Fellowship / Fellows

William Cheng

  • 2022–2023
  • Humanities
  • Rita E. Hauser Fellow
  • Dartmouth College
Portrait of William Cheng
Photo by Chris Schepici

William Cheng, a professor of music at Dartmouth College, works at the intersections of cultural histories, disability studies, media theories, care ethics, and queerness. An avid gamer and lifelong pianist-improviser, he is the author of Sound Play: Video Games and the Musical Imagination (Oxford University Press, 2014), Just Vibrations: The Purpose of Sounding Good (University of Michigan Press, 2016), and Loving Music Till It Hurts (Oxford University Press, 2019) and coeditor of Queering the Field: Sounding Out Ethnomusicology (Oxford University Press, 2019), A Cultural History of Western Music in the Modern Age (Bloomsbury Academic, 2021), and the University of Michigan Press’s Music and Social Justice Series. He’s presently laying the groundwork for two transnational ethnographies.

During his fellowship year, Cheng will undertake a multimodal and genre-bending project called “Touching Pitch: A Decolonial Escapade.” Equal parts memoir-treatise, live-recorded collaborative album, and VN-RPG (visual novel role-playing game), “Touching Pitch” illustrates how culturally hybridized pedagogies and practices of Western classical improvisation (a so-called “lost art”) may empower minoritized musicians to animate a spectrum of anti-racist, anti-assimilationist, and anti-capitalist agendas in the 21st century. 

Cheng earned his PhD in historical musicology from Harvard University. His scholarship has received awards from the American Musicological Society, the Society for American Music, and the Society for Ethnomusicology. He has contributed articles to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Huffington Post, Pacific Standard, Slate, Time, and the Washington Post

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