Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Middle Eastern Studies

Sonia Seeman

Associate ProfessorPh.D., UCLA

Sonia Seeman



Middle Eastern music & expressive culture; Roma ("Gypsy") & minority communities; former Ottoman territories of Southeastern Europe,cosmopolitanism; nationalism; gender.


Dr. Seeman’s interests focus on the music of modern Turkey, the Ottoman Empire, and Southeastern Europe, specializing in Rom (“Gypsy”) communities. She has done field research in Macedonia and Southeastern Europe (1985-87; 1989) and in Turkey (1995-1999; 2003) on Rom, Turkish, and transnational musical practices. She received her Phd from UCLA in 2002. Her dissertation,“‘You’re Roman!’ Music and Identity in Turkish Roman Communities,” investigates the relationship between cultural practices and Rom social identity by exploring the tension between music as lived experience and as socially and politically constructed from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods through the present. She taught at UCSB for 4 years on a post-doctoral faculty fellowship and as a lecturer. Courses taught at UCSB and UCLA include: the music of Turkey, Ottoman communities, Roma communities, and Southeastern Europe, as well as seminars on ethnomusicological theory, world popular music, and the anthropology of music. Her theoretical interests include: transnationalism and cosmopolitanism; minority communities; recording industry; post-structuralism; phenomenological hermeneutics. Seeman has articles in Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, Ethnomusicology Forum, and Music and Anthropology. She has also written several sets of liner notes, and co-produced an ethnographic recording with clarinetist Selim Sesler, “Roads to Kesan”, released by Kalan Muzik. Her recent research interests explore emergent Turkish cultural expressions and ongoing configuration of ethnic and gendered identities in the wake of the European Union accession processes.


WGS 393 • Music, Gender, Sexuality

46238 • Fall 2015
Meets W 2:00PM-5:00PM MRH M3.113

Interdisciplinary topics relating to Women's and Gender Studies.  Seats restricted to WGS MA and Portfolio students during early registration.  Check cross-listings for home departments and originating field of study.

ISL 373 • Intro To Music Of Middle East

42179 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM MRH 2.634

Please check back for updates.

MES 386 • Music, Gender, Sexuality

42455 • Fall 2013
Meets F 2:00PM-5:00PM MRH M3.113
(also listed as MUS 385J, WGS 393)

Taking the premise that musical practices shape gender ideologies as well as are shaped by such perspectives, this course investigates musical practices from perspectives drawn from a variety of gender paradigms. The course will investigate key writings from gender, feminist, queer, masculinity and other related theories from within the various “waves” and including theories of embodiment, performativity, post-structuralism, post-colonialism, among others. There will also be a significant component on issues from the Middle East. We will also investigate particular case studies to illuminate and challenge such theories, and to suggest new theoretical possibilities.

Seminar requirements include: weekly readings; on-line and in-class discussions; summary format and/or response papers; writing and other media explorations for different narrative and presentational formats; in-class presentations. Major writing assignments will include either 2 10-page conference-style papers or short midterm proposal and 20 page final research paper. Students will also be able to work on individual research projects in relation to course topics and readings.

Although we will trace musical practices as our main focus, this course welcomes students from all disciplines, and knowledge of music, notation or performance is not required in order to engage with the issues in this seminar.

MEL 321 • Music And Gender

41595 • Fall 2012
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM MRH M3.113
(also listed as MES 342, MUS 342, WGS 340)

What does music have to do with gender?

Scholars who study gender have shown that gender constitutes a fundamental factor in social and cultural life. In addition, they claim that cultural practices such as musical sound, visual images and other forms not only reflect but also constitute gendered identities. While it is possible to posit that gender distinctions have been a universal geographic and temporal constant in human societies, it has only been since the 1980s that scholarsbegan to theorize gender and sexuality in music. That is, if gender and sexuality is culturally constructed, what is the role of musical practices in constituting gender differences? Further, how do gender identities intersect with other categories such as race, ethnicity, and class? This course will survey a range of readings, approaches, and writing styles in considering the relationship between musical practice and gender identification.           

We will use musical and visual portrayals of gender from a variety of cultural areas---ranging from American pop genres to North African, Arabic, Turkish genres and beyond. This course will also be cross-listed with Middle Eastern Studies, and we will use case studies (at least 30%) from Middle Eastern communities as well as explore Western European/US musical expressions of gender through orientalism and colonialism. Non-music majors are welcome; while we will analyze the use of musical signs, specific knowledge of music or notation is not required. The class will use a reader, blackboard postings,listening and viewing examples; there will be no single text book.

REE 385 • Iss & Reprsntatn In Roma Music

44717 • Spring 2012
Meets W 2:00PM-5:00PM MRH 3.134
(also listed as WGS 393)

Please check back for updates.

MES 386 • Smnr Music/Gend/Sexuality

41621 • Fall 2011
Meets T 3:30PM-6:30PM MRH 3.134
(also listed as MUS 385J, WGS 393)

This course will survey a range of readings, approaches, and writing styles in considering the relationship between musical practice and gender identification. Through examination of case studies, texts, musical sounds, genres, and performance contexts, we will examine a range of issues and theoretical perspectives that help to understand the role of musical practices in constituting, negotiating, and challenging gender categories and identities. Requirements include weekly reading, written summaries, participation in discussions, and a final research project. Reading notation and music-specific knowledge is not required for this course. Students from all areas of music, gender studies and Middle Eastern studies are particularly welcome. 



To be provided by instructor. 



To be provided by instructor. 

ISL 373 • Intro To Music Of Middle East

41940 • Spring 2011
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM MRH 2.610
(also listed as J S 363, MES 328, MUS 342)

The region of the world labeled as “the Middle East” encompasses a myriad of linguistic, ethnic, and religious communities. While this geographic area is populated by a variety of communities, there are several common factors which underlie the variety cultural practices of the communities in these regions. As the birthplace of the dominant Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) these areas are the seat of significant religious discourses that effect and shape musical practice. Contemporary musical practices are informed by elaborate musical theoretical systems that continue a legacy of neo-platonic Hellenic philosophy. Political changes have also significantly had an impact on musical performances and ideas about music. Late 18-19th century modernization trends imposed from colonization and from local political institutions have shaped pedagogy, musical style, musical forms, and instrumentation. Local models of nation-states accelerated these processes through the 19-and early 20th century. Despite Western portrayals of the Middle East as “backwards”, regional participation in developing media, technology have imprinted changes in political ideology, religious debates and class formations, as in other world regions. These factors have intertwined to produce new forms of musical expression and fueled social and political movements. This course will survey the complexities of this region by tracing the development of theoretical traditions from Medieval Arabic treatises, while also examining ongoing art, popular and regional practices in court, rural, and urban contexts prior to the pre-19th century. We will look at the ways in which musical practices mark social stratification into occupational, linguistic, religious, and gendered communities as part of the legacy of urban and political developments. We will look at debates on modernization and Westernization, and trace the tensions between political impositions and local strategies evident in musical pedagogy, changes in musical forms, performance styles, and instrumentation. We will also explore musical changes that are evident in shifts that resulted from adoptions of Western-European derived nation state models in the 19-20th century. We will look at the emergence of broadcast media and mass reproductive technology in the 20th century, and their effects on musical practice. Finally, we will trace the impact of transregional political discourses such as the European Union, non-government organizations, and transnational political alliances. Assignments and gradingAssignments will consist of reading, active listening, and film viewing. Students will write 4 short essays based on readings, and a final paper. Students should also be aware of the opportunity to enroll in an ensemble course, Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, which meets Thursday evenings 7-10 pm. Guest lectures/performances given by visiting musicians and local scholars are being planned as part of the course curriculum as well.You will be expected to demonstrate your grasp of the reading, listening and/or viewing assignments in preparation for participation in the sessions. You will also prepare a final paper (8-10 pages, not including bibliography) that will incorporate your short writing assignments. The emphasis will be on clarity of writing as well as accurate inclusion of musical information.Grades will be calculated according to the following points system:Short writing assignments        4 assignments @ 10 pts each; total         40 pts 2 in-class short answer+listening quiz    2 @10 pts each            20 pts Concert or listening report        5 pts report (2-3pp); 5 pts oral presentation    10 ptsFinal paper due during finals week                            30 pts Browning, Robert H., ed. 1984. Maqam: Music of the Islamic World and its Influences. New York: Alternative Museum. Wright, Owen. 2007. [Arab Music. Sections on theory]: The early Abbasids and Baghdad (750–900); (iv) Early theory.; Arab music, §I, 5: Art music: The Ottoman age (1517–1918)(i)    Theory.Hourani, Albert. 1991. “Chapter 9: Ways of Islam.”; Chapter 11 [Selections]: Divergent Paths of Thought.” In A History of the Arab Peoples. Cambridge MA: Belknap. Pp. 147-157; 172-179.Fernea, Elizabeth Warnock and Fernea, Robert. 1997. “Unity and Diversity in Islam”; “Religious Fundamentalism.” In The Arab World: Forty Years of Change. New York: Doubleday. Pp. 65-70; 438-441. Davis, Kristina Nelson. 2002. “The Qur’an Recited.” The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music – Middle East Volume. Virginia Danielson, Scott Marcus and Dwight Reynolds, eds. New York: Garland. Pp. 157-163. Marcus, Scott. 2002. “The Call to Prayer.” The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music – Middle East Volume. Virginia Danielson, Scott Marcus and Dwight Reynolds, eds. New York: Garland.  Erguner, Kudsi. 1993. Makam. France : Al sur; Nanterre: Média 7.COMPACT DISC MU 9425 FAL RESERVEFeldman, Walter. 2002. “Music in Performance: Who are the Whirling Dervishes?” Garland Encyclopedia of World Music – Volume 6 The Middle East. New York: Garland. pp. 107-111. During, Jean. 2002. “The Symbolic Universe of Music in Islamic Societies.” In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music – Middle East Volume. Virginia Danielson, Scott Marcus and Dwight Reynolds, eds. New York: Garland. Pp. 177-188.Levin, Theodore and Gordon, Joel. 2005. Invisible face of the beloved: Classical music of the Tajiks & Uzbeks.Washington, DC: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. COMPACT DISC MU 37,669 Markoff, Irene. “Introduction to Sufi Music and Ritual in Turkey.”, Melih. 2000. Rumeli Bektaslar?. Kalan CD 190. Abu-Lughod, Janet (1987). “The Islamic City: Historical Myth, Islamic Essence, and Contemporary Relevance.” Int. J. Middle East Studs. 19(2): 155-176. JSTORSawa, George Dimitri.  1989.  “Chapter 1: Introduction; Chapter 5: Performance Excellence vs. Mediocritiy: Causes and Effects.” Music Performance Practice in the Early ‘Abbasid Era 132-320 AH / 750-932 AD.  Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. Pp. 1-32; 176-200. FAL RESERVEShiloah, Amnon. 1981. "The Arabic Concept of Mode." Journal of the American Musicological Society. 34(1):19-42Listening: Maqam: bayyatiIqa Forms: sami’iSuites taqsim/sama’iFeldman, Walter. 1990/1991.    “Cultural Authority and Authenticity in the Turkish Repertoire.” Asian Music 22(1): 73-111. JSTORListening:Rast Fas?l examplesAksoy, Bulent. 2003. “The Contributions of Multi-nationality to Classical Ottoman Music.” (9/21/03)Reinhard, Kurt and Stokes, Martin. 2007. “Turkey IV Art Music.” Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Online edition. Oxford.Metin. 1984. “Atatürk and the Arts with Special Reference to Music and Theatre.” In Atatürk and the Modernization of Turkey. Jacob M. Landau and E. J. Brill, eds. Leiden: pp. 215-232. FAL RESERVEO’Connell, John. 2000. “Fine Art, Fine Music: Controlling Turkish Taste at the Fine Arts Academy in 1926.” Yearbook for Traditional Music 32: 117-142. JSTORListening: Cemil Re{it Rey’s Scenes turques. CD MU 4282 FAL RESERVE; also example in “Course Documents.”Tekelio©lu, Orhan. 1996. “The Rise of a Spontaneous Synthesis: The Historical Background of Turkish Popular Music.” Middle Eastern Studies 32 (2): 194-216. PACKET at MBE 3.204Dobis, Jay and Aya, Gökhan. 2001. Hava Nargile: Turkish Rock Music 1966-1975. Dionysus. FAL RESERVE; COPY OF CD and NOTES at MBE 3.204; ALSO SELECTIONS IN “COURSE DOCUMENTS”Stokes, Martin. 1992. “Chapter 4: Arabesk.” In The Arabesk Debate: Music and Musicians in Modern Turkey. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Pp. 89-132. FAL RESERVE; PACKET at MBE 3.204Dobis, Jay and Aya, Gökhan. 2001. Hava Nargile: Turkish Rock Music 1966-1975. Dionysus.Examples from Orhan Gencebey; Ibrahim Tatlises Seeman, Sonia. 2010. “Macedonian Calgija: Refashioning national indentity and community belonging through music.“ Article draft.Levy, Claire. 2002. Who is the “Other” in the Balkans? Local Ethnic Music as a Different Source of Identities in Bulgaria. In Richard Young, ed. Music Popular Culture Identities, Amsterdam/New York, NY: Editions Rodopi, pp. 215-229.Racy, Ali Jihad. 1983. “Music in Nineteenth Century Egypt: An Historical Sketch.” In Selected Reports in Ethnomusicology 4: 157-179. (FAL RESERVES; PACKET AT MBE 3.204)Marcus, Scott. 2007. Music in Egypt: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. London: Oxford. Listening:Selections from waslah in maqam Rast in”course documents”.Danielson, Virginia. 1997. “Chapter 5: The Golden Age of Umm Kulthoum; Chpater 6: “The Voice of Egypt: The Artists’ Work and Shared Aesthetics”; part of “Chapter 7: Umm Kulth?m and a New Generation.” The Voice of Egypt: Umm Kulth?m, Arabic song, and Egyptian Society in the Twentieth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago. Pp. 100-193. (FAL RESERVES; PACKET AT MBE 3.204; CD TRACK AT MBE 3.204) (FAL RESERVES; PACKET+CD TRACKS AT MBE 3.204)Racy, A. J. "Chapter 3: Performance"; Chapter 5: Saltanah." In Making Music in the Arab World: The Culture and Artistry of Tarab. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 43-74; 120-146. For more detail in musical forms, instrumental roles and ensemble textures, read "Chapter 4: Music" pp.75-119. FAL RESERVE; MBE 3.204 xerox packet.Kojaman, Yeheskel. 2000. Chapter 4: A Typical Chalgi Night." In The Maqam Tradition of Iraq. London: Y. Kojaman. pp. 77-98. FAL RESERVE; MBE 3.204 xerox packet.Shannon, Jonathan Holt. 2006. "Chapter 4: Body, Memory, Temporality and Transformation in the Dikr." In Among the Jasmine Trees: Music and Modernity in Contemporary Syria. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University. FAL RESERVE; MBE 3.204 xerox packet.Stokes, Martin. 1992. Selections from Chapters 4, 5 6. In The Arabesk Debate: Music and Musicians in Modern Turkey. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Pp. 89-92; 124-132; 133-138; 142-149; 154-162. FAL RESERVE; MBE 3.204 xerox packet.Listening: Ali, Safwat Mohammed. Iraqi music: Ud taqsim and Pasta.2002. Syrie: Maq?mat insolites : Improvisations au luth ??dParis : Maison des Cultures du Monde : Distribution Naïve-Auvidis.Hassan, Scheherezade Qassim. 197?. Iraq: mak?m?t Ensemble al Tchalghi al Baghdadi; Yusuf Omar, singer al-chalgi . Ocora 79. al-Hajj, Rahim. Iraqi Music in a Time of War. Voxlox CD. 103.Sabah Fakhri. Mawawil Sharqawiyyah.Beckwith, Stacy N. “Introduction: al-Andalus/Ibera/Sepharad: Memory among Modern Discourses. In In Charting Memory: Recalling Medieval Spain. Stacy N. Beckwith, ed. New York/London: Garland. Pp. xiii-li. FAL RESERVE; MBE 3.204 xerox packet.Reynolds, Dwight. 2000. "Musical Membrances of Medieval Muslim Spain."  In Charting Memory: Recalling Medieval Spain. Stacy N. Beckwith, ed. New York/London: Garland. Pp. 229-262. FAL RESERVE; MBE 3.204 xerox packet.Eyre, Banning. 2004. “al-Andalus: Interview-Dwight Reynolds. Afropop. online.Eyre, Banning. 2005. The Legacy of Al-Andalus part 2: Interview with Dwight Reynold. Afropop. online.Davis, Ruth. 2002. Al-Andalus in Tunis: sketches of the Ma'luf in the 1990s. Anthropology of Music of the Mediterannean. 7. Online.Al-Taee, Nasr. 2002. “Running with the Rebels: Politics, Identity, and Sexual Narrative in Algerian Rai.” Echo., Joan; McMurray, David; Swedenberg, Ted. 1992. Rai, Rap and Ramadan Nights: Franco-Maghribi Cultural Identities. Middle East Report 178, 1492+500: 11-16+24. MBE 3.204 xerox packet.Listening/Viewing: Maroc: Musique Classique Andalou-Maghrebine.Excerpts from JVC  selections Tunesian Ma’luf Bidou, Jacques. 1996. Salut Cousin! JBA Production. Excerpts.Farhat, Hormoz; Blum, Stephen. 2007. “Iran: Classical Traditions; Regional and Popular Traditions.” The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Oxford: Online. AVAILABLE ONLINE.Farhat, Hormoz. 1991. “Western musical influences in Persia.” Muzikoloski Zbornik 27: 87-96. XEROX PACKET MBE 3.204; FAL RESERVEYoussefzadeh, Ameneh. 2000. “The Situation of Music in Iran since the Revolution: The Role of Official Organizations.” British Journal of Ethnomusicology 9 (2): 35-61. JSTORConcert performance of Dastgah Abu ‘Ata 1981 by Mohammad Shajarian (voice) and Mohammad Lotfi (tar).Avaz in Dastgah Abu Ata performed by Katareh ParvaneChaharmezrab in Dastgah Dashti on santurModern Tasnif (composed song) performed by Marziyek.Iranian 6/8 pop disco song, “Tehran Tehran” performed by Fara Parsi, recorded in Los Angeles.Erdener, Y?ld?ray. 2002. “Asik tradition”. In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music – Middle East Volume. Virginia Danielson, Scott Marcus and Dwight Reynolds, eds. New York: Garland.During, Jean. 2010. “Azerbaijan.” Oxford Music online. Hirshberg, Jehoash; Shahar, Natan; Seroussi, Edwin; Shiloah, Amnon. 2007. “Israel.” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Online edition. Oxford. Online.McDonald, David A. 2006. “Performing Palestine: Resisting the Occupation and Reviving Jerusalem’s Social and Cultural Identity through Music and the Arts.” Institute of Jerusalem Studies 25. onlineRosen, Miriam and Boullata, Kamal. 1974. Palestine Lives! Songs from the Struggle of the People of Palestine. Liner notes. Paredon Records. Paredon P-1022.  FAL RESERVE; MBE 3.204 xerox packet.S. Radwan: 1996-1997. “The Performance of Arab Music in Israel.” Musical Performance, i (1996–7), 35–49. Jstor“Cultural and Institutional Contexts: A Short Introduction to Israeli Culture; Israeli Institutions of Popular Music”. In Popular Music and National Culture in Israel. Berkeley: University of California. Pp. 1-48. FAL RESERVE; MBE 3.204 xerox packet.Sharvit, Uri. 1986. “Diversity within Unity: Stylistic Change and Ethnic Continuity in Israeli Religious Music.” Asian Music 17 (2): 126-146. JstorHorowitz, Amy. 1999. “Israeli Mediterranean Music: Straddling Disputed Territories.” The Journal of American Folklore 112 (445): 450-463. JstorListening:Folk music of Palestine. Folkways Records [1951]Arabic and Druse music. [sound recording] Folkways Records [1961]Bar-Yosef, Amatzia. 1998. Palestinian Folk-Poet Singers. Asian Music 29 (2): 57-82.Rosen, Miriam and Boullata, Kamal. 1974. “Palestine Lives!” Liner notes. Paredon P-1022

MES 310 • Intro To Trad Mus In World Cul

42020-42035 • Spring 2011
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM MRH 2.608
(also listed as ANS 303M, MUS 303M)

Intro To Trad Mus In World Cul

WGS 393 • Smnr: Music, Gender, Sexuality

47325 • Fall 2010
Meets T 2:00PM-5:00PM MRH 3.134

Interdisciplinary topics relating to Women's and Gender Studies.  Seats restricted to WGS MA and Portfolio students during early registration.  Check cross-listings for home departments and originating field of study.

WGS 393 • Seminar: Music And Alterity

49090 • Spring 2008
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM MRH 3.134

Interdisciplinary topics relating to Women's and Gender Studies.  Seats restricted to WGS MA and Portfolio students during early registration.  Check cross-listings for home departments and originating field of study.

REE 385 • Music In The Middle East

46683 • Fall 2007
Meets M 2:00PM-5:00PM MRH 2.628

Please check back for updates.

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