Philip Bohlman Leads Inaugural Symposium, "Borderlands of Sonic Encounter"

Borderlands of Sonic Encounter

Photo: *Elevated view of the Benapole-Petrapole border ceremony at the zero point between India and Bangladesh (14 January 2023).

On February 9, 2024, join us for the Inaugural Symposium of Professor Philip V. Bohlman's International Balzan Prize for Ethnomusicology project (2023–28) entitled "Borderlands of Sonic Encounter." The Inaugural Symposium will "lay the groundwork for rethinking the global soundscapes of the arts and humanities," embracing interdisciplinarity and redrawing borders between fields.

The day-long symposium will take place at the Franke Institute for the Humanities, where young scholars and musicians will engage with the forms of sonic encounter that are afforded by the borderland. Three panels will explore key foci of the project: (1) Bengal Borderlands, (2) Media, Mode, and Mobility, and (3) the Middle East. The panels will be followed by a keynote presentation by Ulrike Präger (Assistant Professor of Music, University of Louisville) on her work as co-editor of the "Music and Migration" project in German and English.  

Professor Bohlman emphasizes that listening to and acting with music at the border is more critical now than ever before: "Migrants and refugees move ceaselessly across borders at the sites of conflict. The sonic landscape of borders resounds with violence and threats to sovereignty. The metaphors of the border reflect the most profound of human concerns." In addition to the Inaugural Symposium's daytime panels and presentations, these concerns will be explored in the evening through the tradition of the mehfil—a home-style musical gathering of performers to cross sonic borders. The mehfil will take place at the Gamma Alpha Graduate Co-op and is organized in collaboration with the Chicago Mehfil, an arts collective of regular organizers of mehfil events in Chicago. 

Click here to view the complete symposium program. 

Featured participants: Ulrike Präger (Asst. Prof. of Music, University of Louisville), Supurna Das Gupta (Humanities Teaching Fellow, University of Chicago), Ronit Ghosh (PhD candidate in SALC and Music, University of Chicago), Tomal Hossain (PhD candidate in Music, University of Chicago), Pramantha Tagore (PhD student in Music, University of Chicago), Nadia Chana, Asst. Prof. of Music, University of Wisconsin–Madison), Fiona Boyd (PhD candidate in Music, University of Chicago), Varshini Narayanan (PhD Candidate in Music and Theater and Performance Studies, University of Chicago), Yun Emily Wang (Asst. Prof. of Music, Duke University), Erol Köymen (Humanities Teaching Fellow, University of Chicago), Jon Bullock (Asst. Prof. of Music, Notre Dame), Ronnie Malley (PhD student in Music, University of Chicago), and Shayna Silverstein (Asst. Prof. of Performance Studies, Northwestern).

Featured performers: Habibullah Wardak (rubab), Nada Abulibdeh (voice), Tomal Hossain (harmonium, voice), Mir Naqibul Islam (tabla), Ronnie Malley (oud), Pramantha Tagore (sarod, voice), and Wanees Zarour (misc).


Day-time Panels — Franke Institute: 1100 E 57th St, Chicago, IL 60637 

9–9:30 am: Check-in/registration 

9:30–11:00 am: Panel 1 - Bengali Borderlands; Chair, Supurna Das Gupta, with Ronit Ghosh, Tomal Hossain, and Pramantha Tagore.    

11:00 am–12:30 pm: Panel 2 - Media, Mode, Mobility; Chair, Nadia Chana, with Fiona Boyd, Varshini Narayanan, and Yun Emily Wang.

12:30–1:30 pm: Lunch break 

1:30–3:00 pm: Panel 3 - Middle East; Chair, Erol Köymen, with Jon Bullock, Ronnie Malley, and Shayna Silverstein.   

3:00–4:30 pm: Keynote presentation by Ulrike Präger on her work as co-editor of the "Music and Migration" project in German and English.  

4:30–5:30 pm: Reception 

5:30–6:30 pm: Dinner 

Evening Mehfil — Gamma Alpha Grad Co-op: 5621 S University Ave, Chicago, IL, 60637 

*Please RSVP for the evening mehfil at this link. *RSVP is required for attendance. 

6:30 pm: Doors open  

7:00 pm: Featured performance (“Borderlands of Sonic Encounter”): Habibullah Wardak, Nada Abulibdeh, Tomal Hossain, Mir Naqibul Islam, Ronnie Malley, Pramantha Tagore, and Wanees Zarour.  

8:30 pm: Intermission 

9:00 pm onwards: Open mics and jam session


Co-sponsored by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Committee on Southern Asian Studies, the Department of Music, the Franke Institute for the Humanities at the University of Chicago, and the International Balzan Prize Foundation.