decolonizing sound workshop

This workshop has been presented throughout the US and as of 2015 has had international presence. 

For requests: please email

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Decolonizing Sound abstract

Decolonizing Sound: Experimenting Otherness in the 1960s and 2010s by Basu, Sharmi, M.F.A., MILLS COLLEGE, 2014, 96 pages; 1571798


The mechanisms of control from the state permeate every facet of social and cultural production. It is, thus, both inefficient and incorrect to analyze the phenomenon of gendered and racial disparity within the creative music environment as an intentional or malicious act by individuals. It is, in fact, a consequence of a deeply imbedded structure that feeds itself and continues off of the backs of brown women. It is not random; rather it is a result of a profoundly institutionalized process of domination that demands that women be submissive and women of color, who are systematically fetishized or ignored by mass media, are only ever seen and valued as an accessory to whiteness. Despite all this, it is useful to notice, highlight, and find new ways to support the trends and intentional acts of creativity that resist against these systems. Institutional reorganization is necessary. Community building and alternative transmission is imperative. Fostering oppositional spaces is essential to a liberatory aesthetic.

Therefore when we, who are women, queers, trans people, and people of color, talk of creative music, we do not unassumingly refer to making music outside of the conventional or classical or popular forms of music; we mean we are creating new worlds for our bodies to exist in. This music is important to embrace, not only to create some sort of representation or as a path to reclamation of our histories, but also to create a venue for transcending the systems of oppression that subjugate us. Through creative music we are not only able to "express our sorrows" as Duke Ellington stated, but are also able to restore agency in a world that relentlessly seeks to take that agency away. We are experimenting our otherness in order to define our freedom, free of identity, forging a new spiritual unity. In 2014, experimental and creative music has become a much more active political process, both in that the spaces where creative music is presented are more political, and that the bodies that create experimental music are more diverse. The intersection of the musical and political is especially important because it shows us that: 1) music can be an expression of resistance and 2) the systematic oppressions marginalized bodies face are necessarily reproduced within musical microcosms including experimental music scenes. This thesis demonstrates these phenomenons by examining two case studies where musical and political moments collide. The cases that are discussed are the Art Ensemble of Chicago in conjunction with the Chicago Freedom Movement in the mid 1960s and the underground experimental music (both electronic and otherwise) scene surrounding Occupy Oakland in the early 2010s.

Decolonizing Sound workshop description

DECOLONIZING SOUND WORKSHOP: reworking our knowledge + practices toward empathy and abolition

In this workshop, we attempt to teach mindfulness, listening, and improvisation as tools to be used for resistance and resilience in a "post-colonial" world. In this workshop we will introduce new ways of listening and playing with each other both in organizing settings and in performance settings. Most importantly, we will shed light on ways in which improvisation and playing music can help marginalized people reclaim and create new identities and languages despite the distortion of and violence upon our cultures, work, and genders that have historically oppressed us. Decolonizing sound can mean decolonizing our given languages into ones we create for ourselves. The workshop will also emphasize the importance of shared politics within musical communities and, further, the importance of solidarity through material resistance. What are the ways sound can be used to challenge capitalism, the police state, heteronormativity, racism, and gendered violence?

ARTISTS FEATURED:  the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Yetunde Jacqueline Apeke Olagbajujeepneys,Wizard ApprenticeRaven Chacon, and Pamela Z!

General Notes can be found here: Click me!