Wild Music book is out!

My first book, Wild Music: Sound and Sovereignty in Ukraine, is now out in the Music/Culture Series of Wesleyan University Press!

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Cover art by Sashko Danylenko

Here is the blurb the press came up with to describe the book:

What are the uses of musical exoticism? In Wild Music, Maria Sonevytsky tracks vernacular Ukrainian discourses of “wildness” as they manifested in popular music during a volatile decade of Ukrainian political history bracketed by two revolutions. From the Eurovision Song Contest to reality TV, from Indigenous radio to the revolution stage, Sonevytsky assesses how these practices exhibit and re-imagine Ukrainian tradition and culture. As the rise of global populism forces us to confront the category of state sovereignty anew, Sonevytsky proposes innovative paradigms for thinking through the creative practices that constitute sovereignty, citizenship, and nationalism.

And here are some kind things some scholars I really admire have to say about the book:

“Sonevytsky’s vivid prose brings together rich ethnography with sophisticated analysis. Through her concept of wildness, she shows how performers disrupt binaries of tradition and modernity, of ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ culture, as they construct their country’s sovereignty. A powerful book!”

—Laada Bilaniuk, author of Contested Tongues: Language Politics and Cultural Correction in Ukraine

“Beautifully written, this vital and sensitive ethnography documents the social, affective, and discursive energies that flow within contemporary Ukrainian music. Sonevytsky highlights the possibilities for imaginative agency that “wild musics” provide, without ignoring the very real constraints that hem in the Ukrainian subjects whose complex personhood is the real focus of this remarkable book.”

—J. Martin Daughtry, author of Listening to War: Sound, Music, Trauma, and Survival in Wartime Iraq

“Post-Soviet Ukraine emerges in this beautiful and original book as a place of a vibrant musical and sonic culture. Marked by experiment, hybridity, and ‘wildness,’ this scene not only produces remarkably creative musical projects, but also makes new forms of political sovereignty, citizenship and community imaginable. A great achievement.”

—Alexei Yurchak, author of Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation

It can purchased directly from the press, on Amazon, or even better, from your local academic bookstore!

Berkeley Ethnomusicology

I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be joining the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Music starting in the Fall of 2018. Our little family circus will be moving West next summer. I am so thrilled to join the dynamic intellectual community of Berkeley, to be among faculty who have inspired and shaped my thinking since I started on this path, and to contribute to the renowned ethnomusicology graduate program there. I am all too aware that I have some big shoes to fill. 

We can file this one under “so damn bittersweet”: I am very sad at the thought of leaving our Bard and Hudson Valley community. I have learned so much from the endlessly creative, energetic, brilliant faculty at Bard, many of whom have become close friends. I love our little town of Tivoli, I love our street in that town, I love our little home, the mountains and our river and our lakes and our woods here, I love the klezmorim and the secret canoe shows, and I love the care that my kids have gotten outside of our home. There are too many people who I’ve grown attached to here to namecheck. I’m looking forward to one more year of the Hudson Valley life, and many future visits!

Lecture & DakhaBrakha at Amherst College: April 7, 2017

I’ll be speaking at Amherst College in advance of DakhaBrakha’s concert there on the evening of April 7. Haven’t heard of the NPR darlings and breakout Ukrainian musicians DakhaBrakha? You can check out their NPR Tiny Desk Concert here. Tickets for the Amherst show are available here. Lecture is free and open to the public (4:30, Fayerweather Hall, Pruyne Lecture Hall).

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The title of my talk is: “Ethno-Chaos: Hearing DakhaBrakha in the Context of Contemporary Revolutionary Ukrainian Politics.”

This lecture will contextualize some of the sonic influences that DakhaBrakha alchemize in their self-described ethno-chaos band. As they morphed from claiming to be apolitical musicians to touring as “Ambassadors of the Maidan Revolution,” DakhaBrakha exported a political message to audiences throughout Western Europe and North America; since the 2013-14 revolution, they have forged creative alliances that also suggest a particular progressive politics. In the current global climate, as the Ukrainian state faces an existential threat from continuing aggression from Russia, artists such as DakhaBrakha articulate their hopes and frustrations through their musical performances. Situating their creative experiments within a bigger emerging Kyivan arts scene, we will examine the sonic markers utilized in specific songs and ask what kinds of stories they tell about the complex geopolitical landscape of contemporary Ukraine. Through an exploration of “soundmarks of sovereignty,” this lecture will decode some of the layered histories of social belonging that their richly hybrid songs evoke.

The Academic Hustle

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This spring, I’ve been hustling to one conference after the next, breaking out my best (intellectual) moves, trying my best to look the (academic) part, pointing my finger in the air like I just don’t care (not really that part). I’m suffering from audience whiplash, or something, where I can’t remember anymore if the audience I’m speaking to needs me to show a map of Ukraine and drop some basic facts (“Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, and is a large country that borders…”) before I launch into a particular argument, or whether the audience is comprised of people who have written important books on the region, and who would be insulted if I assumed that they didn’t know who the current ruling party was, or which song is most popular on the radio. Since March, I’ve presented at: the Bard Sound SymposiumASN in NYC, EMP in Seattle, Imperial Reverb at Princeton, and am about to shuttle off to Cambridge University to give a lecture on Crimean Tatar music for the Crimean Tatar Language & Culture Workshop taking place on May 19-20. Excited for this one, especially now that we can just spend a lot of the time talking about Jamala’s Eurovision win!

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