April 10, 2019
I began my musical career as a performing pianist and musicologist in the former Soviet Union, and immigrating to the US, completed my PhD in ethnomusicology at the University of Michigan. As an ethnomusicologist, historian, and performer, with professional and personal experiences worldwide, I am curious about and invested in a variety of scholarly inquiries.
Viewing music as an active force in politics, I wrote my first book, Song from the Land of Fire: Azerbaijani Mugham in the Soviet and Post-Soviet Periods (2006) on Azerbaijani music as an insight into turbulent transitions over the last hundred years – from an outskirt of the Russian empire, to the Soviet revolution, through the socialist period, to independent Azerbaijan. In doing so, I analyzed Azerbaijani improvised mugham, composed music, jazz, and popular culture, exploring gender dynamics, and political aspirations within networks of local families.
Music and gender is a major theme in my research. When I wrote on Russian music and theater, the topic of women, music, and politics surged powerfully from the material itself. This research culminated in my second book, Bewitching Russian Opera: The Empress from State to Stage (2012). This volume on Catherine II’s conspicuously “forgotten” operas has been reviewed as a work of “revisionism” that gives “lovers of Russian opera really spicy food for thought” (Taruskin) and as an “exciting and path-breaking study that should change the way we look at Russian opera, gender and the course of modern Russian cultural history” (Levitt). “In the boldness of her writing, Inna Naroditskaya in some ways resembles Catherine the Great,” writes O’Malley.
Experimenting with methods of historical ethnomusicology, I wrote about serf actresses in Russia’s private theater and about magical operas populated by mermaids. Allured by Russian magical rusalkas (water sprites) and their sublime operatic voices, I became also enchanted by sirens from varied waters in the volume I co-edited with Linda Austern, Music of the Sirens (2006). Active in the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM), I have served as an author and co-editor of two volumes produced by the Music and Minority group (of ITCM)– Manifold Identities (2004) and Music and Minorities (2018).
Attempting to connect different parts of my professional and personal life as a musician and an immigrant, I felt committed and fortunate to assemble an amazing team of contributors for my edited volume, Music of Diasporic Weddings in the US (2018). This book comprises chapters on Roma weddings in New York, klezmer in Baltimore, Arabic wedding music across American cities, Indian wedding musicians, and American Latina weddings. It also includes cases of authoethnography written by bride/ethnomusicologists and chapters by musicians playing at weddings.
Currently I am preparing the first annotated English translation of Catherine II’s operas while planning my next ethnographic fieldwork. Among many articles and chapters I have written, some relate to my major research areas, and others don’t. Years ago, Ethnomusicology Forum published my much thought-about and experimented-with article, a cross-domain comparison of “Mugham and Carpet.” Music and Minorities Around the World includes my chapter, “Jews, Jazz, Early Cinema in America and Stalin’s Russia” (2012). Most recently, Gli spazi della musica (Universita degli Studi di Torino) published my essay, “Is Argentine tango Russian, and How Jewish is Russian Tango?” which draws together many strands of my research with other interests, including the new ones on the history and ethnography of tango.
I have presented nationally and internationally, recently at UC Berkeley, The University of Michigan, The University of Chicago, The Ethnology Institute in Osaka, and Hebrew University. I have served as a member of program committees for the International Council for Traditional Music and for the Society for Ethnomusicology, chaired SEM’s European Study Group and a number of conference panels.
I was fortunate to receive several rewarding fellowships – a Rockefeller Bellagio Scholarly Residency, the Harvard University Davis Senior Fellowship, and a University of Michigan Rackham research grant. In addition to scholarship, I have written articles and OpEds for a wide readership in The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and Pacific Standard.
Several of my former students are now my colleagues, successful scholars and performers within American academe. My teaching reflects my curiosity and appetite for exciting new explorations, in my classes on Music and Islam, European pop culture, Russian Modernism, and others.
April 7, 2016
September 22, 2015