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Ryan Gourley

I am a Ph.D. student in Ethnomusicology specializing in Russian and Soviet popular music. My dissertation project examines the musical developments of the Russian diaspora in San Francisco from 1917 to the present. Complicating earlier narratives of Russian emigration to the United States, my project critically examines the Eastern route of migration from the Russian Far East through China (and other intermediary stops) to California. Focusing on the music of these emigrants and their families, I aim to better understand the continued expression of pre-revolutionary beliefs, traditions, and symbolism for nearly a century. Through a mix of archival and ethnographic methods, I analyze the evolution of musical ideas and materials as audible palimpsests.

Raised in sunny San Antonio, Texas, I completed my bachelor’s degree in Music at Brown University in 2017.  My undergraduate capstone project, titled “Jazz Behind the Iron Curtain,” centered on the development of jazz scenes across the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, highlighting the geographical range and pervasiveness of jazz activity. In particular, I examined the contributions of key jazz musicians working in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Tallinn, Warsaw, Baku, and Novosibirsk.  My research on Soviet jazz continued into my graduate studies at UC Berkeley and became the topic of my master’s exam.

Since the Fall of 2018, I have worked as a specialist in the rare phonograph collection in the archive of the Museum of Russian Culture, San Francisco.  My current project involves cataloging, digitizing, remastering, and analyzing their phonograph collection, ranging from 10” 78 rpm shellac recordings of operatic divas in turn-of-the-century Imperial Saint Petersburg to bootlegged 12” 45 rpm vinyl from the Soviet Union. My research in the archive was supported by the Institute for Slavic, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies at UC Berkeley during the summer of 2019, and is currently funded by an internship grant from the Association for Slavic Eastern European and Eurasian Studies.

Research Interests

Russian popular music, audible palimpsests, social networks and emigration, diaspora studies, pre-revolutionary Russian aesthetics, Soviet and Post-Soviet aesthetics

Conference Presentations & Posters

“Social Betweenness in the Soviet Jazz Network.” To be delivered at the Sixth Sibelius Academy Symposium on Music History: “Agents and Actors – Networks in Music History” at the University of Helsinki in Helsinki, Finland. May 26-28, 2021.

“Soviet Jazz on American Vinyl: The Politics of Record Circulation.” To be delivered at the joint American Musicological Society (AMS) and Society for Music Theory (SMT) Conference on the joint Cold War and Musicology Study Group and Post-1945 Music Analysis Interest Group panel “Mediating the Cold War.” November 5-8, 2020

“Social Betweenness in the Soviet Jazz Festival Network.” Delivered at “Music Festival Studies: Current Perspectives, Future Directions” at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, USA. August 14-15, 2020.

“Echoes of the Tsar: Musical Narratives of the White Russian Diaspora in San Francisco.” To be delivered at “Symposium: Music and Politics in the 1930s” at the University of Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia. December 7-8, 2019.

“Betweenness and Musical Centrality in the Soviet Jazz Network.” Delivered at the Graduate Students in Music Conference at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), April 12-13, 2019.

“Social Network Analysis of the Leningrad Jazz Festival Series 1963 – 1993.” Poster at the Digital Humanities Faire at the University of California, Berkeley, April 2-9, 2018.



Studies of Musics of the World (Graduate Student Instructor, Spring 2021)

Music in American Cultures (Graduate Student Instructor, Fall 2020)

Music in American Cultures (Course Instructor, Summer 2020)

History of Western Art Music (Graduate Student Instructor, Spring 2020)

Music in American Cultures (Graduate Student Instructor, Fall 2019)


Introduction to Tonal Harmony (Teaching Assistant, Fall 2016)

Seminar in Music Composition (Teaching Assistant, Spring 2016)

Music Religion and Politics (Course Assistant, Spring 2016)

The Digital World (Teaching Assistant, Fall 2014; Head Teaching Assistant, Fall 2015)