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Research Interests

Romani/Gypsy Music

My dissertation, titled "Play for Me, Old Gypsy: Music as Political Resource in the Romani Rights Movement in Ukraine" (Columbia University, 2005), analyzes the influences of international development aid on Romani musical traditions in Ukraine. This research, based primarily in Transcarpathia since 2001, has been published in numerous book chapters. It continues in its present form as an analysis of the relationship between music and poverty, with particular emphasis on the role of instruments and tunings in shaping regional sonic aesthetics. I continue to use my research to raise awareness of Romani rights abuses and work extensively with Romani non-government organizations in Ukraine, including Romani Yag (Roma Fire) based in Uzhhorod, Transcarpathia.

Global Hip Hop

In recent years, multi-racial, politicized hip-hop scenes have emerged in Kharkiv, an eastern Ukrainian city close to the Russian border. In Kharkiv, hip-hop functions as a genre of social commentary and critique that fosters inter-racial and economic networking among African and non-African male youths. Within these scenes, African student musicians create a socially-conscious hip-hop that expresses concerns about socio-economic status, personal struggle, and aspiration for racial inclusion. My research since 2007 analyzes the ways in which the genre (along with its local folk-fusion counterpart) empowers black musicians in a context of changing post-Soviet class and race relations and influences local understandings of "blackness" and "whiteness." This project also includes ethnographic research conducted in Uganda during the summer, 2009 with families of musicians presently living in Ukraine.

Post-socialist Music Industries

This project analyzes the development of Ukraine's music industries within broader political, economic, and socio-cultural processes. The potential for growth is immense, considering the constantly rising economic status of the country's citizens. However, piracy rates continue to increase as a greater percentage of people gain access to digital technology. The majority of people do not view piracy as a crime. The black market is a part of everyday life, flowing over from Soviet era attitudes that position the acquisition of information beyond government control and regulation. The lack of regulation during the early years of independence regarding music distribution has resulted in the development of highly connected channels between music distributors and political officials that do not enforce intellectual property laws. My research focuses on how black market processes reflect the ways in which people relate to music as a commercial product. Ethnographic contextualization sheds light on how actors within the music industries relate to issues of money and how they develop notions of trust among each other.

Sound, Sports, and Trauma

Music is a crucial component of sports culture worldwide. It offers an important sonic framework for athletes and fans, and functions as a motivational tool, an emotional outlet, and an expression of identity. Since moving to Pittsburgh in 2008, home of the Steelers, Penguins, and the Pirates, my research focuses on the roles social norms and understandings of cultural appropriateness play in framing communal behaviors and expectations as regards sound, music, and noise at public sporting events. My ongoing project analyzes how music creates a connection between spectators and athletes, focusing on moments of physical trauma, pain, and injury during game play. How are sounds used to communicate levels of player injury? In what ways are meanings of sound and silence mediated by players and spectators? What is the role of music in post-game rehabilitation of players? In what ways are sports injuries and emotional/physical/psychological pain represented in music relating to sports?