My academic talks, forthcoming and past. "Lectures and conferences" are longer, "Papers at scientific meetings" are shorter. If you look for the texts of my classes and their related audio/video docs, those available are listed under "Varia".

avec Estelle Amy de la Bretèque (sur « la musicalité des émotions »)

Université de Lausanne (Institut des sciences sociales / laboratoire Théma). 27/05/2016, 18:00

Conférence suivie d’une performance musicale participative.

For the seminar Geste, instrument de musique, technologie, coordinated by Baptiste Bacot and Nicolas Donin, EHESS (Raspail), 11/12/2015 15h-17h, salle 11.

Two educational conferences in secondary high schools (Champs sur Marne and St Denis), 21 and 25 / 09 / 2015.

These conferences about Roma musicians in Romania and Bulgaria were meant as an introduction for the concerts of Mahala Rai Banda and Ivo Papassov at the Festival d’Île de France 2015 edition.

With Patrick Williams and Martin Oliveira. The conference will be held on 25/11/2015 at Musée du Quai Branly.

With E. Amy de la Bretèque, Invited paper at the seminar « Regards croisés » sur l’ethnographie filmée et sonore de l’abbaye de la Trappe.

Radio program on France Musique. Starting 19h on Sunday. Podcast available later here.

Journée d'étude Valeur et fonction de la virtuosité technique des savoir-faire artisanaux et artistiques aux époques pré-industrielles (1/2). Organisée par Jean-Marie Guillouët. 5 juin 2014
9h - 18h, MSH Ange-Guépin (Nantes), salle de conférences.


Invited conference for the cycle "Rencontres du troisième type" organized by the "Association des Étudiants en Ethnologie et Anthropologie de Nanterre". University Paris Ouest Nanterre room E105, 16 mai, 16h.


Invited lecture at the Institute for ethnomusicology INET-MD, Lisbon, 24/10/2013.

"I'm the big boss, clever and smart, rich like an emperor,  women at my feet, my enemies die of jealousy!" In Romania, manele songs have been popular ever since the fall of the communist regime. They are sung by Roma professional musicians, mainly for non-Roma audiences. Manele lyrics often portray in a positive light debatable attitudes such as quick money making, lust and sensuality, violence or mafia arrangements. Romanian listeners tend to locate their musical features either towards "the East" or towards "the Gypsies". Not surprisingly, manele are rejected (in often violent terms) by a significant part of Romania's public opinion. The genre enjoys nevertheless a large and popular audience. It has been a steady feature of Romanian cultural landscape for more than twenty years now. An ethnographic approach reveals that manele lovers often have ambiguous relations with the literal contents of the songs. (Self-)irony and (self-)parody seem to play an important role in their interactions during live manele performances. I will illustrate this with examples based on my fieldwork in Bucharest in 2009-2010. The discussion will focus on the recognition of irony and its effects. Experiments in cognitive science and psycholinguistics have led to various descriptions of its inner workings. This kind of research may also be useful to understand how the music can "open up" verbal and non-verbal interactions for humorous, "light" and ironic understandings.

Invited lecture at the music conservatory of Cluj-Napoca (Romania), 18/10/2013.

Manelele sunt un gen muzical totodată popular şi controversat. Sunt asociate cu lucruri "imorale" printre care sensualitatea, îmbogătăţirea dubioasă, mândria, şmecheria sau violenţa. Sunt asociate şi cu populaţia Romă (cu toate că datele disponibile tind să infirme această ipoteză). Aceste legături par deseori evidente în cuvintele cântecelor şi în iconografia înregistrărilor comercializate.  Aspectele sonore ale manelelor şi interacţiile ascultătorilor la petreceri sunt însă rareori luate în considerare de comentatori.

Analiza propusă aici porneşte de la această perspectivă inversă.  Voi prezenta observaţii "de teren" făcute în Bucureşti în anii 2009-10, înspecial la cântările de manele "pe viu" (petreceri, restaurante, cluburi). Descrierea modurilor de cântare şi de interacţie va aduce în discuţie noţiunile de (auto-)ironie şi de libertate. Acestea sunt factori importanţi în aprecierea amatorilor de manele. Pe lângă plăcerea muzicală "imediată" trăită de ascultători, ele cristalizează şi o problematică mai largă, legată de incertitudinile care parcurg societatea română în urma schimbării de regim politic şi economic.

Various contributions during this one week colloquim at the Centre culturel international de Cerisy, 4-11/09/2013.

Paper on cunning and slyness as emotional and moral devices in Romanian party music.

With Monica Heintz: chair/discussant for the panel "Les biais dans la recherche sur la morale".

Musée du quai Branly, during the special week-end "L'ethnologie va vous surprendre". 30/06/2013

Click here for the complete program of the event. 



Guest lecture at the Centre for Systematic Musicology, Karl Franzens Universität, Graz. 19/03/2013.

Most models of musical interaction regard music as a way of circulating information amongst humans. But ethnographic data from various parts of the world (including Europe) indicates that listeners' experience of music frequently involves non-human agencies. These agents may be gods, spirits or animals, but also a range of sonic characters whose ontological status is less clear: entities which "move", "shine", have "color" or “taste”, display "moral" attributes, and sometimes "dialogue" with one another. How should such intuitions be considered in musical analysis? Are they metaphors, poetic verbalizations, or core phenomena which constitute musical experience? After outlining a few ethnographic examples, I will present a tentative theoretical approach.



Panel at EASA 2012, Paris Ouest University.

Convenors: Victor A. Stoichiţă / Bernd Brabec de Mori (University of Graz, Phonogrammarchiv Vienna)

Short abstract

This panel brings together ethnographic accounts of "human" and "nonhuman" interactions in sonic constructions such as music. The aim is to compare different ontologies of the sound realm, and see whether it can host particular forms of agency, which are not encountered otherwise.

Long abstract

Anthropologists know well that music is an efficient ingredient in various kinds of interactions. It has been described as an enhancer of emotions, of specific forms of consciousness, of social and personal identities. Its presence is also mandatory in many rituals around the world. Social sciences usually assume that this efficiency is merely a transformation of human agencies. In this view, music is just another way for humans to relate, ultimately, to each other. However, practitioners and audiences often have different accounts.

Their musical experiences seem populated by "human" but also "nonhuman" entities: gods, spirits, animals, and a range of other sonic characters whose ontological status is uncertain, but which seem, at times, to have an agency of their own. In this view, music is not just a human business but an environment which allows interactions between different layers of reality and different kinds of beings.

What are the ontologies of sound underlying these interactions? Are there, for example, social agents which can only be encountered in sound? Can music host relations which would be impossible otherwise? General frameworks have been proposed to rethink agency beyond divides such as "nature-culture" or "human-nonhuman" (Gell, Latour, Descola, Viveiros de Castro). Can these paradigms account for musical interactions?

Details of the panel and accepted papers:

Feel free to email me for any inquiry on this topic.

Paper at the Crossroads 2012 conference, Sorbonne nouvelle (Paris), 2-6th July.


In Romania, manele have been a popular and controversial musical genre for the past 20 years. They are linked to several "immoral" things like sensuality, quick money making, pride, ambition and violence. Such arguments are typically based on the lyrics of the songs and on the iconography of recorded media. They often ignore the musical aspects and the pragmatic features of live manele performances.

This paper will start from the reverse perspective, focusing on the accompaniment of the voice, the sound effects, and the instrumental choruses. I will consider primarily performances by professional musicians in live settings, based on fieldwork in Bucharest during 2009-10. I will describe various distributions of agency in the sound realm, and analize the particular intersection of power, freedom and (self-)irony, which many manele lovers seem to enjoy.

Paper at the annual meeting of the Société Française d'Ethnomusicologie, Eymoutiers.


« Je suis le grand boss, riche comme un empereur, débrouillard, les femmes à mes pieds, et que mes ennemis crèvent ! » En Roumanie, les manele sont un genre lyrique devenu populaire depuis la chute du régime communiste. Rarement un style musical aura suscité autant de controverses dans le pays. Chantées par des musiciens professionnels tsiganes (les lăutari) dans diverses fêtes populaires, et faisant l'objet d'une abondante production discographique, ces chansons évoquent souvent sous un jour favorable l'argent facile, la sensualité, la violence et les entreprises mafieuses. Un certain nombre de traits proprement sonores les situent du côté d'un „Orient” à la fois exotique et dangereusement endogène. Sans surprise, les manele sont villipendées par un pan important de l'opinion publique roumaine.

Cela ne les empêche pourtant pas de trouver un large public, et de perdurer dans le paysage musical roumain depuis plus de vingt ans. L'ethnographie des situations où les manele sont jouées montre que leurs amateurs entretiennent des rapports souvent ambigus avec les contenus explicites de ces chansons. L'(auto-)ironie et l'(auto-)parodie poignent fréquemment dans les commentaires et les comportements des mélomanes. J'en donnerai quelques exemples, à partir de mes recherches menées à Bucarest en 2009-2010. Au travers des manele, je proposerai quelques réflexions sur la manière dont la musique, en tant que construction sonore, peut aviver (ou inhiber) l'engagement émotionnel et le sens de l'humour.

Laboratoire d'ethnologie et sociologie comparative (LESC), MAE, Nanterre University,


Dans cette séance je propose de discuter autour de deux hypothèses.

La première, qui rejoint une intuition courante dans différentes sociétés, est que les structures sonores peuvent être des agents à parts entières au même titre que les humains qui les produisent ou les perçoivent. Cette « qualité d'agent » est susceptible de se manifester de différentes manières dans les interactions sociales. Je tenterai d'illustrer quelques recoupements et contrastes entre les logiques à l'oeuvre dans plusieurs traditions musicales, afin de suggérer ce que l'anthropologie gagne à décrire en détail ces processus.

Une autre hypothèse, liée à la précédente, est que l'expérience musicale repose en premier lieu sur un mode d'écoute. Celui-ci se démarque des autres modes possibles par les propriétés ontologiques que les sons y développent. Couleurs, formes, textures, mouvements, « caractères » émotionnels ou moraux, personnifications en bonne et due forme, émergent dans l'écoute musicale et la caractérisent, aussi bien par rapport à la perception de l'environnement écologique que par rapport à la communication linguistique. La capacité de faire exister de tels êtres sonores, et d'interagir avec eux, pourrait constituer le coeur de ce que nous nommons musique.

Milson conference, CNRS/FMSH.


In Romania professional Roma musicians (lăutari) are often hired for popular parties such as weddings, christenings, village fairs or political meetings. The music they perform on such occasions is rarely the focus of the participants. To most of them, it is rather an environment in which they pursue particular interactions. This is particularly true since the bands have started to perform amplified. Not only is their sonic outreach wider, but also specific electronic effects enable them to re-spatialize the sounds. How does their musical space/time interact with the space/time of the party? What experience of place does this combination foster? To address such questions, I will focus on the « edge » between musical and ecological perception, at in- and outdoors live events.

Invited paper at the workshop « Morale et Cognition: les émotions ». Nanterre University, MAE, 3rd floor, room 308. Organized by Monica Heintz and Isabelle Rivoal.

Keynote paper at the IX edition of the Forum Romania. Vienna University / Austrian Academy of Sciences. 6-9 October 2011.


In Romania, manele have been a popular and controversial musical genre for the past 20 years. They are linked to several "immoral" things like sensuality, quick money making, pride, ambition and violence. Some Romanians also link them to low education status and Gypsy ethnicity (although most manele lovers are ethnic Romanians). Such arguments are typically based on the lyrics of the songs and on the iconography of recorded media. They often ignore the musical aspects and the pragmatic features of live manele performances.

This paper will start from the reverse perspective, focusing on the accompaniment of the voice, the sound effects, and the instrumental choruses. I will consider primarily performances by professional musicians in live settings, based on fieldwork in Bucharest during 2009-10. In such events, the music is open to various distributions of social agency. These are continually reshaped through interactions between audiences and musicians. I will describe a particular intersection of power, freedom and (self-)irony, which seems to be a key feature in many manele performances.

ICTM 2011 (World conference). In panel "Speak, shout, weep, sing. The voice and the boundaries of music", convened by Victor A. Stoichiţă.


In Romania, Gypsies are famous for their mastery of specific voice skills. These range from complex melismatic singing to rhythmic patterns of onomatopea. The overall characteristic of these distinctive features is an instrumentalisation of the voice. Between two words or even two syllables, the singer may use these techniques to embark his audience for a complex musical journey, well beyond the semantic and melodic frames of the song. Drawing on my work with both professional and amateur Gypsy singers, I will examine these practices in light of their relations with other instruments used during the performance. I will focus on the creative uses of the microphone and sound effects by modern Gypsy singers, to enhance these vocal older techniques.

Invited lecture at the seminar "Modélisation des savoirs musicaux relevant de l'oralité", organised by March Chemillier at the E.H.E.S.S., Paris.

This lecture was filmed and the videos are available on the seminar's web page.

SIEF 2011, Lisbon 13-19 April. In panel "Sound, space and memory: ways of emotionalizing and instrumentalizing sound", convened by Eckehard Pistrick and Cyril Isniard.

Symposium Music Orality Roots Europe (MORE), Cité de la Musique.

Opening conference of the congress of the Romanian Society for Cultural Anthropology (SACR), Bucharest.


În România, lăutarii formează o categorie distinctă de muzicieni. De obicei sunt de origine romă şi prestează la cerere în cadrul unor evenimente ca nunţi, botezuri şi târguri politice. Lăutarii autendinţa să accentueze latura profesională a activităţii lor, de multe ori prezentând-o ca pe unmeşteşug care naşte emoţii. A fi “deştept”, “cioran” sau “şmecher” sunt concepte esenţiale înmodul lor de a înţelege eficacitatea muzicii. Extinzându-se de la atitudini globale până la trăsături muzicale specifice, aceste noţiuni conturează o paradigmă unde muzica este mai mult o“tehnologie de incântare” decât o formă de comunicare. Pornind de la date etnografice, voiîncerca să precizez felul în care lăutarii înţeleg relaţia între inteligenţă, plăcere şi emoţii.

EASA 2010, Maynooth. In workshop "Crises, imagination, and beyond: bringing aesthetics back into the anthropology of (popular) music", convened by Markus Verne and Hauke Dorsch.


In Romania, the manele have been a popular and controversial musical genre for the last 20 years. They are linked to several "immoral" things like sensuality, quick money making, pride, ambition and violence. They are also linked with low education status and Gypsy ethnicity (although most manele lovers are Romanians). Such arguments are typically based on the lyrics of the songs, and the iconography of the recorded media. This paper will focus on the instrumental aspects of the manele: accompaniment of the voice, choruses, instrumental tunes. It will consider primarily their performance by professional musicians in live settings, such as weddings, christenings and political meetings.

I will argue that music, and especially manele, are best studied as "technologies of enchantment", in a theoretical framework adapted from A. Gell's proposals. I will focus on some enchantment techniques used in manele music, and on the specific emotions they allow the listeners to embody.

Musée du Quai Branly, salon de lecture Jacques Kerchache.

Muzeul Ţăranului Român, Bucharest, 21/04/10.

The Balkans and the Caucasus. Parallel processes in the historical destiny, mentality, culture, and future trends on the opposite sides of the Black Sea,New Europe College, Bucharest.


In this joint presentation we propose to compare two musical genres, from two countries, one on each side of the Black Sea. Both genres are linked with post-communist times, deep changes in society, and suggest for local observers an idea of « new times ». In both of them, local observers feel strong national and/or ethnic definitions (seeing them either as « local » products or as « exotic » borrowings). Both of them are at the same time popular, and supposed to be the music of a small minority of newly enriched people. Both genres raise strong controversies amongst local politicians and intellectuals, who tend to argue against their (allegedly) perverted moral values, and to worry about the social impact of these musics. We believe that both these musical genres crystallize more than just aesthetic taste. This is why we want to describe in a comparative manner some key features of the Romanian manele and the Armenian rabiz.

After a short common introduction, our comparison will be structured in two papers. One of them will deal with the rabiz (Estelle Amy de la Bretèque, CNRS/Paris) and the other with the manele (Victor A. Stoichiţă, NEC/Bucarest). Both of them will cover the same topics, some of which will reveal similarities (such as the ones mentioned above), while some others will show contrastive features (such as the ethnic definitions and the ideologies of power which underly each genre). Drawing on textual, iconographic and musical analyses, we will try to understand how manele and rabiz became icons of deep changes on each side of the Black Sea.

Cultures of Indebtedness: Displacements of Value in Eastern Europe, New Europe College, Bucharest.


In Romania, the lăutari form a distinct category of musicians. They play on command, in events such as weddings, christenings, political fairs, pubs and restaurants, while also recording CDs and video clips. They tend to insist on the professional aspects of their practice, often presenting themselves as craftsmen. What is the ethical and economical model of these professional musicians ? How do they understand the link between musical emotions and money making ? To address these questions, I will focus on the payment through "bakchich" (bacşiş, şpagă), which gives individual listeners the opportunity to inflect the music played by the lăutari in collective settings.

Cité de la musique (Paris). Three conferences on Gypsy music for the general public: virtuoso brass bands from Moldavia / new amplified musics / portrait of a Gypsy singer. 24/11, 1/12, 8/12.

Faculty of Humanities of the Charles University, Prague. Two-day workshop on fieldwork interactions in ethnomusicological research.

International conference on Author’s rights and oral traditions: customs, law and ethics, Nuoro (Sardegna/Italy).

Annual meeting of the French Society for Ethnomusicology.

Ethnography museum of Geneve (Switzerland).


Comment la morale influence-t-elle les discours sur le folklore? Où passe la démarcation entre variation, raffinement et perversion? Pourquoi les paysans roumains se laissent-ils émouvoir par des musiciens tsiganes qu'ils ne cessent pourtant de critiquer? Ce sont quelques questions auxquelles Victor A. Stoichita, anthropologue, tentera de répondre, à partir des travaux de Constantin Brailoiu (l'un des premiers ethnomusicologues roumains) et d'observations ethnographiques récentes.

Faculty of Humanities of the Charles University, Prague. Two-day workshop on the visualisation of musical structures.

Workshop "Virtuosité ou les sublimes aventures de la technique", Musée du Quai Branly.


Je proposerai une comparaison entre la virtuosité des musiciens professionnels moldaves et un certain type de tissage, produit dans le même région. Le rapprochement s’appuiera sur plusieurs caractéristiques de cette musique et de ces tissus particuliers:

  • l’une comme les autres sont produits par des spécialistes, afin d’être vendus;
  • ces spécialistes maîtrisent des techniques particulières, dont la compréhension même échappe à leurs clients;
  • la composition des objets (tissus d’une part, performances musicales de l’autre) est modulaire et modulable; elle repose sur de petits motifs, combinés de diverses manières;
  • par leurs propriétés structurelles, ces agencements sont des « pièges à pensée » (au sens de Gell 1998: 66-94).

Les musiciens professionnels sont explicites: construire de tels pièges, dans lesquels l’écoute s’engage puis se perd, est l’essence de la virtuosité (virtuozitate). Celle-ci est synonyme de ruse (şmecherie) et de malice (ciorănie), termes plus usuels, d’ailleurs, dans leur vocabulaire.

Les tisus, eux, ne sont pas dits virtuoses (ni les tisserandes rusées). Ils sont pourtant conçus, à l’instar des mélodies, pour perdre le regard et troubler la perception. Si la musique permet la virtuosité alors que cette notion ne fait pas sens pour le tissage, est-ce le fait des objets et de leur mode de production, ou bien est-ce le fruit d’une différence de perspectives sur la technique et les motivations qui la sous-tendent?

International Council for Traditional Music (World conference), Wien. In panel "Reflections on posture and attitude in music and dance performance", convened by Christine Guillebaud and Victor A. Stoichiţă.


In central Moldavia (Romania), professional musicians play one of the fastest and liveliest dance music of the Balkans region. However, they hardly move to it (and it does not seem to move them either). They perform in brass bands or in smaller amplified ensembles. Playing may require energic and/or fast movements but the musicians do not get involved physically in the music itself: they do not dance, nor bounce, nor even tap one foot to the beat. Their attitude thus contrasts with that of the dancers, who tend to favor leaps, fast spinning around and energetic stamping. This "postural segregation" is constructed in a deliberate manner. I will try to point what particular conception of the feast and merry-making it implies.

Annual meeting of the French Society for Ethnomusicology.

University Paris VIII (seven lectures between 2007 and 2008).

Pixel workshop, Musée du Quai Branly, Paris.


Le terme « échantillon » (sample en anglais) se présente comme un analogue du « pixel », pour le traitement numérique des signaux sonores et, au-delà, de la musique. Il est cependant plus polysémique, puisqu’il peut désigner aussi bien une unité minimale d’information, qu’une séquence sonore plus ou moins longue (composée dans ce cas de milliers d’unités minimales). La numérisation des « musiques du monde » a suscité plusieurs réflexions qui pointent, précisément, cette notion, pour tenter de penser l’articulation entre « haute fidélité » et « authenticité ».

International Council for Traditional Music, meeting of the study group on ethnochoreology, Cluj (Romania).

Conférence "Musique et apprentissage", IRCAM, Paris.

Annual meeting of the French Society for Ethnomusicology.

Conférence "Musique et mémoire" École supérieure de physique et de chimie industrielles (ESPCI), Paris.

Symposium on Gypsy Music, University of Glasgow.

Round table at the International Council for Traditional Music (World Conference), Sheffield. Convened by Speranţa Rădulescu.

University Paul Valéry, Montpellier.

Third meeting of the Study Group "Music and Minorities" of the International Council for Traditional Music, Roč (Croatia).

University Paul Valéry, Montpellier

University Paul Valéry, Montpellier.

Series of lectures on this topic at the Universities of Tours (2001, 2002), Lille (2002), Saint-Denis (2003). Part of the students' training for the CAPES (Teacher's diploma).