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Joseph Lam


Joseph Lam is a music historian who currently chairs the Department of Musicology and serves as the Director of the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments. He studied at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (B.A.), the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music (MFA), and Harvard University (Ph.D.). Before being appointed to the faculty at the University of Michigan in 1997, he taught at the University of Pittsburgh (visiting position, 1996-97), University of California, Santa Barbara (1992-97), and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (1988-91).

Among the major grants that Lam has received are: a Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation Conference Grant (2005-2006), a Regents’ Humanities Faculty Fellowship from the University of California (1994–95), and a UPGC Grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Government (1989–91). In May 2005, he was awarded a Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award.

Lam is active nationally and internationally. His recent presentations include: lectures at the Beijing University and the China Conservatory of Music (2002); presentations at SOAS and Oxford University (2004), and a talk at University of New York, Albany (2005). An active reviewer for several academic presses, university programs and foundations, Lam has also served as president, editor, and board member for several academic societies.

Current Research

Lam’s research interests include: theories of ethnomusicology, theories of music historiography, ritual and music, traditional Chinese music, traditional Japanese music, and Asian American concert music. Currently, he is working on a monograph and several articles. The monograph is entitled Beautiful and Perfect Yayue: A Transcultural History of Music in Southern Song China (1127–1279 C.E.). Two of the articles in progress are:  “Castrated Harmonies and Dissonances: Musical Eunuchs in the Ming Court,” and “Music and Male Bonding in Ming China.”


Lam is a member of many academic societies. These include: American Musicological Society, Association for Asian American Studies, Association for Asian Studies, Association for Chinese Music Research, Conference on Chinese Oral and Performing Literature, International Council for Traditional Music, Society for Asian Music, Society for Ethnomusicology, Society for Ming Studies, and Society for Sung-Yuan Studies

Service to the Field

Board member, Publication Committee, Research Institute of Music, China.

External Examiner (Music, Undergraduate Examinations, 2002), the University of Hong Kong

President and editor, the Association for Chinese Music Research (1998-2003)

President, the Conference on Chinese Oral and Performing Literature (1998-2002)

Reviews manuscripts for several national and international academic presses.

Various activities for the Society for Ethnomusicology

Recent Publications

“Huizong’s Ritual and Musical Insignia.”Journal of Ritual Studies 19/1 (2005): 1-18.

“East Asian Court Musics in Historical and Cultural Perspectives,” in Enciclopeida Della Musica, III (2003). edited by Jean-Jacque Nattiez, 247-78. Torino: Giulio einaudi editore, 2003.

“The Presence and Absence of Female Musicians and Music in Confucian China.” In Gender and Text in Pre-Modern China, Korea, and Japan: The Making and Unmaking of Confucian Worlds, edited by Dorothy Ko, JaHyun Kim Haboush and Joan Piggot, 97-120. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003.

“Musical Confucianism: the Case of  ‘JiKong yuewu.’” In On Sacred Grounds: Culture, Society, Politics, and the Formation of the Temple of Confucius, edited by Thomas Wilson, 134-172. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002.

“Writing Music Biographies of Historical Asian Musicians: The Case of Jiang Kui (A.D. 1155–1221).” World of Music, 43/1 (2001): 69–95.

“Chinese Music: History and Theory.” The New Grove Dictionary of Music, ed. Stanley Sadie (London and New York: Macmillan, 2001).

“Asian-American Music: Issues of an Heuristic Device.” Journal of Asian American Studies 2/1 (1999): 29–60.

State Sacrifices and Music in Ming China: Orthodoxy, Creativity, and Expressiveness. Albany: SUNY, 1998.

Recent Papers/Lectures Presented

“The Chinese Way of Reconstructing Historical Music.”  Chime Foundation Annual Meeting. (Amsterdam, October 5-10, 2005)

“Writing Transcultural Music History: A Theoretical Exploration." Association for Chinese Music Research, held in conjunction with the 2004 Annual Meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology (Tucson, Nov 4-7, 2004)

 “How Musical was Nineteenth Century China?”  Rethinking the Legacies of the Nineteenth Century” (Ann Arbor, April 8-9, 2004)

 “Reading Sinology and Chinese Music in America.” 37th World Conference of the International Council for Traditional Music (Fuzhou and Quanzhou, China, January 4-11, 2004)

 “Music Leaders and Followers in Ming China.” Ming Court Culture Conference, Princeton University (Princeton, June 12-13, 2003).

“Connecting Chinese Musicology with Chinese Studies.” Chiang Ching Kuo Worship on Chinese Studies (Princeton, NJ, March 24-26, 2003).

“Chinese Music Studies in America.” Center of Classics and Historical Sources (Beijing University, Beijing, China, July 15, 2002).

 “Song Dynasty Music History and Historiography.” Music Research Institute (Beijing, China, July 10, 2002)


“Ancient Music, Present-day Musics, and Ming Dynasty Rulers and Scholar-officials.” Reconstructing a New Cultural Identity in Ming China. Panel in AAS Annual Meeting (Washington, D.C., April 4-7, 2002)

“Song Huizong’s Musical Performance of Emperorship.” Huizong and the Culture of Northern Song China Symposium. (Brown University, November 29- December 1, 2001)

“Performing Chinese History and Culture: “The King’s Farewell.” Beyond Peony Pavilion: Performance, Ethnicity, and Cultural Processes in China. (The Ohio State University, April 27-29, 2001)

“Musical Forgetting and Remembering: 13th-14th Centuries Mongolian-Han Chinese Music and Twenty-first Century World Music History.” Dunbar Festival of Early Music (Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, January 13-14, 2001)

Teaching at the University of Michigan


Musicology 458/558. Music in Context: a study of ritual and music in global contexts.

Musicology 466/566. Music of Asia, I: a study of traditional and contemporary genres of East Asia.

Musicology 728: Music as Creative and Cultural Practices.


Lam is currently advising two dissertations-in-progress at the University of Michigan. Their topics are: music and music history in early 20th-Century Taiwan; and music and modernity in early 20th-Century Shanghai.

Contact Information

Dr. Joseph S. C. Lam

University of Michigan

402 Burton Memorial Tower

Ann Arbor, MI. 48109–1270

Office telephone: (734) 647–9471

Fax: (734) 647–1897

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower