The Roving Ethnomusicologist

Do you like the title? I’m agitated because I can’t seem to narrow down where I want to complete fieldwork (resulting in a thesis). I mean I can’t even narrow down the continent. Cue my rant.

The more I learn about music on this planet, the more I realize how little I know, and how much more I want to continue learning.  I chose this field because I love it all, not because I love a pocket of it. Twenty years from now, I’d rather have spent my time roaming all corners of the earth instead of having written a college textbook on one particular culture. Twenty years from now, I’m going to regret having written that statement if I’m teaching at some University and publishing the third edition of my textbook that I force all of my students to use. Maktub.

This is really becoming an annoyance. I don’t just want to choose New Orleans music because I have several years of experience with it. I know that in several years, what I’ll have written for my thesis probably won’t matter anyway… however I do feel like it will set me on a path and I want to make sure it’s the right one.  On the other hand, I don’t want to sit here spending so much time thinking about it that I don’t actually ‘do’ it  (whatever ‘it’ may be).  Do people just plop their finger down on a world map and say, “this is it!”? I suppose not. There’s always a reason, an agenda, and a personal connection.

I have this world map on my office wall – one of those peel & stick decal things.  Every time I feel like I cross off a country on the “potential fieldwork list”, I soon find a reason why I’d just adore working there.  If we’re lucky, ethnomusicologists get to delve into two or three cultures in their lives. Most seem to capture one. I’d like to start by narrowing it down from a couple hundred…


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