Fellow 2016/17, NWO-Veni Innovation Grant 2018-2020
meLê yamomo lived in Manila, Seoul, Bangkok, Warwick, and Munich, and now inhabits Amsterdam and Berlin studying, teaching, and creating performance/theatre and sound/music. He is an Assistant Professor of Theatre, Performance, and Sound Studies (University of Amsterdam), the author of Sounding Modernities: Theatre and Music in Manila and the Asia Pacific, 1869-1946 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), and laureate of the »Veni Innovation Grant« (2017-2021) funded by the Dutch Research Organization (NWO) for his project »Sonic Entanglements: Listening to Modernities in Southeast Asian Sound Recordings«. In his works as artist-scholar, meLê engages the topics of sonic migrations, queer aesthetics, and post/de-colonial acoustemologies.
Sonic Entanglements will identify, organize, and analyze extant early sound (musical and non-musical) media in and about Southeast Asia during the emergence and development of early recording technologies in the region (1880-1950). The research endeavors to expand the historiographical archival corpus to include the early sound media and technologies as primary sources for the theoretical reflection of the Southeast Asian cultural history of modernities and the region’s entanglement with modern globalization. Through this, the project shifts away from the philological analyses of historical texts, towards developing a framework of knowing how residents of Southeast Asia understood and constituted modernities through hearing and listening. In doing so, the study aims to provide a corrective in the text literacy-based historiography of Southeast Asia modernities which occludes non-literate actors and ‘voices’. This study on historical sounds of the Southeast Asian region also contributes to expanding the geographical and cultural bases of the sound studies and sound history. The project will examine three themes of modernities in three different case studies: (1) modern racial epistemology and the colonial practices of ethnomusicology, (2) urbanization and ‘noise’ policies, and (3) anti/postcolonial political identities and early radio broadcast.
As output, the project will produce academic publications and a podcast series to make its findings available to the public. The project will also organize a workshop that aims to bring together sound scholars and experts on Southeast Asia. The workshop is envisioned to kick-start an inter-institutional research as well as artistic collaborations, and is intended to produce a digital humanities tool. This online tool will serve as a platform for accessing and sharing of non-copyrighted sound media, sound archive inventories, and research materials.