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Jim Sykes

Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania

Jim Sykes holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and was a research fellow at King’s College London before coming to Penn in 2013. His research explores the vast interrelations between sound, personhood, modernity, aesthetics and the politics of disaster in the Indian Ocean region, with a focus on Sinhala Buddhist and Tamil Hindu ritual musics in post-tsunami and late-war Sri Lanka. Sykes has done fieldwork in Sri Lanka, India, Singapore and Malaysia, with funding from the Fulbright-Hays DDRA, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Mellon Foundation and the European Research Council. Sykes’s current project focuses on spatializations and erasures of Tamil Hindu music histories in the wake of development processes in Singapore, including an ethnography of urumi melam (a genre of drumming), as well as an exploration of the circulation of devotional songs around the Bay of Bengal and persisting ideas of a broader 'Malayan Indian' music history in Singapore. He has articles in progress on: the history of Indian music in Singapore; the theorization of islands and oceans in ethnomusicology; and a co-written piece (with Katherine Schofield) on musical communities and kingship in precolonial and early colonial Southern Asia. With Julia Byl, he is editing a volume tentatively called Ethnomusicology and Historical Anthropology. As a drummer, Sykes has recorded nine officially released albums and toured extensively with some recognized names in Indie rock, for which he has been featured in Spin Magazine, Wired, Pitchfork and elsewhere. His current band Invisible Things (a duo with Mark Shippy of the band U.S. Maple) has a new album out soon recorded with Martin Bisi.


PANEL: Daedalus Quartet Performance and Conversation
TITLE: "Neuroscience, History, and Social Dynamics in Beethoven's Great Fugue." A Live Performance and Conversation with Jim Sykes, Naomi Waltham-Smith, and Mike Kaplan.
TIME: Friday, September 12, 11:30am – 1:00pm

PANEL: Being a Musician in the Digital Age
TITLE: "Sound, Labor, and Politics in the Digital Age: Tales from Sri Lanka and Beyond."
TIME: Saturday, September 13, 11:35 – 11:45am

PANEL: Being a Musician in the Digital Age
TITLE: "Round table discussion with Andrew Mall, Alina Simone, and Jim Sykes"
TIME: Saturday, September 13, 11:45am – 12:30pm