David Novak

Associate Professor

Office Location

Music Building #1133


  • Popular Music
  • Media Circulation
  • Japan
  • Sound Studies
  • Ethnomusicology Program


  • PhD 2006 (with Distinction) Columbia University, Ethnomusicology
  • MA 1999 Wesleyan University, Ethnomusicology
  • BA 1992 Oberlin College, East Asian Studies


My work explores cultural and political formations through the ethnography of popular music, and examines how the circulation of global media becomes central to processes of social and epistemological transformation. My interests include globalization of popular music, remediation, protest culture, and social practices of listening. My current project focuses on the politics of sound in urban Japan, particularly in the impact of noise regulations on homeless and migrant labor communities in South Osaka, and on the role of music, sound, and noise in the antinuclear movement in post-3.11 Japan.             

Co-director, Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Music

Affiliate, East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies

Affiliate, Anthropology

Affiliate, Film and Media Studies


Related links to David Novak's research:

Interview: 'New Books in East Asian Studies' with David Novak

Interview: 'David Novak on Noise, Fukushima, and More'

Podcast: David Novak, 'The Cultural Feedback of Noise'

Podcast: 'The Sounds of Japan's Antinuclear Movement'

UCSB Department of Music Featured Faculty: David Novak





2015   Keywords in Sound. Co-edited with Matthew Sakakeeny. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

2013   Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Winner of the 2014 Book Prize from the British Forum for Ethnomusicology.

Selected Articles, Chapters and Online Publications

2014  “A Beautiful Noise Emerging from the Apparatus of an Obstacle: Trains and the Sound of the Japanese City.” In The Acoustic City, Matthew Gandy and Benny Nilsen, eds. Berlin: Jovis.

2013   “Osaka Inside Out: Recording the Keynote Sounds of the City.” Field recording mix and notes. Sensory Studies, October 2013.

2013   “The Sounds of Japan’s Antinuclear Movement.” Podcast and multimedia publication. post: Notes on Modern and Contemporary Art around the Globe. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). David Plath Media Award (Honorable Mention), Society for East Asian Anthropology, American Anthropological Association.

2011   “The Sublime Frequencies of New Old Media.” Public Culture 23(3): 601-634. See also online media supplement. Jaap Kunst Prize (Honorable Mention), Society for Ethnomusicology.

2010   “Listening to Kamagasaki.” Anthropology News 51(9): 5.

2010   “Onkyô/Oto, Chinmoku/Ma, to Impuro no Sendaitekina Kachi” [“Sound(s),Silence(s), and the Global Value of Improvisation”]. In Nyû Jazu Sutadizu [The New Jazz Studies], ed. T. Miyawaki, S. Hosokawa and M.S. Molasky, pp. 375-395. Tokyo: Artes.

2010    “Cosmopolitanism, Remediation and the Ghost World of Bollywood.” Cultural Anthropology 25(1): 40-72. Also see online media supplement.

2010    “Playing Off Site: The Untranslation of Onkyô.” Asian Music 41(1): 36-59.

2008    “2.5 by 6 Metres of Space: Japanese Music Coffeehouses and Experimental Practices of Listening.” Popular Music 27(1): 15-34. Winner of Richard Waterman Prize, Popular Music Section of the Society for Ethnomusicology.


  • Anthropology of Music
  • Music as Media
  • Sound Studies
  • Ethnographic Writing
  • Globalization and Popular Music
  • Music and Documentary Film
  • Making Independent Music in America
  • World Music
  • Music in Modern Japan
  • Global Screens, Global Sounds
  • Music Cultures of Java and Bali
  • Ethnomusicology Forum
  • Dissertation Writing Workshop