Assistant Professor of Musicology
Michael Silvers is an ethnomusicologist and a specialist in Brazilian music and ecomusicology (the study of music and the environment). His research interests also include sound studies, music and technology, cultural sustainability, and music, gender, and sexuality.
His forthcoming book Voices of Drought: The Politics of Music and Environment in Northeastern Brazil (University of Illinois Press, 2018) explores themes of environmental justice, natural resources, protest song, and cultural policy in the production and experience of popular music. Voices of Drought was awarded an American Musicological Society Publication Subvention, supported by the Dragan Plamenac Endowment, as well as a subvention grant from the UIUC College of Fine and Applied Arts. His article “Birdsong and a Song about a Bird: Popular Music and the Mediation of Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Northeastern Brazil,” published in Ethnomusicology and reprinted in Ethnomusicology: A Contemporary Reader, 2nd edition (Routledge, 2017), earned an honorable mention for best faculty research in the humanities by the University of Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities. In addition to Ethnomusicology, his writing has appeared in Vibrant: Virtual Brazilian Anthropology, Yearbook for Traditional Music, and Ecomusicology Newsletter, and he is a contributor to the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. He also presents regularly at universities and conferences in the United States and Brazil. Silvers is co-chair of the Ecomusicology Special Insterest Group of the Society for Ethnomusicology (2016-present), is a member of the editorial board of Ecomusicology Review, and is a member of the advisory board of Ethnomusicology Review.
In 2015 he was a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, in 2015-17 a Junior Fellow of the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, and in 2018 will be a resident associate of the Center for Advanced Study. His research has also been supported by the Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies, the Campus Research Board, Fulbright-mtvU, and the UCLA Latin American Institute, among other sources. He is a member of the Diverse Environmentalisms Research Team (DERT), a multi-institutional research group based out of Indiana University, and is also a project coordinator for a Humanities Without Walls project, “Field to Media: Applied Musicology for a Changing Climate,” led by Mark Pedelty at the University of Minnesota.
Silvers is faculty director of Nação Terra do Milho, the University of Illinois Brazilian Armorial Ensemble. He teaches courses on Brazilian music, world music, ethnomusicological theory and methods, music, gender, and sexuality, and topics in ecomusicology. He previously taught at UCLA and UC Riverside.