Convenors: meLê yamomo and Barbara Titus (University of Amsterdam)
In partnership with Harry van Biessum (Dutch Institute for Sound and Vision)

9 September | 10:00-17:00 | Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Hilversum 10 September | 10:00-15:00 | Potgieterzaal, University Library, University of Amsterdam

Photo Credit: “Bestuursambtenaren in een huis met een grammofoon op tafel, vermoedelijk op Lombok”, From the KITLV Collection

Description of the Program

This workshop invites historians, anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, performance scholars, acoustic engineers, sound artists, and sound/media professionals working on/in the Asia Pacific sound history to provide a space for interdisciplinary theoretical and practical knowledge-sharing. In addition to the possibility of inviting scholars mentioned above, archivists and programmers of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the Vienna Phonogram Archive, and the Jaap Kunst Collection will also bring in their practical expertise. Many of the extant sound recordings from the region are stored in these archives. 

By bringing together experts from different disciplines and geographic specializations, this workshop intends to bring into conversation the interstices of currently nation-framed sound historiography to reflect on transregional/translocal discourses on the issue. Geared towards the conversations on the history of sound beyond its euphonic understandings in the region, this workshop also aims to explore the intersections of current scholarships from various disciplinary perspectives.

Workshop Themes

Sound studies and sound history now asserts itself as a crucial discipline, yet Mark Smith (2004) noted the absence of historical work on non-Western sounds, and Veit Erlmann (2004) raises the lack of “current debates of Third World scholars interested in auditory perception.” This panel brings into conversation cultural historians, musicologists, and sound scholars working on sound history, epistemologies of listening, and theoretical ontologies of the sound archives about SEA. The panel critiques Benedict Anderson’s (1991) notion of modernity built on print capitalism and engages sound history in exploring acoustemology (acoustic epistemology) as a decolonial methodology in understanding SEA modernities. This is critical if we are to consider that in the colonial territories, less than ten percent were literate to the printed language (Ricklefs et al. 2010, Nathan 1922). Thus, this print illiteracy is used to justify the absence of subaltern’ voices’ in modern historiography. Taking this into consideration, the workshop will address three overarching themes:

Acoustic Mobilities. What paradigmatic shifts transpired with the reconfiguration of new modes of mobilities and communication technology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? In rethinking early sound historiographies of SEA, how do we account for the social lives of human laborers, socio-cultural actors, and sound objects migrating to different regions, nations, and institutions in Southeast Asia?

Sonic Knowledge. How did the early sound recordings constitute and construct knowledges and understandings of modernities in SEA: i.e. ‘modern’ race epistemologies, notions of modern state (and/or urban) institutions and citizenship, and the emergence of a transnational cultural/media industry? How did the materiality of the early sound technologies mediate sonic discourses of global modernities among communities in the SEA? How do we take into account the mediality and the aesthetics generated through these media as the very epistemes of SEA modernities?

Listening Societies/Communities. How did listening constitute the imagined (trans)national and translocal communities in SEA? What theoretical tools and methodologies can we employ to better understand these transregional conditions and processes? In working with nation-based sound archives: How do we engage the materials that are stored in archives of the different post-imperial centers and peripheries, and on the other hand, documents catalogued in different languages of the postcolonial societies and previous colonizers? Furthermore, how do we deal with the challenges in the limits of their institutional and ‘ownership’ policies?


All working papers will be pre-circulated internally among the workshop participants. This way, participants would have the chance to read each other’s work in-depth prior to the workshop. A respondent will be assigned to comment on the paper, and to initiate the discussion. The program will also include an archival tour of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and the Jaap Kunst Collection at the Institute for Music Studies at the University of Amsterdam.


Interested participants who would like to participate may submit a working title and a short abstract (150 words) on or before 15 July. The working paper is due on 5 August. For inquiries and abstract submission, please email meLê yamomo at info [at]

A limited number of seats are also available for observers. To attend the workshop as observer, please contact the organizers at info [at] Please indicate which dates (9, 10 September or both) of the workshop you would like to come.

This workshop is co-organized by the “Sonic Entanglements” Research Project, the University of Amsterdam-Musicology Department, the Dutch Institute for Sound and Vision, the Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies, and the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis.

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