Members of Richard Wolf’s class “Music, Debate and Islam” in the final scene of an Iranian ta’ziyeh passion play staged in Paine Hall, Harvard University, January 2011. For their final project they wrote, directed and acted in the drama, performing musical instruments and singing in English and Persian

This section of the site is a repository of selected readings lists, syllabi and other teaching materials compiled since the 1990s as well as some examples of my students’ creative work.

Some of the courses I have taught regularly include: Music in Islamic Contexts, South Indian Classical Music, Music and Language, Music and Ritual, and Music of Iran. Other courses include Creative Ethnographic Writing (on music), Music and Subjectivity in Asia, Music of Central Asia and its Neighbors, Cross-Cultural Rhythm, Vernacular Music of India, the Ethnomusicology of Space and Time, Music and Mediation in South Asia, Music and Mourning, and Music of the Silk Road (Several of the courses listed above have been offered in different forms with slightly different names).

Like all teachers, I am always seeking new ways to engage and sustain the attention of my students. In some classes, this has involved incorporating simple performance exercises; other classes have involved more ambitious goals, including performing public concerts. Some of my favorite assignments have been to have students adopt opposing positions in a debate on the legality of music in Islamic jurisprudence, in which they were tasked with formulating arguments based on translations of primary sources.

In my Music and Language class, I ask students to analyze a recording of a story told in the Kota language as if it were a piece of music. For a final project in a course entitled Music, Debate and Islam, I asked students to collaborate in writing, directing, and staging their own passion play based on the concept of the taziyeh of Iran. Regarding reading and writing, after years of receiving so-called response papers that did not necessarily show that students had read or understood the articles or books they were assigned, I have shifted to a format in which students must craft an elegant précis followed by a discussion of a particular point. This way students must come to terms with representing the whole of a work as well as think through an argument regarding one of its parts. My course Creative Ethnographic Writing was focused on reading and critiquing weekly writing samples in the genres of short story (fiction and creative non-fiction), poetry, and mixed media visual objects with captions.

Student Performances

Senegal born Morikeba Kouyate was a visiting artist at the Music Department of Harvard University for six weeks in November of 2011, working with Professor Richard Wolf. During his residency he taught students in Richard Wolf’s class “Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective” to sing and accompany themselves on the kora, a kind of harp-lute from West Africa.


View syllabi in Resources

Student Websites

Kapena Baptista:

Michael Kushell:

Student Creative Writing

Readings Lists

Lectures and Demonstrations

Other Teaching Materials

View Teaching Materials in Resources