Michael Silvers is an ethnomusicologist and a specialist in Brazilian music and environmental crisis. His research interests also include sound studies, the cultural and environmental history of music technologies, and music, gender, and sexuality.
His book Voices of Drought: The Politics of Music and Environment in Northeastern Brazil (University of Illinois Press, 2018) explores themes of environmental justice, natural resources, protest song, and cultural policy in the production and experience of popular music. Voices of Drought was awarded an American Musicological Society Publication Subvention, supported by the Dragan Plamenac Endowment. His article "Birdsong and a Song about a Bird: Popular Music and the Mediation of Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Northeastern Brazil," published in Ethnomusicology and reprinted in Ethnomusicology: A Contemporary Reader, 2nd edition (Routledge, 2017), earned an honorable mention for best faculty research in the humanities by the University of Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities. In addition to Ethnomusicology, his writing has appeared in Vibrant: Virtual Brazilian Anthropology, Yearbook for Traditional Music, and Ecomusicology Newsletter, and he is a contributor to the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. He also presents regularly at universities and conferences in the United States and Brazil. Silvers was co-chair of the Ecomusicology Special Insterest Group of the Society for Ethnomusicology (2016-2018), is a member of the editorial board of Ecomusicology Review, and is a member of the advisory board of Ethnomusicology Review.
His current book project, Timber and Timbre: From the Atlantic Forest to the Concert Hall, examines the use of Brazilian woods and other materials in the production of musical instruments--Brazilian rabecas (fiddles) and bows for string instruments--in both local traditional and global high art contexts. This project has been funded by a 2018 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, a summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a Fulbright faculty research grant. In 2015 he was also a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, in 2015-17 a Junior Fellow of the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, and a resident associate of the Center for Advanced Study in 2018.
Silvers is faculty director of Nação Terra do Milho, the University of Illinois Brazilian Armorial Ensemble (currently on hiatus). He teaches courses on Brazilian music, world music, ethnomusicological theory and methods, music, gender, and sexuality, and topics in ecomusicology. He previously taught at UCLA and UC Riverside.