Professor Emeritus of Music


Jeff Todd Titon received the B.A. from Amherst College, and the M.A. in English and Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota. He has been active professionally both in folklore and ethnomusicology for more than 45 years. As a scholar, Titon has numerous articles, films, recordings, and eight books to his credit, including Early Downhome Blues (1977; 2nd edition, Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1994); Powerhouse for God (1988; 2nd edition, Univ. of Tennessee Press, 2018); Give Me This Mountain: The Life History and Selected Sermons of Rev. C. L. Franklin (Univ. of Illinois Press, 1989), Old-Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes (Univ. Press of Kentucky, 2001), and the Oxford Handbook of Applied Ethnomusicology (Oxford Univ. Press, 2015). He is known for developing and practicing collaborative ethnographic field research based in reciprocity and friendship, starting in the 1960s when field researchers were taught instead to be objective scientists. Based on consulting work for Ralph Rinzler and Bess Hawes (as a presenter at festivals and a panelist for NEA—Folk Arts) he developed an understanding of public folklore that in the 1980s he brought to ethnomusicology, where he was among the pioneers in establishing an applied ethnomusicology based in social responsibility. He was the first to propose that musical cultures could be understood as ecosystems—this was in the first edition of Worlds of Music (1984)—while in the present century he is known for developing an ecological approach to cultural and musical sustainability. In 2012 he issued an appeal for a sound commons for all living creatures, part of his current project that theorizes a sound ecology. A book entitited Cultural Sustainabilities, written by colleagues and former students in his honor, is forthcoming in 2019 from the University of Illinois Press. His book, Toward a Sound Ecology: New and Selected Essays is forthcoming in 2020 from Indiana University Press. 

Titon joined the faculty at Tufts University in 1971 as Assistant Professor of English, teaching courses in American literature and in folklore. Beginning in 1974 he also offered courses in ethnomusicology in the department of music; and in 1977 was tenured in a joint appointment as Associate Professor of English and music. At Tufts, he founded the MA program in ethnomusicology, co-founded the program in American Studies, and taught American literature, folklore and ethnomusicology there until in 1986 he moved to Brown University as Professor of Music and director of their doctoral program in ethnomusicology, a position he held until his retirement in 2013. At Brown, he taught graduate seminars and was a popular lecturer for undergraduates. His advisees hold positions at major colleges and universities and also in public ethnomusicology and folklore—both the Tennessee state folklorist and the current director of the NEA Folk and Traditional Arts Division were his advisees. A member of the American Folklore Society since 1974, he was elected a Fellow in 1998, and served on its Executive Board 2015-2017. A member of the Society for Ethnomusicology since 1971, he was the editor of its journal, Ethnomusicology, from 1990-1995, and in 2015 was made an honorary life member of the Society. He has held visiting professorships at six colleges and universities, including Indiana University’s Folklore Institute; and he was awarded two Fellowships for Independent Study and Research by the National Endowment for the Humanities. His recordings of Old Regular Baptist music were chosen for preservation in the National Recording Registry; and his field recordings and professional papers are in process of transfer to the archives of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. In 2017 he received the Outstanding Achievement Award from his graduate school alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

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