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2009 Lecture: Steven Feld
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Feld’s academic research principally concerns the anthropology of senses, sound, and voice, incorporating studies in linguistics and poetics, music and aesthetics, acoustics and ecology, and the globalization of "world” music. From 1975 to 2000 he studied the sound world—from environmental sounds and bird calls to language, poetry, and music—of the Bosavi rainforest region in Papua New Guinea. More recently he has studied the sound world of Greek Macedonia and Romani ("gypsy”) instrumentalists. Currently he is producing a 5-CD, DVD, and book project on the worldwide history and culture of bells, with European research and recording in France, Finland, Norway, Greece, Italy, and Denmark, and a special non-European focus on Ghana and Japan. In 2004 he began new research on jazz in Accra, Ghana, focusing on the legacy of Ghanaba, the man who introduced talking drums to American jazz drummers in the 1950s; on Accra Trane Station, a group that plays music inspired by John Coltrane on African instruments; and Por Por, a jazz-inspired music for honking squeeze-bulb car horns performed by a union of bus and truck drivers.

Among his fellowships, honors, awards, and grants, Feld received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 1991. In 1994 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2003 he was named the 15th recipient of the Koizumi Fumio Prize for Ethnomusicology, an award for career achievement in the field. He is the youngest recipient of this prize.

A prolific and award-winning writer, Feld has, in the last 30 years, contributed many essays to books and journals in the anthropology of media and the arts. His book Sound and Sentiment (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982/1990), is winner of the 1991 J.I. Staley Prize from the School of American Research; and Music Grooves (with Charles Keil, University of Chicago Press, 1994), is winner of the 1995 Chicago Folklore Prize. His other books include Senses of Place (edited with Keith Basso, SAR Press, 1996); Bosavi-English-Tok Pisin Dictionary (with Bambi Schieffelin, ANU Press, 1998); and, most recently, Jean Rouch: Ciné-Ethnography (editor/translator, University of Minnesota Press, 2003). Feld’s books and articles have been translated to French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Greek, Russian, Turkish, and Japanese. He has lectured at more than 125 universities and museums throughout the world, and appeared on numerous radio and TV programs in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific.

Equally prolific and innovative as a documentary sound artist, Feld’s New Guinea CD recordings include Voices of the Rainforest (produced by Grateful Dead rock star Mickey Hart, Rykodisc, 1991); Rainforest Soundwalks (EarthEar, 2001); and the triple CD/book Bosavi: Rainforest Music from Papua New Guinea (Smithsonian Folkways, 2001). Popular both with academics and with radio audiences, these recordings have put New Guinea on the world music map. His European CDs from Greece and Italy include Bells and Winter Festivals of Greek Macedonia (Smithsonian Folkways, 2002); "Romani Soundscapes” in Dick Blau (photographs) and Charles & Angeliki Keil (texts), Bright Balkan Morning: Romani Lives and the Power of Music in Greek Macedonia (Wesleyan University Press, 2002); Primo Maggio Anarchico: Anarchist May Day in Carrara, Italy (Umanita Nuova/FAI, 2002); and Santi, animali e suoni, A Soundscape of Winter Festivals Featuring Bells and Bagpipes in Southern Italy (Nota, 2005).

In 2003 Feld founded VoxLox Documentary Sound Art, a recording label focused on human rights and acoustic ecology; among its first titles are Iraqi Music in A Time of War: Rahim AlHaj in New York (2003); and, since 2004, four volumes of his soundscape composition series, The Time of Bells, as well as Suikinkutsu: A Japanese Underground Water Chime.

From his Africa work, Feld produced Por Por: Honk Horn Music of Ghana for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, a gift to Ghana for the 50th anniversary of independence in 2007. He has also performed and toured in Africa, Europe, and the U.S. with Accra Trane Station, and produced and recorded with them on Tribute to A Love Supreme (2005), Meditations for John Coltrane (2006), Another Blue Trane (2007), and Topographies of the Dark (2008). Bufo Variations (2008) features Ghanaian percussionist Nii Otoo Annan. From the Africa work, he is now engaged in producing a trilogy of hour-long films about Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra.

In addition to his academic interests in sound, Feld has worked for many years in the fields of documentary photography and film, directing the Documentary Film Lab at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, and producing work for festivals, galleries, and museums, most recently in Africa, Europe, and the U.S. in collaboration with the Australian/Italian artist Virginia Ryan, with whom he produced The Castaways Project, featured in the 2008 Spoleto Festival, and the photographic book and exhibit Exposures: A White Woman in West Africa.

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