by Rachel Cunniffe, MA Music Student
On Friday 13th May 2016, the Middle East and Central Asia Music Forum was hosted by the Music Department at City University, in conjunction with the Institute of Musical Research. Convened by Dr Laudan Nooshin, this twice-yearly event has been running since 2007 and is open to researchers, students and anyone interested in the music and culture of the region.
The event was attended by over 60 people, and current research projects were presented by both scholars and research students. The morning session was opened by Meri Kyotö (University of Tampere, Finland), who examined the dynamics of private and common soundscapes in Istanbul. Ruard Absaroka (PhD student, SOAS) and Rachel Harris (SOAS) then presented their work on the Islamic soundscapes of contemporary China. In the second morning session, Rachel Beckles Willson (Royal Holloway) focused on interpreting and situating sound-making involving the oud (Arabic lute), followed by a screening of the documentary film Telling Strings (Anne-Marie Heller, Switzerland, 2007).
After lunch, a roundtable discussion explored the opportunities and challenges offered by the ‘intersection of sound studies and ethnomusicology’ in the region, generation some lively discussion. The session was chaired by Katherine Butler Schofield (King’s College London) and included the following speakers: Aaron Einbond (City University London), Jason Stanyek (University of Oxford), Elizabeth Tolbert (Johns Hopkins University) and Abigail Wood (University of Haifa).
The final session of the day included a presentation by Abigail Wood on the soundscape of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, a ‘seamline’ of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and Stefan Williamson Fa (PhD student, UCL) on Shi’ite Muslim soundscapes in Northeastern Anatolia. The day concluded with Laudan Nooshin talking about her work on the soundscapes of Tehran, Iran, and presenting a paper on behalf of Mohsen Shahrnazdar (Iranian Institute of Anthropology and Culture) on his Tehran Soundscapes Project.
All in all, this was a very stimulating and thought-provoking day.