Winnie W.C. Lai


Fourth Year Graduate Candidate in Ethnomusicology


103 Lerner Center

Winnie W. C. Lai (she/her/hers) is a PhD candidate in Music, (ethno)musicology, a Benjamin Franklin Fellow (2018-2023), and a Tarnopol Graduate Fellow (2020-2021) at the University of Pennsylvania, currently based in Philadelphia, U.S.A. and Hong Kong. Her works mainly focus on but are not limited to sonic activism, urban sound, the theoretical juncture of the sonic, listening, space, and bodies, sound studies, performance studies, political theories, and matters of Hong Kong. Winnie experiments with inter-medial methods and field materials to craft out spaces for sensory experience. She is currently working on her dissertation entitled "Sounding Freedom: Political Aurality and Sound Acts in Hong Kong (Post-) Protest Spaces" under the supervision of Professor Jairo Moreno.


Before joining Penn Music, Winnie worked as a Teaching Assistant (School of Humanities, Music) from Fall 2014 to Spring 2018 at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). She completed a Master of Philosophy degree in musicology with a thesis entitled “Sound and Nonviolence: Music as Political Action in Hong Kong” in 2017. In recognition of her studies and research, HKU awarded Winnie the Rayson Huang Scholarship in Music twice in 2012 (undergraduate) and 2017 (postgraduate), respectively.


As a global citizen and a young intellect in sonic contestation, Winnie always maintains one belief: music and musicology come with a social obligation. This belief motivated her to pursue doctoral studies and an academic career in music/sound studies. Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement in 2014 was a turning point in Winnie’s life. As this event unfolded, Winnie transformed from a fledgling singer-songwriter (who won The Best Music Video Award from Sony Music Entertainment (Hong Kong) in December 2013) into a junior (ethno)musicologist working on sonic contestation. This metamorphosis reflects and builds upon Winnie’s academic mission and personal belief—that is, to be a candid and socially responsible sound scholar.


For more details about her research works, awards, and multimodal productions, please visit