia, South Asia, and the wider Indian Ocean world, including Africa. Noor has absorbed these sonic fragrances like a sponge, and his life and music give birth to disparate yet interconnected ruminations.
Through field recordings and stories, centered on Noor’s repertoire, I will first introduce some of the musical forms and genres prevalent in the region, including the trance-based healing rituals, Guati and Dhamali. Noor prides himself as a professional musician, yet doesn’t shy away from facilitating healing rituals. Birds, their songs, and symbols, also feature significantly in his music, which is filled with meditative, rhythmic, improvisations. Steeped in tradition, yet predisposed to experimentation, his musicality traverses these boundaries seamlessly. His improvisations transgress the space between Balochi ‘folk’ tunes and South Asian ‘classical’, raag-based approaches to elaboration.
My aim here is not to present a structured argument, but to share and invite collective reflection on an ethnographic exploration in progress.

Daniyal Ahmed is a student of sound, who switches hats between musician, ethnomusicologist, producer, and curator. After dabbling with vocals and stringed instruments, he was later enchanted by the Bansuri, a flute that took him deep in to various South Asian musical forms, both ‘folk’ and ‘classical’. His music research project and record label is called honiunhoni, a made up word that poetically plays with Urdu words for what is possible/impossible. Ahmed teaches at the Habib University and serves as the General Secretary of The All Pakistan Music Conference (APMC), Karachi. His work has been featured in Songlines Magazine, The Wire Magazine, Pitchfork, Dust-to-digital, DJ Mag, and others.

55th BEAM meeting, Georgina Born (University College London), May 25 6PM

The dynamics of pluralism in contemporary digital art music

How to capture the transformation, from without and within, of a dominant art music genre? Academic electroacoustic music, and specifically acousmatic music, the modernist lineage that came to prominence from the 1970s in universities in the UK, Canada and Europe, has been both hegemonic and waning for around twenty years. In this presentation, based on a chapter from the open access book Music and Digital Media: A Planetary Anthropology (2022), I explore this state of affairs through an ethnography of British university trainings in digital art music and related scenes, trainings I gather under the term ‘music technology degrees’. The aim is to probe the burgeoning pluralism of digital art music in the UK as this presses on contemporary music writ large. My fieldwork focused on three leading British centres: the Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) at Queen’s University, Belfast, the Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre (MTIRC) at De Montfort University, Leicester, and the Music and Music Technology groups at the University of Huddersfield. It also involved contacts with music departments at the universities of York, Edinburgh, East London and East Anglia, and the sound art research centre at London’s University of the Arts. I observed teaching and events, attended gigs and conferences, and made relationships with teaching staff, masters and PhD students. By analysing the music technology degrees the chapter narrates a heterogeneous field in motion, buffeted by larger historical processes. A core premise is that educational change of this kind is both a barometer and a catalyst of wider musical, cultural, social and political changes. The net effect is the blossoming of an extraordinary but patterned diversity of idioms in digital art music, analysed in the final part of the chapter. This leads to a final discussion of how we should conceptualise pluralism in music today.

Georgina Born is Professor of Anthropology and Music at University College London. Previously she held Professorships at the Universities of Oxford (2010-21) and Cambridge (2006-10). Earlier she had a professional life as a musician in experimental rock, jazz and free improvisation. Her work combines ethnographic and theoretical writings on interdisciplinarity, music, sound, and digital/media. Her books include Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde (1995), Western Music and Its Others (ed. with D. Hesmondhalgh, 2000), Uncertain Vision (2004), Music, Sound and Space (ed., 2013), Interdisciplinarity (ed. with A. Barry, 2013), Improvisation and Social Aesthetics (ed. with E. Lewis and W. Straw, 2017), and Music and Digital Media: A Planetary Anthropology (ed., 2022). She directed the ERC-funded research program ‘Music, Digitization, Mediation’ (2010-15) and in 2021 was awarded an ERC grant for ‘Music and Artificial Intelligence: Building Critical Interdisciplinary Studies’. She has held visiting professorships at UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and Aarhus, Oslo, McGill and Princeton Universities.

In preparation for this talk, we recommend looking at Chapter 8 in this open-access book: https://www.uclpress.co.uk/products/187643

We will meet in person for this talk at 6pm s.t. in the Institute for Musicology at Humboldt University, Am Kupfergraben 5, Room 501. Prof. Born will be joining us remotely.

54th BEAM Meeting, May 23, with Alejandro Madrid. “The Carrillo Pianos, Materiality, and the Open-Source Archive”

Please join us at Humboldt University’s Institute for Musicology and Media Studies, Am Kupfergraben 5, room 501 for this talk by Prof. Alejandro Madrid of Harvard University. We will meet on May 23 at 6pm s.t.

Mexican composer Julián Carrillo (1875-1965) spent most of the last forty years of his life, arguing for microtonal music, especially his so-called Sonido 13 (Thirteenth Sound), as the future of the Western art music tradition. Nevertheless, Carrillo’s constant invocation of nature and law in his theorization of microtonality established a universal, general prescription of Sonido 13 as a closed normative system that precluded future particularizations. If the future Carrillo dreamed of never truly materialized, the presentation of his fifteen microtonal Carrillo pianos at the Expo Brussels 58 opened the door for his ideas to have a new life in a different future. This paper takes the re-invention of the Carrillo pianos in the music of contemporary composers in Mexico, France, Germany, the United States and Canada, in order to explore musical instruments that, being designed with specific musical goals in mind, have the anarchist potential of becoming sources of new sounds and creative processes. Following on the work of Carla Maier and Holger Schulze on “analog archives,” this paper proposes the notion of “open-source archive” to explore these circuit-bending interventions as archival interfaces of futurity that provide windows into how individuals reinvent instruments according to new sonic fantasies about the future.

Alejandro L. Madrid is a cultural theorist of sound and music working in Latin American and Latinx studies. He is a recipient of the Dent Medal —given by the International Musicological Society for “outstanding contributions to musicology”—, the Casa de las Américas Musicology Prize, and many other national and international awards and honors from the American Musicological Society, the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Latin American Studies Association, and the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. He is the editor of Oxford University Press’ award-winning series Currents in Latin American and Iberian Music and co-editor of Cambridge University Press’ journal Twentieth-Century Music. He is currently living in Berlin as a Guggenheim Fellow conducting research towards his upcoming book, The Archive and the Sounded City: Gimmicks, Networks, Utopias, and the Logic of Archival Knowledge at the Aural Turn. He received his PhD in musicology and comparative cultural studies from the Ohio State University and is currently professor of musicology and ethnomusicology at Harvard University.

53. BEAM gathering at Humboldt-Forum / research in Eastern Europe

What: 53. BEAM gathering

When: 12.01.2023, 6 pm sharp, meeting 17:50 outside (see “How” section below), talk 1 6 pm, talk 2 7pm

Who: Talks by 1.) Deniza Popova on Bulgarian folk singing (in German), 2.) Linda Cimardi on Black musics in (Former) Yugoslavia and World Musics made in Berlin (in English). Please see abstracts below.

How: In person, we meet in the bigger inner courtyard (called “Schlüterhof”) of Humboldt Forum in front of the museum shop at 17:50, if you come later or are lost you MUST send an SMS to be let in. Please write us if you plan to come ahead of time so we can give you the correct number to message.

Where: Klangwerkstatt, Humboldt Forum, Schloßplatz 10178 Berlin

1.) Deniza Popova 18:00
“Emische und etische Bedenken und Möglichkeiten zur Wieder- und Weitergabe musikethnologischer Forschung”

Während sich die traditionelle Musik aller kulturellen „Reinheit“ und „Authentizität“ zum Trotz transkulturell über den Globus mischt, ist auch zu beobachten, wie immaterielles Erbe aus den Wurzeln und Nischen der Erinnerung keimt und rhizomatische Wege der situativen Wieder- und Weitergabe alter Traditionen entdeckt. Auf der emischen kulturinternen Ebene entstehen im Dorf aus der alten Verwurzelung neue Situationen, mit neuen sozialen Verbindlichkeiten. Das musikethnologische Beobachten, Dokumentieren, Analysieren und Archivieren dieses Erbes wirkt sich auf die Möglichkeiten seiner Wieder- und Weitergabe aus. Der etische, wissenschaftliche Blick (mit geschärftem Verantwortungsgefühl) hat die Auswirkungen musikethnologischen Vorgehens, nicht nur innerhalb der Wissenschaften und in ihrem “Elfenbeinturm”, sondern auch im Dorf selbst zu hinterfragen.
Auch die Dorfbewohner beobachten, allerdings emisch und sie nehmen jede Veränderung sehr genau wahr, sie kennen die Rezeptionswege ihrer Musik und sie erwarten die Konsequenzen. Auf welche Weise kann eine Kommunikation über diese Musiktradition zwischen den Perspektiven vermitteln – vielleicht fragend, vielleicht singend? Die Konsequenzen sind innerhalb der Klanglandschaft des Dorfes präsent und deren Bedeutung ist hörbar (wie z.B. die Beethovensche Ode auf bulgarischen Dudelsäcken), doch welche Position wäre der wissenschaftlichen Erkenntnissuche bei der Wieder- und Weitergabe dieser traditioneller Musikkultur zuzuschreiben?
Die innerhalb meiner Forschung aufgetretenen Bedenken möchte ich in dieser Fachrunde teilen und diskutieren. Ich lade Sie herzlich zum kritischen Austausch ein, der mit einem kurzen, zwischen der emischen und etischen Perspektive changieren Einblick, in meine langjährige Forschungsarbeit im Dorf Dobralak (Bulgarien) beginnt und sich im Austausch und gemeinsames Weiterdenken über diese sowohl aktuellen als auch alten Herausforderungen der Wieder- und Weitergabe fortsetzten möge.

Headland, Thomas N., Kenneth L. Pike, and Marvin Harris, editors, Emic and etics: The insider/outsider debate, Newbury Park 1990, Frontiers of Anthropology, Anthropology, Linguistics. Online: https://scholars.sil.org/thomas_n_headland/controversies/emic_etic vollständig:https://www.researchgate.net/publication/246054591_Emics_and_Etics_The_InsiderOutsider_Debate
Popova, Deniza: Zwischen historischer und situativer Authentizität. Musik als Kommunikationsmedium. In: A. Saupe, S. Samida (Hrsg). Weitergabe und Wiedergabe. Dimensionen des Authentischen im Umgang mit immateriellem Kulturerbe, Leibniz Forschungsverbund, Göttingen: Wallstein 2021, S. 151–176 Online: https://www.academia.edu/94142785/Popova_Weitergabe_und_Wiedergabe_Zwischen_historischer_und_situativer_Authentizit%C3%A4t_Musik_als_Kommunikationsmedium

Siehe Soundings: Workshop – Dr. Deniza Popova

2.) Linda Cimardi 19:00
“World Music and the Cold War. Western and Non-aligned Policies”

My presentation will explore two different research fields that have occupied me in the last years: the ethics and aesthetics of the dissemination of world music through the activities of the Berlin International Institute for Comparative Music Studies and Documentation (IICMSD) and the presence, performance, and representation of Black musics in Yugoslavia. I will focus on the 1960s and 1970s as central decades of the Cold War time, when West Berlin was strategic to mold and display also through music the cultural politics West but also as decades where Yugoslavia shaped its international position of non-alignment to either of the two blocs through the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which also reflected in music. I will examine the political stances of the Western Bloc and NAM on freedom and equality and connect them with the two sides’ policies on world music promotion and representation, in particular for what concerns African American and African musics. While navigating the political implications on and of music during these two tense decades, I will highlight the convergences and oppositions between the West and non-aligned Yugoslavia, as well as their internal contradictions.

52nd BEAM meeting: Film screening, “Siméon”

We will gather again in person for the first time since January 2020 and create a space to acknowledge the many musicians around the globe who have passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic. We screen Euzhan Palcy’s award-winning “Siméon” (1992, 115 min). The film features Kassav’s Jacob Desvarieux (1955-2021); its adventures unfold through dreams, aspiration, loss, magic, death, memory, music and dance (https://www.euzhanpalcy.net/simeon).

You are invited to prepare a research anecdote, musical example, interview passage, photograph or other such anchor of memory to honour a music person whom we lost during the pandemic.

After the BEAM sesssion we’ll go to a nearby restaurant and pub to continue the conversations.

When: 17.11.2022, 6 PM
Where: Musicology Department, HU Berlin, Am Kupfergraben 5, Room 501

51st BEAM meeting. Talk by Pedro Filho Amorim (UFRB, Brazil)

“Other Parties: Rhythm analysis of  musical venues at the fringes of the Carnival industry.”

BEAM’s 51st Meeting. 30.01.2020, Am Kupfergraben 5, Room 501, 18:00

Salvador, the historical first capital of Brazil, is since 2015 one of the “Cities of Music” in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Although “Carnival has been responsible for promoting the local music industry on an international scale”(UNESCO, 2015), Salvador has a much more diverse musical scene, too often overshadowed by the massive tourism industry, of which Carnival is the main attraction. Spaces publicly recognized as important musical venues, with regular audiences and long term activities (sometimes over a decade), are systematically neglected by mass media and authorities. Combining Lefebvre’s (1991) rhythm analysis  and the concept of third space (BHABHA:2004, SOJA:1996), this work aims to  address the temporalities (discontinuities, intensities, reverberations) of such spaces in the fashion of a musical analysis, crossing triadic structures such as: popular/canonic/innovative music;  ontology/epistemology/historicity (SOJA:1996); energy/space/time/;  melody/harmony/rhythm (LEFEBVRE:1991). The analysis is focused on several examples in three categories:  (1) public institutions promoting “serious” music: regular classical music concerts at Museum of Sacred Art and a weekly jazz session in Museum of Modern Art; (2) spaces occupied by popular musical movements: ‘Reggae Square’ in the historic town center, and ‘Rock Stage’, during Carnival, at Piatã beach; (3) spaces occupied by artists’ initiatives: the occupation of Lina Bo Bardi’s iconic building Coaty, by experimental artists, and weekly free concerts by one of ‘axé-music’ pioneers singer/songwriter Gerônimo, at the stairways of Paço Church (famous location of “O pagador de promessas” movie, Palme D’Or in Cannes in 1962) .

Pedro Filho Amorim, PhD is a composer, guitarist, intermedia artist,
researcher and educator from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. Heo holds an MA
in music composition which he completed with the thesis ‘’Poética da
Experiência’’ (Poetics of Experience, a philosophical investigation on
indeterminacy in music). In 2014 he completed a PhD in musical
composition with the thesis „Compor no Mundo“ (Composing in the World),
a model of composing on phenomenological bases.

Pedro works in collaboration with various artists in projects involving
music, expanded arts and urban interventions. He acts currently as
professor at the Center for Cultures, Languages and Applied Technologies
at the Federal University of Recôncavo Baiano (CECULT – UFRB), where he
coordinates a research project on Human and Worldly Rhythms (Ritmos
Humanos e Mundanos). He further instigated and manages the Radio Rede
extension project and participates in the research group MAS (Anarchical
and Sensorial Methodologies) here. Recent works include: participation
in the book Teoria e Prática do Compor IV (Theory and Practice of
Composing IV, Edi Paulo Costa Lima); participation in the project of
graphic notation and serigraphy Tiragem Experimento Zero (book and
disc); Entomúsica, a research on the possibility of making music
with/for insects (presented in CIPS: International Conference Powers of
Sound, 05/2019). He is developing research on rhythms and places
represented by maps, scores and calendars.

5 December. 50th BEAM meeting with Ananya Kabir: Transoceanic creolisation and the music and dance of Goa

The 50th BEAM meeting will be held at Humboldt University’s Department of Musicology, Am Kupfergraben 5, Room 501, at 6 PM.

Prof. Dr. Ananya Kabir (King’s College London) will investigate “Transoceanic creolisation and the music and dance of Goa”.

Portuguese Goa was at the centre of a web of music and dance that stretched across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. For centuries, this web connected the Goan people with expressive culture enjoyed by their counterparts in Brazil, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Angola, Sri Lanka, the Malaccas, and, of course, Portugal. Into this transoceanic inheritance also flowed songs, dances, and stories deriving from Goa’s position in the Deccan peninsula in Southern India, and on the Konkan coastline. What kind of an imagination arose from this unique cross-cultural transfusion, and what can it tell us about Goa then and now?

In answer, I turn to Rápsodia Iberia-Indiana, a collection of ‘Hispanic, Portuguese, and Goan songs and dances’, composed by Carlos Eugenio Ferreira of Margao, South Goa, and published as a booklet of musical scores from the Goan publishing house Rangel in 1929. I read the oeuvre of the eclectic, erudite, and maverick Ferreira, preserved in the personal archives of the Ferreira family, as the tip of an iceberg: Portuguese Goa’s centuries-old music and dance history that encompasses villancicos, motets, contradanças, polkas, mazurkas, and waltzes, as much as the local genres of mandos, dulpods, and dekhnis. This complex material is presented in the talk as evidence of a transoceanic creolisation of mentalités. Opening thus the door to possible ‘Creole Indias’, the talk will conclude with some glimpses of their fate in the postcolonial present.

Ananya Jahanara Kabir is Professor of English Literature at King’s College London. She researches the intersection of the written text with other forms of cultural expression within acts of collective memorialization and forgetting. Through an ERC Advanced Grant (2013-2018), she led an interdisciplinary investigation into African-heritage social dance and music across language worlds. She is spending 2019 at the Freie Universität, Berlin, as a recipient of the Humboldt Forschungspreis (Humboldt Prize. The author of Territory of Desire: Representing the Valley of Kashmir (2009) and Partition’s Post-Amnesias: 1947, 1971, and Modern South Asia (2013), she is currently writing ‘Alegropolitics: connecting on the Afromodern Dance Floor.’ Her new research projects explore further the concepts of transoceanic creolization through cultural production across the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds.

17 November. Sweet Tassa (Film Screening/Q&A) with Christopher L. Ballengee

Brought to Trinidad by indentured laborers from India who first arrived in 1845, tassa drumming has become an important marker of Indian Trinidadian cultural identity. The film SWEET TASSA explores both musical and socio-political elements of tassa performance, focusing on the life and family of noted drummer Lenny Kumar. As the story unfolds, tassa emerges as a metaphor for Indian Caribbean culture, rooted in India while also thoroughly Caribbean.

Filmmaker Christopher L. Ballengee is an ethnomusicologist and Associate Professor of Music at Anne Arundel Community College (Maryland, USA). Dr. Ballengee’s research on tassa drumming is based on fieldwork in Trinidad and the Trinidadian community in Florida since 2007. He was most recently the inaugural Diego Carpitella Visual Ethnomusicology fellow at the Giorgio Cini Foundation (Venice, Italy) which supported the production of the feature-length documentary film Sweet Tassa: Music of the Indian Caribbean Diaspora (2019). His current work includes co-editing a collection of essays on Indian-Caribbean visual and performing arts and developing a comparative project researching dhol-tasha drumming and related genres throughout the Indian indenture diaspora.

At the Musicology Department, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Am Kupfergraben 5, room 501, 3 PM.