David Fossum

  • Post Doctoral Fellow


A postdoctoral fellow in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, I began teaching in the Music Department at Pitt in Fall 2017. In my research, I have written about and presented numerous conference papers on two places where I have lived and worked for several years: Turkey and Turkmenistan. 

My doctoral dissertation concerns cultural policy in Turkey’s music industry and especially in the genre of folk music. I study two regimes of cultural policy in particular: nationalist folklore based at Turkey’s official state broadcasting agency and other institutions, and intellectual property law and administration. I draw on ethnographic and archival sources to show some of the complications folk music presents for these policy regimes, document musicians and other actors’ experiences working within them, and account for some of the particularities of Turkish policy and ideology in these realms vis-a-vis similar cases elsewhere. 

I have also published two articles on traditional instrumental music in Turkmenistan, which I came to love during my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the country in 2004-06. One of these articles, published in the Journal of the Society for Ethnomusicology in 2015, examines the modernization and canonization processes this music lived through in the Soviet era. I show how these processes have been shaped by indigenous concepts as much as they have by self-consciously imposed Soviet ones. A more recent article in the Analytical Approaches to World Music Journal draws on music analysis to illustrate how Turkmen musicians negotiate contrasting demands to both preserve and contribute to the development of traditional compositions.

I completed my PhD at Brown University (2017) and also hold an MA in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University (2010) and a BA in English/Comparative Literature from George Mason University (2002). At Pitt I will be teaching courses such as Music in the Middle East and furthering my research on Turkey. I also enjoy playing guitar, Turkmen dutar, ud, and bağlama. 

Selected Honors and Awards

2016 Rob Schulz Junior Scholar Award for the best paper presented by a junior scholar (within five years of the PhD) at the Analytical Approaches to World Music Conference, New York, June 2016

2015 Reed Foundation, Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund Grant (for dissertation research in Turkey)

2013-14 American Research Institute in Turkey Fellowship (for dissertation research in Turkey)

2012 Charles Seeger Prize for most distinguished student paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for Ethnomusicology, Philadelphia, November 2011.

2010-1 Tisch Foundation Fellowship, Brown University

Selected Publications

2017 “Principles of Transmission and Collective Composition in Turkmen Dutar Performance.” Analytical Approaches to World Music Journal.

2016 “The Turkmen Dutar.” In Central Asian Music. Edited by Theodore C. Levin, Saida Daukeyeva, and Elmira Köchümkulova. Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press.

2015 “Westernizing Reform and Indigenous Precedent in Traditional Music: Insights from Turkmenistan.” Ethnomusicology 59(2):202-26.

Education & Training

  • PhD, Brown Unvieversity, 2017