Joseph Alpar's research focuses on the anthropology of music in Turkey and the Middle East, and the relationships between music, spirituality, modernity, marginalization, social expression, and identity.
Alpar is an ethnomusicologist, performer, and composer whose work deals with the relationship of music, religion, modernity, and memory in Turkey and the Middle East. His doctoral dissertation entitled, "Songs of Ambivalence: Synagogue Liturgy and Religious Renewal in Istanbul's Jewish Community", examines the sacred musical practices and spiritual lives of Turkish Jews in Istanbul. His ethnographic research has been supported by the American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT), and the Center for Jewish Studies at The Graduate Center, CUNY, among other institutions. In addition to his academic work, Alpar is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and singer of Middle Eastern and Western art music. He is the founder and director of David's Harp, an acclaimed Philadelphia-based ensemble specializing in the music of Turkey, Greece, and North Africa. Alpar's work as a composer and improviser draws inspiration from the folk, classical, and sacred music practices of Turkey. Currently, he is creating a collection of Turkish songs, based on the poetry of the 13th-century Sufi mystic, Yunus Emre. Alpar has taught in the music departments of Swarthmore College, Temple University, and Hunter College, CUNY. He was a visiting faculty member at Bennington for Spring 2018, the 2019-2020 academic year, and returns for the 2020-2021 academic year.