Noel Lobley's Book Wins More Awards

Sound Fragments Book CoverSound Fragments: From Field Recording to African-Electronic Stories Noel Lobley's 2022 groundbreaking study of the world's largest archive of field recordings of African music has won two more prizes at the recent Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) meeting.

Sound Fragments won the Bruno Nettl Prize, designed "to recognize an outstanding publication contributing to or dealing with the history of the field of ethnomusicology, broadly defined, or with the general character, problems, and methods of ethnomusicology." It was joint winner (with Jessica Perrea) of the Ruth Stone prize, intended "to recognize the most distinguished English-language monograph in the field of ethnomusicology, published as the author’s first monograph." 

The book had already won the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) 2023 Book Prize,

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Noel Lobley is an ethnomusicologist, sound curator and artist who works across the disciplines of music, anthropology sound art and composition to develop creative local economies through a series of experiential sound events and international curatorial residencies. Through extensive fieldwork in sub-Saharan Africa, much of his creative practice takes ethnographic sound and music recordings out of archives for re-purposing back among communities. He has collaborated with musicians, sound artists, DJs, choreographers and composers in South Africa, the UK and throughout Europe and the US to develop creative and ethical ways for recordings to be experienced in spaces ranging from art galleries, festivals and museums, to schools, rainforests and township street corners.

Noel previously worked as a sound curator at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, lecturing in both music and anthropology, and where he continues to serve as a Research Associate. He has served on the committee of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology, is an appointed member of the Royal Anthropological Institute's Ethnomusicology and Ethnochorelogy committee, and was awarded the 2015 Curl Lectureship at the Royal Anthropological Institute. He also has twenty years’ experience working as a DJ and in radio and the music industry.

Noel has published in a range of ethnomusicology, anthropology and sound studies journals and public media. He is author of Sound Fragments: From Field Recording to African Electronic Stories (Wesleyan University Press, Spring 2022), a monograph that explores creative responses to colonial sound archives in contemporary South Africa.

His book, Sound Fragments: From Field Recording to African Electronic Stories is an ethnographic study of sound archives and the processes of creative decolonization that form alternative modes of archiving and curating in the 21st century. It explores the histories and afterlives of sound collections and practices at the International Library of African Music (Rhodes University, South Africa). Sound Fragments follows what happens when a colonial sound archive is repurposed and reimagined by local artists in post-apartheid South Africa. The narrative speaks to larger issues in sound studies, curatorial practices, and the reciprocity and ethics of listening to and reclaiming culture. Sound Fragments interrogates how Xhosa arts activism contributes to an expanding notion of what a sound or cultural archive could be, and where it may resonate now and in the future.

Noel Lobley by Dan Addison


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