Ingrid Monson

Ingrid Monson


Quincy Jones Professor of African-American Music and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University
The Blurred Lines Infringement Case: Copyright and African American Music
Hutchins Fellow
2016-2017 Academic Year


Ingrid Monson is Quincy Jones Professor of African American music, supported by the Time Warner Endowment, and Interim Dean of Arts and Humanities at Harvard University.  She is a former chair of the Music Department, a Guggenheim fellow, and a Walter Channing Cabot Fellow of Harvard University.  Monson is the author of Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa (Oxford University Press, 2007), Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), and an edited a volume entitled The African Diaspora: A Musical Perspective (Garland/Routledge 2000).  Her article, “Hearing, Seeing, and Perceptual Agency” (Critical Inquiry 2008) explores the implications of work on cognition and perception for poststructural theoretical issues in the humanities. She is currently working on a book about Malian balafonist Neba Solo.  Her articles have appeared in Ethnomusicology, Critical Inquiry, Journal of the American Musicological Society, Black Music Research Journal, Women and Music, and several edited volumes.  She began her career as a trumpet player and has recently been studying contemporary Senufo balafon.

Professor Monson specializes in jazz, African American music, and music of the African diaspora. She is author of Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction (1996) winner of the Sonneck Society's Irving Lowens award for the best book published on American music in 1996. Her most recent work is Freedom Sounds: Jazz, Civil Rights, and Africa, 1950-1967, (2005). She is also editor of The African Diaspora: A Musical Perspective (2000). This collection of essays presents musical case studies from various regions of the African diaspora that engage with the broader interdisciplinary discussions about race, gender, politics, nationalism, and music. Contributors include Akin Euba, Veit Erlmann, Eric Charry, Lucy Durán, Jerome Harris, Travis Jackson, Gage Averill, and Julian Gerstin.

Professor Monson earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in Musicology from New York University, her B.M. from New England Conservatory of Music, and her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Economics

Project Description

The Blurred Lines Infringement Case: Copyright and African American Music

While at the Du Bois Research Institute I will write a book contextualizing the decision in in the Blurred Lines copyright decision of 2015 within a broader set of issues pertaining to copyright and African American music. Since I served as an expert witness for the Marvin Gaye Family in the case and testified at trial, I have a unique perspective. The broader issues implicated in Williams v. Bridgewater Music Inc. (the formal title of the case) are: 1) the relationships among notation, recording, and the identity of a work; 2) the status of accompaniments (grooves and feels) in popular music and copyright law; 3) a history of racial practices in the music industry, which often denied African American songwriters publishing royalties; 4) the generational divide created by the Copyright Act of 1976 (effective Jan 1, 1978), after which recordings became acceptable as copyright deposits, and 5) the place of copying, sampling, and borrowing in the aesthetics of contemporary popular musics. All of these issues are crucial to understanding the economics of African American music in the 21st century.

2016-2017: Hutchins Fellow

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