Kai West

Historical Musicology


Kai West (he/him/his) is a Ph.D. candidate in musicology at the University of Michigan with interests in American popular music, musical instrument studies, critical race studies, feminist theory, media studies, and opera. His dissertation on the solid-body electric guitar explores social, cultural, and technological transformations across the instrument’s 70-year history, theorizing the impact of guitar technologies on musical practice and identity. He has presented research at the annual meetings of the American Musicological Society, Society for American Music, and the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. A writer with wide-ranging interests, he contributed a chapter on jazz drumming to a 2021 Routledge volume on music in Twin Peaks, and his article on the role of whiteness in the opera Porgy and Bess is forthcoming in the Journal of the American Musicological Society. Before studying musicology, Kai worked as a classical double bassist, performing internationally with ensembles including the London Symphony Orchestra, Welsh National Opera, and San Francisco Symphony, and he holds performance degrees from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the University of Michigan. He enjoys building and repairing guitars, cooking with his wife Alex, and playing with his dog Ruby.

Contact: kaiwest@umich.edu


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