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Michael O'Brien


Name: Michael O'Brien
Title: ACM-Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Ethnomusicology
Office: Koren 210
Phone: 563-387-1621
Degree: Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin
Teaching area(s): Music history, ethnomusicology

Michael O'Brien is an ethnomusicologist whose work has principally focused on the intersection of Latin American popular music and cultural politics. He has been conducting field research in Buenos Aires, Argentina for more than ten years, including studies of contemporary tango and folk music, schools of popular music, and most recently the Carnival tradition of murga porteña.

O’Brien holds masters and doctoral degrees in ethnomusicology from the University of Texas at Austin, and bachelor's degrees in English and music education from Lawrence University. He has published or forthcoming works in journals including Popular Music, Latin American Music Review, Revista Hispánica Moderna, and Music and Politics. He has also presented his research at conferences in the U.S., the U.K., Mexico, and Argentina, including the Society for Ethnomusicology, the British Forum for Ethnomusicology, the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, the Latin American Studies Association, and the International Symposium on the Sociology of Music Education.

He is also interested in helping performers and music teachers find ways to apply the principles of ethnomusicology (music as culture) in their own outreach and teaching activities. He has led workshops and given presentations for groups including the New World Symphony, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Wisconsin Music Educators Association, and the University of Texas String Project.

O'Brien is also active as a performer, composer, and arranger of music based on Latin American popular idioms, particularly the tango. He plays bandoneon for and leads the Madison-based tango ensemble Quinteto Yzafa, and his compositions have been published by FJH Music, Latham Music, Ludwig Masters, and the National Cello Institute.