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Winnie W. C. Lai is an (ethno)musicology and sound scholar and returning singer-songwriter working as an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Music (2024–2026) at Dartmouth. Her doctoral studies in Music at the University of Pennsylvania as a Benjamin Franklin Fellow (2018–2022, 2023–2024), Tarnopol Graduate Fellow (2020–2021), and Price Lab Andrew W. Mellon Mid-Doctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities (2022–2023) led to a hybrid-mode dissertation entitled “Sounding Freedom: Political Aurality and Sound Acts in Hong Kong (Post-)Protest Spaces”. She avidly ruminates on the theoretical entanglements of (un)sounding matters, auralities, and power. Working across sound studies, political theories, and matters of Hong Kong, she experiments with intermedial methods and field materials to craft spaces for sensory experience. She also studies performed vocalities in singing and everyday living and the acoustemological mode of listening, particularly in Asian cultures and the Sinophone world. She has received the James T. Koetting Prize (2024), SEM 21st Century Fellowship (2023), Penfield Research Award (2022), Charles Seeger Prize (Honorable Mention in 2021), and Rayson Huang Scholarship in Music (2017). She has received a Graduate Certificate in Experimental Ethnography and a Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities from Penn.


As a global citizen and a young intellect focusing on sonic contestation, Winnie maintains one belief: music and (ethno)musicology come with a social obligation. Being born and raised in Hong Kong, the city's 2014 Umbrella Movement was a turning point that transformed her from a fledgling singer-songwriter (winner of the Best Music Video Award from Sony Music Entertainment Hong Kong in 2013) to a junior music/sound scholar working on protest sounds. That metamorphosis has evolved into her academic and personal mission—to be a candid sound scholar and being. In addition to her ongoing intermedial productions and research on power dynamics in (un)sounding social spheres, she is rebuilding her interests as a scholar/performer, concentrating on Sinophone/East Asian R&B and pop music and Cantopop.




Ph.D. Dissertation


"Sounding Freedom: Political Aurality and Sound Acts in Hong Kong (Post-)Protest Spaces."

*Awarded the 2023 21st Century Fellowship, The Society for Ethnomusicology.

(Advisor: Professor Jairo Moreno; Committee: Professor Steven Feld, Professor Hedy Law, Professor Timothy Rommen)

Selected Publications


"'Happy Birthday to You': Music as Nonviolent Weapon in the Umbrella Movement." Hong Kong Studies 1, no. 1 (March, 2018): 66-82.

*The article was shortlisted as one of the eight finalist works for the IBP Best Article on Global Hong Kong Studies in Humanities 2021.

Intermedial Projects


Sound installations, ethnographic documentaries, virtual reality projects, sound poems



Singing (Popular: R&B, pop; Classical: mezzo-soprano, E3 to C6)

Acoustic Guitar

Gong Kebyar (Balinese Gamelan Ensemble)


First published on: 1 June 2019

Last update: 6 June 2024

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