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Jonathan Pieslak

Faculty and Staff Profiles

Jonathan Pieslak

Associate Professor/Theory & Composition

Shepard Hall 78A
Phone Number: 
Personal Website:

Jonathan Pieslak (b. 1974, Wilmington, DE) is an Associate Professor at The City College of New York and Graduate Center, CUNY where he specializes in composition and scholarship on extremist/terrorist culture.

He is presently writing his second book, The Ears of Janus: Music, Extremist Culture, and the Man in the Mirror, which was supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship. This book explores music in the cultures of al-Qa'ida, racist skinheads, Christian-affiliated extremism, and left-wing eco-terrorism.


At a glance:


John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (2011), Music Research Topic: Music and Extremist Cultures.


Author of Sound Targets: American Soldiers and Music in the Iraq War.  (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009).  

Literary agent: Eleanor Jackson, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency, New York, NY


Research featured in: The New Yorker, BBC, NPR, Fox News, Il Manifesto (Italy), Globo (Brasil), Austrian Public Radio and a variety of national and international newspaper, radio, and television. 


Articles published in/by: Oxford University Press, Music Theory Spectrum, The Ashgate Research Companion to Modern Warfare, Popular Music, Cambridge University Press, Theory and Practice, and more.


Invited lectures: Harvard University, Columbia University, Syracuse University, Davidson College, The Norwegian FFI (Ministry of Defense), Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and many others.



American Academy of Arts and Letters, Goddard Lieberson Fellowship, 2006.


Four disc discography, featuring the Kiev Philharmonic.


Complete CD of my solo piano music contracted for Albany Records, release 2013 or early 2014.



       2003                      Ph.D., Music Theory, University of Michigan

       2002                      Master of Music, Music Composition, University of Michigan

       1999                      Master of Music, Music Theory, University of Michigan

       1996                      B.A. (Honors), Music Composition and Theory, Davidson College

Courses Taught

The City College of New York and Graduate Center, CUNY (Courses Taught)

            The Graduate Center:    Introduction to the Analysis of Post-Tonal Music


Dissertations:                Nick Stoia (chair), Ina Park (chair), Aaron Liu-Rosenbaum (chair), Inessa Bazayev, Thomas Robinson (chair), Patrick Muchmore, advisor: Trey Files.


            CCNY Master’s:             Advanced Counterpoint

                                                Music and Extremist Culture

                                                Graduate Composition

                                                Structures 2 (Post-Tonal Analysis)

                                                Pedagogy of Great Composers (Tonal Composition)

                                                Music and Indoctrination         


CCNY Undergraduate:   Music Theory I–IV

                                    Musicianship I–IV

                                    Popular Music Composition

                                    Undergraduate Compostion


                                          Winner of the 2005–06 CCNY Mentoring Award

Research Interests


Music and war/extremism:        American soldiers and the Iraq War, al-Qa’ida culture, racist skinhead culture, extremist Christianity, left-wing extremism  

Composition:                            contemporary classical and popular music

Popular music:                          Coordinator of Popular Music Studies at CCNY,, performer on electric bass

             Music theory:                           Progressive metal analysis



•  Sound Targets: American Soldiers and Music in the Iraq War.  (Bloomington: Indiana University

   Press, 2009).

My work on music and the Iraq War has been the subject of profiles in The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town,” BBC Radio 4 “Today Programme,” Los Angeles Times, Il Manifesto (Italy), Globo (Brasil), Austrian Public Radio, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, WNYC, Semana (Columbia), The Guardian (UK), Fox News Channel (The Mike Huckabee Show), New York Post, Sirius/XM Radio, NPR, Sun Media (Canada), Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, London Review of Books, The Chronicle of Higher Education, among many others. 


ACADEMIC ARTICLES (2006–present)

 •   “Music and the Iraq War.” Article commissioned by Oxford University Press for The

      Grove Dictionary of American Music, second edition, edited by Charles Garrett (Oxford

      University Press, forthcoming).


•   “The Sound of (non)-Music: al-Qa’ida Culture and Anashid.” Article in Jihad Culture (title  

      TBD), edited by Thomas Hegghammer (Cambridge University Press, 2013).


       •   “Music as an Inspiration for Combat among American Soldiers in Iraq.”  In The

             Ashgate Research Companion to Modern Warfare, edited by John D. Buckley and George

             Kassimeris (London: Ashgate, 2010), 383-400.


 •   “Text, Sound, and Identity in Korn’s ‘Hey Daddy’.”  Popular Music 27/1 (2008):



 •   Review of Kevin Korsyn, Decentering Music (New York: Oxford University Press,

     2003).  Music Theory Online, 41/1 (2008).


 •   “Sound Targets: Music and the War in Iraq.”  The Journal of Musicological Research

       26/2–3 (2007): 123–50.


       •   “Re-casting Metal: Rhythm and Meter in the Music of Meshuggah.”  Music Theory

            Spectrum 29/2 (2007): 219–45.


 •   “Conflicting Analytical Approaches to Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-

       Century Tonality: An Archaeological Evaluation.”  Theory and Practice 30 (2006):





•   Review of Mark LeVine, Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam 

    (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2008). Volume! La Revue Des Musiques Populaires   

    (December 2012, forthcoming).


      •   “From Combat to Healing: The Music of War.”  Army 60/2 (February 2010): 49–52.


      •   “Sounding Torture.”  Global Dialogue (Cyprus) 12/1–2 (2010).


      •   “Sound On: Reflection on Music and the Iraq War.”  Journal of Music (Ireland) 1/4

            (2009): 34–40.



• Discography

severed, recorded by the Kiev Philharmonic, Robert Ian Winstin, Conductor.

       Released March 25, 2005, ERM Media.


Inertia, recorded by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra Robert Ian Winstin,

       Conductor.  Released May 2009, ERM Media. 

       Both works available through, iTunes, and local retail music sellers.


Spiralrecorded by Jeffrey Jacob.  New Ariel Records, 2010.


One World Many Voices, Vol. 7. Solar Flares.   Las Sirenas Women’s Choir.  Earthsongs Music. 2010.


I am presently under contract to record and release a complete CD of my solo piano music for Albany Records in January 2013.


      •  Composition masterclass and invited Composer-in-Residence  SUNY, Oswego, March 9-10,

          2010, including a complete concert dedicated to my work.


•  Composition Masterclass with the Iktus Percussion Quartet, State University of New York,

        Purchase, Purchase, NY, October 14, 2008.



•  Invited Composer-in-Residence, California State University, Stanislaus, Turlock, 

        California, May 15–19, 2007.


•  American Academy of Arts and Letters, Goddard Lieberson Fellowship, May 2006.


•  Invited Guest Lecturer in Music Composition, Emanuel University (Oradea, Romania), 2004.


•  2003 Jerome Foundation and American Composers Forum, Composers Commissioning

        Project Commission (CPP).


•  MacDowell Colony Residency, November 2003.


      •  My choral pieces, In pulverem mortis, Solar Flares, and Missing Music are published by Earthsongs.

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