One of my main teaching interests is in leveraging the communal emotional engagement that comes with the personal interaction of in-person teaching in order to foster self-directed and self-paced learning outside of the classroom. I use classroom time to cover topics and to give students tools and the inspiration to follow their own interests--I believe this supports diverse modes of learning. To accomplish that, I am a strong advocate for self-paced learning, for centering student interests, and for learning through doing.
My courses at Amherst aim to deeply investigate the situatedness of music--whether in a region and its histories, such as the Middle East and Central Asia--or as embodied and performed by social actors. I want to ask, "Why music? Why here?" in as many ways as possible.
I'm especially happy to be involved with the Five College Ethnomusicology certificate program.
My broadest interests in ethnomusicology are economic, linguistic/poetic, and analytical. I see myself as working within many fields: ethnomusicology, linguistic anthropology, and Middle Eastern Studies.
My dissertation research, funded by a Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork grant, was conducted on collective praise performances amongst Arab men in the interior region of the Sultanate of Oman. I studied the ways in which collective praise performance practices--specifically a dance called al-razha and a choral ode called al-'azi--helped to articulate local sociality as embedded within national political relationships in the context of an extremely durable and popular authoritarian regime. Over a year of research, performance, and interaction with my interlocutors during performance events, which were arranged to celebrate the opening of infrastructural improvements, state-sponsored development projects, and national festivals led me to conclude that these performance practices helped to facilitate social relations of mutual obligation between elites and subordinate classes--a moral economy. State elites orchestrated state development (construed and mythopoetically relaized as the Sultan's generosity) for local recognition of the Sultan's legitimacy and authority. Bringing in current scholarship on the anthropology of the state, the Maussian gift, and Gramscian political economy, I show how such an exchange--praise singing for development--is deeply embedded in local notions of proper political order.
In addition to my dissertation research, I am currently pursuing historical and music analytical research on the Iraqi Maqam, a highly sophisticated ordered repertoire in urban Iraq. My article on the topic, called The Doors of Melody, is due out in Asian Music.
My interest in the economics of music has also drawn me to Jamaican dancehall, surely one of the most fascinating markets for music that has ever existed. I have a short piece on recent trends in the Jamaican music industry coming out in the Oxford Handbook of Global Music Industries, though that title could change.
Finally, I have an enduring interest in North American roots and vernacular music, broadly conceived. I'm especially interested in musical schemes, instruments, dances, and repertoires that were and are widely embraced by the diverse people who made American music what it is today.