Research

balafo-close-up
Gambian balafon player, from a travel narrative by François Froger (1698). Courtesy of the James Ford Bell Library.

My current book project explores representations of African Atlantic sound in literature. The music of enslaved Africans, which took many forms across diverse societies, amounted to a significant force shaping life in the Americas, while seeding countless global music genres, dance styles, and expressive traditions. Sounds of Archival Silence: A Literary History of African Atlantic Music, 1630-1830 restores this legacy to intellectual history by examining aural culture within writing about the slave-trading coasts of West Africa, the Caribbean colonies, and mainland North America in the early modern era. Rooted in an effort to recover the earliest history of an influential arts movement, the project also examines literature and sound as interdependent cultural spheres.

Select Publications

Digital Sound Studies. Co-editor, with Darren Mueller and Whitney Trettien. (Duke UP, October 2018).

“Peculiar Animations: Listening to Afro-Atlantic Music in Caribbean Travel Narratives,” Early American Literature 52:3.

“Tena, Too, Sings America: Listening to an Enslaved Woman’s Musical Memories of Africa.” C19 Podcast. Season 1 Episode 10. June, 18, 2018.

Fiddling with Freedom: Solomon Northup’s Musical Trade in 12 Years a Slave was published on Sounding Out!: The Sound Studies Blog, in a special forum on sound in the nineteenth century.

A Musical Passage Across Time and Place, a blog post at the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke. Here I discuss the legacies of colonialism and slavery in our political moment and how it relates to my digital project Musical Passage as well as recent research into early modern travel narratives of Africa.