Bio

TRAXTRAILS_ansariBorn in the UK, I obtained an undergraduate degree in music at Durham University and a Masters (MSt) from the University of Oxford. In 2003 I moved to the US to begin a PhD at Harvard. I graduated in 2010 with a dissertation entitled “‘Masters of the President’s Music’: Cold War Composers and the United States Government.”

Meanwhile, in 2007, I had moved to Canada and begun teaching at Western University (the University of Western Ontario) in London, Ontario. I have been at Western ever since, and was promoted to Associate professor with tenure in 2017.

My research has consistently focused on music and politics between World War II and today. In my book, The Sound of a Superpower: Musical Americanism and the Cold WarI assessed the ways in which that ideological conflict shaped the quest to find a uniquely American sound in classical music. I looked at composers such as Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and Virgil Thomson to consider how the Cold War shaped their lives, their careers, and their art. My work on this topic has received the Pisk Prize of the American Musicological Society (2007) and the Society for American Music’s Cambridge University Press Award (2015).

I have also explored the important question of how musical nationalism interplays with racial identity. An article on Ulysses Kay’s opera about slavery, Jubilee (1976), won both the Deems-Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award from the ASCAP Foundation (2014) and the Kurt Weill Prize from the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music (2015).

Presently, my research is taking me in a number of directions:

  1. New explorations in Cold War music, its political ramifications, and their long-term effects.
  2. A study of American classical music in the context of the Vietnam War, funded by a Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award (2017).
  3. A new collaborative, multidisciplinary, historical memory project examining the folk music of refugees from El Salvador’s civil war in the 1980s.

For an up-to-date copy of my CV, see here.