inventing havana in thin air: sound, space, and the making of sonic citizenship
my doctoral research evaluates the ways that sound and listening produce the social and physical spaces of havana. whereas most readings of the city focus on its material scarcity, its spanish colonial architecture, or the exclusionary nature of its growing tourist economy, my research instead explores the tacit, embodied practices of residents themselves. it asks, what are some of the many sounds that comprise havana's acoustic environments? in a city located in the caribbean, how do such sounds communicate the ongoing conditions of coloniality? and to what extent does the act of listening accommodate or resist these conditions? drawing from several months of ethnographic fieldwork, i argue that residents of havana creatively and collectively use soundmaking and listening to negotiate the political tensions of their lived reality. i term the enactment of such practices sonic citizenship, which i define as the communal production of acoustic spaces by those without sustained access to political power.
an abbreviated version of a chapter from the larger project can be found online, in a blog post published on Sounding Out!. the piece was subsequently selected as one of the top ten Sounding Out! posts of 2015.
the world in a voice: an oral history of a southern italian migrant
on april 22nd 1952, filomena bitondo, a twenty-one year old woman from a small town nearby matera, reluctantly boarded an ocean liner in genova destined for pier 21 in halifax. she was part of a post-war migratory movement that brought thousands of impoverished, rural italians to north america in search of political stability and economic opportunity. eventually settling in ontario's niagara region, filomena and her husband vito owned and operated a confectionary store while raising a family of five children. many years later, she allowed me, her grandson, to document some of her reflections, regrets, and successes, before her passing on january 21, 2016 at the age of 85. what is the significance, not only to my family, but to other families like ours, of filomena's stories of migration and settlement, poverty and affluence, and joy and heartache? borrowing from the work of memory studies scholar annette kuhn (1995; 2010), i consider the recordings i made with my grandmother a "memory text": media that elicit a thoughtful and emotional response by drawing the past into the present. i develop this intimately personal project not only as a way of revisiting filomena’s memories during her later years, but also, of recalling a voice that will resonate with thousands of other migrants from southern italy and elsewhere.
the humber river soundscape project
the humber river soundscape project (2008) was created by a group of students and artists interested in exploring the sounds and spaces of one of southern ontario's largest watersheds. the project took inspiration from the pioneering soundscape research conducted at simon fraser university in the 1960s and '70s, and it aimed to draw attention to the river as an important yet overlooked part of the region's ecological and cultural heritage. we ask, what are some of the sounds that surround the humber river? for how long have they been heard in these spaces? and are there others who have also taken the time to listen to them? in both sound and images, we documented parts of the river, from its northernmost beginnings at the niagara escarpment to its mouth at lake ontario. in so doing, we offered a modest attempt to recover some of the sights and sounds that still today remain so important to the ecology and to the cultural heritage of southern ontario, even if—or particularly because—many of its residents aren't aware of it.