SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

Clara Wenz

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Overview

Clara Wenz
Name:
Clara Wenz
Email address:
Thesis title:
Arab-Jewish Musical Memories of Aleppo, Syria
Internal Supervisors

Biography

Clara is a fourth year PhD student and senior teaching fellow at the Music Department of the School of Arts at SOAS, University of London. She holds a BA in Philosophy (Munich) and a MA in Middle Eastern Studies (SOAS). Her research project investigates the musical and sonic “afterlife” of Aleppo and draws on fieldwork undertaken among Aleppian diasporic and refugee communities in Berlin, Beirut, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Istanbul.

PhD Research

My thesis traces how the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo “lives on” in the musical and sonic memories of its displaced residents - people who have effectively lost their right to return but who continue to “hear” their hometown from the distance. Mobilising a political memory of Aleppo’s famous connoisseur listeners (the sammīʿah), it argues that attention to the practice of listening, as both methodology and subject of ethnographic inquiry, can give insights into histories of marginalisation as well as expose memories of landscapes lost to national conflict. Within this context, the study brings together two - very distinct - histories of displacement: That of residents of Aleppo who were recently displaced due to the ongoing Syrian war and that of members of a last generation of Jews who were born in Aleppo and who left the city roughly between 1940 and 1980. The latter’s case, I contend, stands in many ways paradigmatic for a future in which Syria comes to terms with the history of its contemporarily silenced and displaced communities.

Owing to multi-sited fieldwork, the thesis is conceived as a compilation of micro-ethnographies, with each chapter framed around a different modality of Aleppo’s musical or sonic “afterlife”: A phonograph record, a wall between two neighbours, a woman’s laughter, the memory of a child protester, “noise”, or the practice of sampling. My analysis operates at the intersection of two levels: One historically contextualises people’s aural memories and thereby gives, in chronological order, snapshots of life in Aleppo that stretch across almost a century. The other level is concerned with the socio-political worlds people’s musical memories and listening practices are framed and redacted by today. It takes the reader to Berlin, Beirut, Istanbul, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and the different stations of my fieldwork: mosques, synagogues, night clubs, cafés, concert halls, street protests and people’s private homes. The result is a multi-layered, necessarily fragmented map and timeline which, by including a variety of musical styles, sounds and personal narratives, gives insights into the afterlife of not one, but many Aleppos.

Publications

  • Wenz, C. (2016) ‘The lost paradise: Andalusi music in urban North Africa and Performing al-Andalus: music and nostalgia across the Mediterranean’ (Review), Ethnomusicology Forum 25 (3): 373-377.

Conferences

  • 'Beirut, Jerusalem, Istanbul - The Journey of an Arab-Jewish Baidaphon Record', 12th Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM), Study Group Mediterranean Music Studies, Essaouira, Morocco, 20 July 2018.
  • 'History on Rewind: Traveling with an Arab-Jewish Baidaphon Record', Middle East and Central Asian Music Forum, London, 10 Nov 2017. 
  • 'Dancing Dissonance: Refugees in Concert in Berlinʹ, Annual One-Day Conference of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology, Sheffield, April 20-23, 2017.
  • ʹListening to Arab-Jewish Aleppo: Towards an Architecture of Musical Memoryʹ, International Graduate and Post-Doctoral Summer Workshop, Forum for Contemporary Ethnomusicology and Da’at Hamakom, Yad Hashmonah, Israel, July 10-11, 2016
  • 'A Place of Music: Remembering Aleppo and the Production of Musical Counterpublicsʹ, A Postgraduate Study Day, King’s College, London, 19 May 2016

Affiliations

  • Doctoral Studentship Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes (German National Academic Foundation), awarded 2016
  • Mildred Loss Studentship (Jewish Music Institute, London), awarded 2018
  • Mildred Loss Studentship (Jewish Music Institute, London), awarded 2017
  • Mildred Loss Studentship (Jewish Music Institute, London), awarded 2016
  • Sir Jack Lyons Studentship (Jewish Music Institute, London), awarded 2015

Teaching