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Music and Culture


Barbara Titus


Dr. Barbara Titus, Prof. Dr. Julia Kursell, Prof. Dr. Walter van de Leur, Prof. Dr. Rokus de Groot, Dr. Anne van Oostrum, Dr. Oliver Seibt, Dr. Rutger Helmers, Dr. Helen Metzelaar, Dr. Floris Schuiling, Dr. Henrice Vonck, Lucy Little 

PhD candidates: Wouter Capitain, Mimi Mitchell, Iye Echa, Juan David Montoya Alzate, Noriko Ishida. International partners: Dr. Lila Ellen Gray (Dickinson College), Dr. Citra Aryandari (ISI Yogyakarta), Prof. Dr. Birgit Abels (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen).

Research Programme

Cultural musicology operates at an intersection of sound studies, ethnomusicology and popular music studies. Subject positions engendered and propelled by aural experiences, and the articulation of those subject positions in (the formation of) social constellations, such as (sub)cultural organisations, media, industries and political arenas are primary concerns of music researchers in the Music & Culture research group.

We search for means to engage with acoustic events, sonic spaces and aural encounters in order to explore the possibilities for employing  them as critical and theoretical models for cultural study and analysis at large. Music ethnographers, historians and cognition scholars have long established that play, dialogical interaction including improvisation and signifyin(g) acts, diachronous and synchronous presentations of time, the temporary constitutions of inner subjectivities, and experiences of the body, of movement and of consciousness can be scrutinized through an engagement with music and sound.

Such explorations are inextricably folded into the musicking acts they engage with: the singing, playing, hearing, producing, distributing, mediating, consuming, and judging of sound as music (Small 1998, 9). Hence, we consider our research as everyday-life occupations (Seibt 2010) and social practices (Titus forthcoming) impacting directly on the events, sounds, people, ideas and ideologies  that shape our investigations.  In order to account for the political implications of this mutual impact, we pay ample attention to the embodied knowledge that we bring into our projects and that is a resource within our research (Hahn 2007): it enables us to  traverse and/or problematize the analytical space between our own (sensual) orientation and the “data” we encounter through a variety of mediating bodies, archives and technologies.

In order to enable critical and self-aware stances in such traversions of analytical space, we will have to face as well as hear the often loaded histories of the disciplines that inspire us. Music history, comparative musicology, music anthropology and ethnomusicology have always been part of cultural and political agendas, cultural codes, and knowledge regimes that continue to bring epistemic riches and cultural expansions to some, and musical and cultural bereavement, including outright epistemicide,  to o/Others. Histories of colonialism and global flows of (cultural) capital as well as the ways in which specific musicking bodies (human bodies, social bodies, repertoires and technologies) are situated in these histories and flows constitute key concerns of the Music & Culture research group.

In order to foreground these concerns, the research group develops scholarly practices that actively resist consumer/service relationships and modes of epistemic commodification. These commodifications not only inhibit a free and equal access to knowledge within and outside the academy, but they also sabotage the participation in and development of public space in society more generally. The movement SoundInAction, initiated by Music Studies MA students, will organize a number of freely accessible events (performance-lecture-demonstrations) that facilitate the sharing and shaping of (academic) knowledge beyond the walls of the university with special attention for a multiplicity of voices and a sensitivity to sound.  These events are centred along the following themes: Exporting Activism, Compatibility and Space, Narratives of Displacement, Times of Change: Environment and Ecomusicology. More information will be available soon.


  • Bloechl, Olivia A. 2008. “On Colonial Difference and Musical Frontiers: Directions for a Postcolonial Musicology.” In Native American Song at the Frontiers of Early Modern Music, 1-32. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hahn, Tomie. 2007. Sensational Knowledge: Embodying Culture through Japanese Dance. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.
  • Ochoa Gautier, Ana María. 2014. “The Ear and the Voice in the Lettered City’s Geophysical History.” In Aurality: Listening and Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Colombia, 1-29. Durham: Duke University Press
  • Small, Christopher. 1998. Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.
  • Seibt, Oliver 2010. Der Sinn des Augenblicks: Überlegungen zu einer Musikwissenschaft des Alltäglichen. Bielefeld: Transcript.
  • Titus, Barbara [under review]. “Your Tongue, Your Sound, Your Song from Your Inside:” Hearing Maskanda in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Envisaged results

The research group coordinates the ASCA Seminar Aurality: Musical Modes of Knowledge Inscription, starting from January 2018. Members of the  group also coordinate the PhD Colloquium on Sound and Music with monthly meetings of music researchers affiliated to the UvA, including six PhD candidates. All those with research material about sound and music that they are willing to share in discussion, debate and peer review are welcome to contact Barbara Titus:

Work plan and time schedule

The group will continue to run during the coming years.

Societal relevance

The research group maintains relations with a number of educational and research institutions , archives (Phonogramm Archiv Berlin) and societies (IASPM, KVNM, Bake Society) in the Netherlands and abroad, such as concert venues (Concertgebouw), festivals (Holland Festival, Roots Festival, Seven Seas Festival, Wonderfeel, TongTongFair) and music organisations (Musicians without Borders, Cultuurschakel, Culture Connection).

This research group is active in the follow constellations: