Lecture Series

The SSI lecture series occurs twice a month on Wednesdays between 7 and 8 PM, and include diverse topics related to sound research, scholarship, and artistic explorations with sound. In the 2021-22 year, we will initially continue to host our lectures as online events, but we are working to move to a hybrid model for the winter term (live in-person combined with live streaming).

Please note: the information below may be incomplete. Please check back often!

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Lecture Series 2021-22

Wednesday, January 12, 2022, 7:00 PM MST

Gems of Radif: New perspectives on Persian/Iranian art music

with Mehdi Rezania

Radif (literally ‘row’, ‘series’) is considered the central repertoire of Persian/Iranian art music. It is a compilation of twelve grouping modes called dastgāh in an order, with about three hundred melodic pieces called gusheh subject to improvisation/expansion. In 2009, radif was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. It is a unique system of sound creation. Radif was compiled and consolidated during the nineteenth century by the Qajar court musicians who played tar (Iranian long-necked).

“Gems of Radif” is a new style of performing radif with santur (Iranian hammered dulcimer). My goal has been introducing a concise version of two dastgāhs of radif in a contemporary style. I have employed a new tuning system (in dastgāh Māhur), and contemporary techniques of santur to further expand the ideas in the gushehs and highlight the ‘gems’ inside them. I have paid special attention to ‘silence’ and how it could modify the melodic pieces to highlight the ‘gems’ inside them, instead of rapidly moving from a phrase to another which is the traditional style of performing radif. You could compare my version with the UNESCO version of Ostad Dariush Tala’I (e.g., Hazin in Navā and Khosravāni in Māhur). The program of dastgāh Navā is closer to the traditional style of executing the radif: maintaining the characteristics of the gushehs and modifying some phrases or expanding them.

This experimental interpretation of the radif of Mirza Abdollah transcribed by Pashang Kamkar has maintained over ninety percent of the original material (except for Kereshmeh). However, by modifying the silence, repetition, dynamics and employing contemporary techniques, I have attempted to present a new narrative. In addition, I have extended the range of dynamics from pianississimo to fortississimo in both programs, compared to the traditional range from mezzo-piano to mezzo-forte.

Mehdi Rezania, born in Abadeh, Iran is a composer, santur player, and researcher. He started music at age 13 and studied the advanced method of santur playing under Ardavan Kamkar in Tehran. He co-founded Baarbad music in Toronto with Toloe Roushenas and has performed numerous times with many local and international musicians including Salar Aghili, Keivan Saket, Hossein Behroozinia, Sinfonia Toronto. His music projects have been supported by grants from Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, Edmonton Arts Council and Canada Arts Council. He has been music advisor to Iranian Heritage Day at the Royal Ontario Museum and artistic advisor to Tirgan Festival in Toronto.

He has a BFA and MA in music composition from York University and an MA in ethnomusicology at the University of Alberta. He is pursuing his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at the University of Alberta supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council. His interest is in contemporary classical music of Iran inside and abroad the country; the impact of politics, migration and globalization on its performance, composition and dissemination.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022, 7:00 PM MST

Soundscape Intervention: Reducing stress, anxiety, and pain in post-ICU survivors

with Shaista Meghani

Hospitalization in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) can have a long-term physiological and psychological impact, affecting functional recovery and quality of life after ICU discharge. Post-traumatic stress symptoms, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, neurocognitive impairments and intrusive memories are common in ICU survivors. Anxiety affects approximately 70% -80% of post-ICU patients.[2] More than half of survivors report overwhelming mental health symptoms for several months after ICU . In Covid-19 patients, the psychological burden is even higher, and persists for longer. These greatly affect the quality of life of survivors and families, and healthcare costs. Pharmacologic approaches have very limited effectiveness and can cause complications. Music and soundscape interventions are low-cost, patient-centered, non-invasive, and without dangerous side effects. Soundscapes consist of looped recordings with distinctive sonic features, constituting a mix of natural, human, and musical sounds. Although soundscape interventions have very favorable effects in the ICU, less is known for the post-ICU phase.

We will conduct a preliminary evaluation of the co-designed intervention with a convenience sample of 10 past ICU patients to explore the acceptability and feasibility, and further refine our approach. We will then test the effect of the co-designed intervention through a pilot single-blinded crossover RCT, with a stratified random sample of 60 post-ICU patients.

Shaista Meghani is a PhD student in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta, and a Graduate Teaching Assistant and Graduate Research Assistant Fellowship, Faculty of Science – Computing Science. The primary supervisor on this research project is Dr. Elisavet Papathanassoglou, Professor & Scientific Director, Neurosciences, Rehabilitation & Vision Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services, Faculty of Nursing. Dr. Papathanassoglou explores the effects of non-pharmacological, integrative interventions and stress responses in critical care. The co-supervisor is Dr. Michael Frishkopf, Professor in Faculty of Arts and Adjunct Professor in Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. Dr. Frishkopf’s ethnomusicological research interests include sound therapies; psychoacoustics and music cognition; music and global health; indigenous medicine and music as medicine for integrative health; and music for global human development and social change.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022, 7:00 PM MST

Who Said That? The use and appropriation of Black voices on TikTok

with Luthfia Friskie and Sabrina Tharani

TikTok is a growing social media platform that preaches a democratization of content, where the average content creator can theoretically “go viral” just as easily as a social media celebrity or influencer. As the application encourages remix and reproduction, users can upload audio to be reused by others to create any kind of content: from comedic to dramatic. But what are the implications of appropriating and popularizing the voices and music of Black creators? Our research is still developing, but we will discuss the phenomenon of sound appropriation on TikTok, particularly the use of Black music, AAVE or Black vernacular, phraseology, and speech patterns. We will begin to analyze the ethical implications of a platform whose sole purpose is to remix and reuse sounds, choreography, aesthetics in the context of modern digital cultural appropriation and digital structural racism.

Sabrina Tharani (she/her) is an after-degree student in the Department of Media Studies, in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta. An avid pop culture junkie, Sabrina’s interests lay in exploring the intersections of race and gender within fan communities, and around stan culture, in digital spaces like Twitter and Instagram.

Luthfia Friskie (she/her) is a first generation Black biracial settler in Amiskwaciwâskahikan. She is a third year Library and Information Studies and Digital Humanities graduate student with academic interests in the intersection between race, technology and information.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022, 7:00 PM MST

Facing It: Sonic Artefacts of War Trauma in Two Tape Compositions by Else Marie Pade

with Dr. Laurel Parsons

Else Marie Pade (1924-2016) has been called the grandmother of Danish electroacoustic music. Fascinated by sound from early childhood, after studying with Pierre Schaeffer in the 1950s she would become Denmark’s first composer of musique concrète. But in September 1944, as a 19-year-old member of an all-female Danish Resistance group, she had been captured by the Gestapo and imprisoned until the liberation of Denmark in May 1945. Her account of the early weeks of confinement and interrogation is filled with references to the sounds of her environment, and in at least two of her tape compositions–Symphonie magnétophonique (1958) and Face It (1970)–sonic traces of the war can be heard. Through musical analysis inflected by concepts adapted from trauma theory and musicologist Louise Marshall’s particularly resonant construct of the “sonic artefact” (2018), this presentation considers how the compositional designs of these works enact, implicitly or explicitly, the lingering psychological impact of the war on its survivors. This blended analytical approach opens new possibilities for hearing certain postwar European compositions as truly post-war, created by humans who had lived not just after, but through the collective social trauma of WWII. 

Laurel Parsons, PhD, is Teaching Professor and Co-ordinator of Aural Skills in the Department of Music at the University of Alberta. With Brenda Ravenscroft, she is the editor of the four-volume series Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers (Oxford University Press), the third of which is currently in press. In 2017, the inaugural volume (Concert Music, 1960-2000) received the Society for Music Theory’s Outstanding Multi-Author Collection Prize and the Pauline Alderman Award for Best Book from the International Alliance for Women in Music; the second volume (Secular & Sacred Music to 1900) received the Society for Music Theory’s Outstanding Multi-Author Collection Prize in 2021.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022, 7:00 PM MST

Winter Walking and Other Scores: Listening as Artistic Practice

with Fulbright Canada Research Chair and CoLAB artist in residence Dr. Rachel Epp Buller

What might it mean to listen beyond our ears, and why would we want to? Drawing on the histories of Deep Listening, feminist and Indigenous listening, and the Slow movement, in this presentation I propose ways that listening through artistic practices can be carried out with our whole bodies as a means to forge relational connections, sorely needed in a time of converging crises. Expansive understandings of listening with our hands and feet, our gestures and movements, as modeled by a range of contemporary artists and explored in my own artistic and research-creation inquiries, position us to better attune to our human and more-than-human others.

Dr. Rachel Epp Buller (she/her) is a Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Arts and Humanities at the University of Alberta for the Spring 2022 semester, on leave from her position as Professor of Visual Arts and Design, Director of the Regier Art Gallery, and Chair of the Faculty, at Bethel College (KS/US). She is a feminist art historian, a visual artist, and a mother of three, intersecting roles addressed in some of her scholarship, including her books Reconciling Art and Mothering (2012) and Inappropriate Bodies: Art, Design, and Maternity (2019), edited with Charles Reeve. She is a certified practitioner in Deep Listening, and her current research-creation project is an inquiry into listening as artistic practice.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022, 7:00 PM MST

Musical Signifyin(g): Examining Aesthetics of Homage and Play in Selected Works by Black Composers

with Dr. Horace J. Maxile, jr.

Through a framing of Samuel A. Floyd, Jr.’s concept of musical Signifyin(g), perspectives involving history, culture, aesthetic choices will converge in this exploration into sounds/sources that shape the expressive trajectories of selected works by Black composers. Brief introductions to each composer will include their own viewpoints as recorded in interviews and writings, and will serve as points of entry for interpretive stances of sonic manifestations in their works.  While not intentioned to posit the expressive voices of Olly Wilson, Harry Burleigh, and others as a monolith, I do seek to situate Signifyin(g) as a concept that forges a foundation for discourses on a Black compositional legacy.

Horace J. Maxile, Jr. is Associate Professor of Music Theory at Baylor University. Dr. Maxile holds the Ph.D. in Musicology (Music Theory emphasis) from Louisiana State University. He also completed studies at Louisiana Tech University (BS Music Education) and Southeastern Louisiana University (MM). Prior to his appointment at Baylor, he taught at The University of North Carolina at Asheville and served as Associate Director of Research at the Center for Black Music Research (Columbia College Chicago). His research interests include the concert music of African-American composers, gospel music, and musical semiotics. Among his publications are articles in Perspectives of New Music, The Annual Review of Jazz Studies, Black Music Research Journal, Journal for the Society of American Music, and American Music. He was Associate Editor of the Encyclopedia of African-American Music (Greenwood Press, 2011). He has served as Editor of the Black Music Research Journal, chair of the Society for Music Theory Committee on Diversity, and as a member of the American Musicological Society Council.