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Apr 20 2023

6th Annual Robert U. Nelson Lecture: Do You Care About Indigenous Sound

Lani Hall

The UCLA Robert U. Nelson Lecture Series, hosted by the Center for Musical Humanities, presents a talk by Dr. Trevor Reed, "Do You Care About Indigenous Sound" and response by Dr. Jessica Bissett Perea.

Abstract: In this keynote and discussion, I look forward to exploring the relationships between sound and care, specifically our obligations as scholars of music and sound to care for the sonic phenomena with which we work. To begin our discussion, I highlight Indigenous Nations who care about/for sound and sonic phenomena and have developed public policies that both explain and enforce their standards of care. We learn from these examples that principles of care often arise out of the specific nature and kinships of sonic phenomena and the ways human behaviors affect how these phenomena thrive and perform their relationalities in the world. Realizing diverse notions of care is crucial in the contexts of music/sound studies, anthropology, sound archives, and information policy, among other pursuits. As numerous scholars have shown, these domains have historically violated Indigenous standards of care, capturing and flattening Indigenous sonic phenomena into purely aesthetic or representational forms (Western notation, recordings, ethnographic data, intellectual property, etc.) while severing them from their actual relationships in the world. In essence, practices like these instrumentalize Indigenous sound, often incarcerating them, forcing them to speak against their nature or causing them to (mis)represent their relations—all in service to these domains’ peculiar desires and politics. I call on all who participate in these spaces to affirmatively end modes of sonic abuse and to instead infuse their disciplines and practices involving Indigenous sound with principles of sonic care grounded in the laws, protocols, standards, relationalities, and worldviews of Indigenous Nations. More broadly, I advocate for greater attention to care, respect for ontological differences, and honoring of kinships and relationalities within music and related fields.

Dr. Trevor Reed is an Associate Professor of Law in the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, where he teaches courses in Property, Intellectual Property, and Federal Indian Law. Dr. Reed’s research broadly explores the social impacts of intellectual property law on individuals and their communities.  His current scholarship focuses on the linkages between creative production and Native American sovereignty.  His recent publications include Fair Use as Cultural Appropriation (California Law Review), Indigenous Dignity and the Right to be Forgotten (BYU Law review), and Creative Sovereignties (Journal of the Copyright Society). Forthcoming writings include Restorative Justice for Indigenous Culture in the UCLA Law Review; Fabricating Indigeneity in the journal Anthropological Quarterly; and Sovereign Aesthetics, a new edited volume (with Jessica Bissett-Perea).  Dr. Reed is currently advancing community-partnered projects to assist Indigenous peoples as they protect and promote their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions, and other intellectual properties by strategically drawing on tribal, federal, and international law.  Prior to joining the faculty at ASU, Reed taught in Columbia University's Core Curriculum and worked for Columbia's Copyright Advisory Office on the development of intellectual property rights automation.

Jessica Bissett Perea is a Dena’ina [Alaska Native] musicologist and assistant professor of Native American Studies at the University of California, Davis. Her research centers critical Native American and Indigenous studies approaches to music, sound, and performance studies; Critical race, Indigeneity, gender, and feminist studies; Arts and activism in North Pacific and Circumpolar Arctic communities; and Relational studies of Indigenous and Black experiences in the Americas. Her first monograph Sound Relations: Native Ways of Doing Music History in Alaska (2021) will appear in the “American Musicspheres” series published by Oxford University Press. In fall 2021 she co-taught “Radical Storywork: Performing Food Sovereignty through Inuit Fermentation Culture” with Professor Maria Marco, which advances Inuit knowledges and performing arts processes as a means to unsettle and expand dominant modes of knowledge production in food science research.

This program is made possible by the Joyce S. and Robert U. Nelson Fund. Robert Uriel Nelson was a revered musicologist and music professor at UCLA, who, together with his wife, established a generous endowment for the university to make programs like this possible.


This event is FREE! No RSVP required. Early arrival is recommended.


Self-service parking is available at UCLA’s Parking Structure #2 for events in Schoenberg Music Building and the Evelyn and Mo Ostin Music Center. Costs range from $1 for 20 minutes to $20 all day. Learn more about campus parking.


The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music is eager to provide a variety of accommodations and services for access and communications. If you would like to request accommodations, please do so 10 days in advance of the event by emailing ADA@schoolofmusic.ucla.edu or calling (310) 825-0174.


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Food and drink may not be carried into the theaters. Thank you!


The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and So. Channel Islands). As a land grant institution, we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders) and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.